Valentine’s Day is approaching and everywhere you turn you’re reminded of it! From the TV ads encouraging you to buy expensive jewellery or perfume for your loved one. The consistent message seems to be “show them you love them by buying…” and so over the years Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with buying gifts.
Hopefully we can see past the commercialism and our own cynicism to remember what Valentine’s Day is actually about… expressing our love towards the person that we care for most. Giving gifts can be a good way of expressing our love and affection but here’s the thing – it may not actually be what your partner truly craves!
Years ago, a gentleman called Gary Chapman released a book called ‘The 5 Love Languages’ that revolutionised how we viewed expressing love. Basically, there are many different ways people express and receive love, but if we’re not aware or we don’t express it in a way that our partner most relates to then we and they can miss out on fully understanding the depth of love in a relationship.
So we better get deeper into the love languages! We all generally appreciate love expressed in these ways but there are some that we connect with more than others and some that don’t mean much to us at all. Let’s start with the most common:
As a society we have used gift giving as a way to express love and appreciation in every facet of our lives (e.g Birthdays and Christmas). Generally, we all appreciate receiving a gift. A good way to tell if this is your primary love language is by thinking about how you feel when you are given a gift of not much value financially, but a lot of thought and care have been put into it. Is your internal response “oh that’s nice, thanks for thinking of me” or is your first reaction to want to treasure and cherish it despite how ‘valuable’ it may or may not be?
Typically someone who loves gifts won’t care so much about the money spent but rather the thought and care behind it and you may find they seem to have a lot of ‘junk’ that they’ve held onto because it was given to them as a gift. This is not an excuse to be cheap when it comes to present buying but rather to shift the focus away from the price tag and towards the meaning of the gift and thinking about how much the other person will appreciate it. In fact, instead of spending money on a gift you could instead make something personal and sow in time instead.
Speaking of time…
Basically, there are many different ways people express and receive love...
This is one that has caused many an argument between couples over the years. Stereotypically it seems like females are more inclined to have this as their primary love language and males less so (but we won’t get too caught up in stereotypes).
Quality time is all about investing time into the other person. Making time for them and spending time together. It’s important to note that this language is Quality time not necessarily quantity. It’s not about how much time you spend with someone but how you spend it. The key is to give attention and be engaged. If your wife has asked you to be home more because this is her love language but when home you’re more focused on the TV- it won’t matter how much time you spend at home because it won’t mean as much. However, a busy person who may only have an hour to spend but intentionally makes that time available and spends that time focussed on their partner will see their investment pay off much much more. A great tip is to find something the other person is interested in and do it with them or be with them while they do it. E.g maybe go to see a favourite sports team even if you don’t like sport or sit and do crosswords while they read a book. Go on a date and spend time actually talking, maybe you’ll discover something new!
And while you’re talking, maybe you can express…
Words of Affirmation
Quite simply, this is using words to encourage your partner. To affirm the things we love and appreciate about them and quite simply – to express love through words. When was the last time you told your loved one how much you love them. I’m not talking about the ‘I love you’ we tend to throw out as we walk out the door in the morning, but really expressing what we love about them and what they mean to us. If verbalising it out loud seems daunting, try writing it down. Get a nice card (or make one!) and write down some of those thoughts in it. Or why not write a letter? You don’t need to be Shakespeare, just be honest and sincere. And you don’t have to save it all up for one big grand gesture, you can express lots of little things every day – “That was a great meal!”, “Good job getting the mowing done”, “Have I told you how stunning you look today”. The key is to be sincere. Think of several things you appreciate about your partner – whether it’s who they are or what they do for you…
Acts Of Service
For some people, words aren’t enough. They want to put those words into action. Acts of service seems to typically be a way we express our love more than how we necessarily receive it. Acts of service are when we do something for someone else to show that we care. It could be fixing something or helping with a task. A person whose primary love language is acts of service can often be found doing things around the house for the family. They are the person who is willing to help you move or give you a lift and they don’t think twice about giving you a hand when you need it. If your partner is an acts of service person, they may not necessarily want you to do things for them but really want to be appreciated for what they do. Maybe you could give them a ‘day off’ from their usual responsibilities and do it for them instead. It doesn’t have to be chore related, it could be helping with something they enjoy doing or even giving a loving massage. Which of course leads me to…
This may seem like a no brainer. While being physically close (hugging, kissing) can be good ways to express love, they are not the only ways and if misused can actually cause a lot of hurt. If your partner is a physical touch person they probably love to hold hands, are always hugging people and often give a reassuring pat or touch as they walk past you. For someone like this (and I am definitely one of these people!), one of the best presents you could give is a loving shoulder/neck rub or maybe a foot massage. This doesn’t have to be a sensual thing, rather make the focus about expressing tenderness and care with no strings attached.
So what is your primary love language? Do you have a couple? What about your other half? When we recognise what they are, we can see the ways our partner has been expressing love that maybe we’ve missed. Have a deep think about it and figure out more effective ways to express your love!
For more on the 5 Love Languages – including ways to find out what yours are – go to www.5lovelanguages.com
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