The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate By Gary Chapman
Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:41 AM by Ben Nadel
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Dr. Hatkoff's Love Scale quiz as discussed in Tara Parker-Pope's For Better: The Science Of A Good Marriage. In the comments to that post, Kate recommended that I might like a related book, "The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate," by Gary Chapman. I felt that the Love Scale quiz had really given me a lot of perspective; as such, I was excited to learn even more about people's individual styles of expressing and receving love.
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The premise of the book is simple, the message, profound. We all have what Gary Chapman refers to as a, "Love Tank." Somewhat like an emotional gas tank, the fullness of our love tank reflects how much love we feel in our current relationship. When we are neglected, the level of our love tank drops. When our loved ones effectively communicate their love for us, the level of our love tank rises. The key to a strong marriage, Chapman says, is to consciously choose, day after to day, to fill our signifanct other's love tank.
While this might seem obvious at first, it can become an impossible task if we are not aware of our signifant other's, "Love Language." As Gary Chapman explains, every person has one dominant love language. And, unless our significant other communicates with us using that particular love language, nothing that they can do will make us feel truly loved.
Unlike Dr. Hatkoff's Love Scale quiz, which has six categories, Gary Chapman outlines five love languages:
- Words of Affirmation. This love language is marked by the desire to hear words of encouragement, approval, and appreciation.
- Quality Time. This love language is marked by the desire to actively spend time with our signifant other, having meaningful conversations or sharing recreational activities.
- Receiving Gifts. This love language is marked by the desire to receive gifts, regardless of whether they are expensive commercial gifts or heartfelt, handmade gifts.
- Acts of Service. This love language is marked by the desire to have someone do things such as dish washing, dog walking, and laundry for you.
- Physical Touch. This love language is marked by the desire to be touched, whether it's holding hands, hugging, kissing, a stroking of the skin, or sex.
NOTE: These descriptions are from my memory and are not a word-for-word defintion of the five love languages.
Love languages are like any other language; and, unless we are speaking the same language, no real meaning can be communicated. So, for example, even if you are always doing chores and complimenting your lover, if her particular love language happens to be, "Quality Time," none of your actions, although apprecicated superficially, will make her feel truly loved. A woman in this situation might say something like, "It's great that he does all of those things; but, I just don't feel like he loves me!"
When I read this book, I found that there was something quite eye opening about it. As much as the Love Scale quiz gave me tremendous perspective, hearing Gary Chapman recount stories about misunderstood love languages really drove home the fact that we all experience love in our own way. Love is one of those things I have trandionally believed to be universally experienced; but, it appears that we all get there by own particular means.
After thinking about it for a long while, I came to the realization that my dominant love language is, "Words of Affirmation." This was a really hard decision for me to make. As I blogged before, I find "Physical Touch" and "Quality Time" extremely important. But, when I think about the relationships in which I have felt the most fulfilled, I think that they were the ones in which I was verbally praised. But, given the fact that my Love Scale quiz resulted in no dominant love style, it would be easy for me to accept the idea that I have two dominant love languages (Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch).
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I can tell you for sure that I am definitely not an, "Acts of Service," person. The idea of having someone do my laundry, clean my bathroom, or cook my food doesn't make me feel anything profound. These are simply things that need to be done; and, if someone wants to do them for me, that's lovely, but it's certainly not required.
I can also tell you that I am not a, "Receiving Gifts," person. Heck, I can hardly even think about things that I'd want to buy for myself.
One thing Gary Chapman said that I found very interesting was that while one's own actions may be a reflection of their love language, they don't have to be. I can certainly see this in my own actions; while I am not personally an, "Acts of Service," or a, "Receving Gifts," person, these are activities that I rather enjoy sharing with others. Perhaps this difference between giving and receiving relates to another point that Chapman makes: there is a big difference between feeling love and choosing to perform acts of love; while there is only one primary way for me to feel loved, there are many ways in which I like to express my love for others.
All in all, I found The Five Love Langauges by Gary Chapman powerful in its simplicity. The key to making our loved ones feel loved is not only to express ourselves every day, it is to do so in a way that our loved ones will truly understand. After we move past the "falling in love" phase of our relationships, it is crucial that we consciously choose to show our lovers how much they mean to us through our acts of love.
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Hope this is okay... :) Finished the book this weekend also (reading, not listening),and I also found it to be good...but not quite as eye-opening as For Better, which really rocked my world! I did think that Chapman's premise about the 5 Love Languages was rock-solid, and I have to say that I was truly moved by his anecdotes about couples who found their way back to each other through the discovery of and communication through each other's love language. But here is where I had some doubts raised: I was REALLY solidly in the "Physical Touch" category here, according to the quiz in the back(@Ben: did you get to take the "guys' quiz", since you were listening not reading?). And I think that is probably true of me- nothing makes me feel more loved than being hugged and petted and snuggled (and lack of that makes me wither like an unwatered plant). And I got a whopping nil in the "Acts of Service" catetory, completely unsurprisingly. But I felt sort of confused was when there was a three-way dead heat for my "secondary love language." This is kind of like what happened to you on the other quiz, so now I'm left with some of the same questions- does this mean that I'm not going to appreciate it when my SO (or anyone I care about, for that matter)tells me nice things? Or gives me quality time (been thinking I have a problem recognizing that for a while now ;)? Or, most surprisingly, buys me gifts? I'm a gift-giver; there are few things in the world that give me more pleasure than thinking about the people I care about, and either carefully selecting or serendipitously coming across something I know will make them happy. It brings ME great joy to give it, possibly even more than they get from receiving it. But according to Chapman, wouldn't that connote that my primary language, or at the very least my dominant secondary language, would be Gifts?
Ben, glad you liked the book. I've never actually read it, but my mom explained the love languages to me and it really made a difference in our relationship. I always thought she was trying to buy my love, but instead I now realize that's just how she shows she loves me. Although I still spend quality time with her (my love language) I realize how important it is that I actually buy her things. It's not just about your mate, but anyone you love. Maybe I'll read it next week :)
How cool is that - seeing this actually work in real life :)
The Five Love Languages is much more targeted in scope when compared to the For Better book; I think it's understandable that it is somewhat less eye-opening. But still, for what it discussed, I found it very good.
As far as a secondary love language goes, I am not sure you have to be concerned with it. I think the main point was to find a primary love language in which love is deeply felt. I think having a secondary (or several) secondary love language is considerably less important.
As far as the gift-giving, I don't believe Chapman ever said that what you do *necessarily* connotes what you will enjoy. He said that it might be an indicator, but does not have to be. As such, I don't see that your desire to give gifts is related to how to feel about getting gifts.
Also, don't be worried about feeling appreciated when your significant other does things for you. The whole point of the Five Love Languages and things like the Love Scale quiz are here such that that stuff doesn't have to be a mystery. Communication is not a black box beyond our control.
It is really a lovely book. Simple and intelligent!
Sure feels like a black box (or a black hole!) a lot of the time. Ha ha... :) A decade or more before I read this, I remember discussing with my ex ways to make me feel more loved and appreciated and, of course, ways to make HIM feel more loved and appreciated. I even noted that it was possible that his doing stuff around the house was a way to make me feel loved that just wasn't doing the trick, as it were, since- as I noted- that isn't my love language at all (though obviously I didn't have those words to apply). Basically, what I got back was that he didn't really care whether or not I *received* it as loving- that was what he did, take it or leave it. Make of that what you will... :)
A quote from the book that really resonated with me, and made me think about something we've discussed before about action vs/and emotion was, "Perhaps it would be helpful for us to distinguish between love as a feeling and love as an action...if you express an act of love that is designed for the other person's benefit or pleasure, it is simply a choice. You are not claiming that the action grows out of a deep emotional bonding. You are simply choosing (emphasis mine- please let my novice attempt at html tags work! :) to do something for his benefit..." The idea that it is a choice is a very powerful one, I think. When trying to change an emotional response, therapists (CBT in particular, I believe, btw) will often recommend changing a *behavior* or action with the idea that the change of emotion associated will follow. So, if we act in a loving fashion, even if it doesn't necessarily have a strong emotional backing, maybe it's possible to change the feeling to a more loving one through that action. I don't know...
@Kate- Definitely read the book! I have to tell you that though I'd heard of it and had all the love languages listed and described for me well before I read it, I was working under some pretty strong misconceptions/misassumptions about how it all works. Plus, it's a super-quick read (I read 3/4 of it in a little over an hour when I couldn't sleep last night), and Chapman's style is very soothing and palatable.
This is a great topic. Kudos for seeing the value in the book and the quality you put into your blog posting.
I believe that you can show your love in one language and prefer to receive love in a different language. For instance, my Mom is a Acts of Service giver, yet prefers to receive Words of Affirmation. I am overwhelmingly Acts of Service - in both giving and receiving.
I think you might have oversimplified the Acts of Service language. It is not just about the act of doing something for someone, but rather the appreciation for the thoughtfulness behind the act...which results in the feeling of being taken care of. For instance, if I am cooking and the paper towels are about to run out my fiance will grab a new roll and put it on the dispenser. If the trash is overflowing, he will take it out without being asked. If he is stopping at the store he will grab my favorite drink. These things may be small to others but they make me feel taken care of and appreciated.
It should be noted that you can use The Five Love Languages" in your work relationships as well. I was having a hard time getting deals done with a woman in my industry who was known as being "icy and unresponsive", the next time I saw her at a convention I noted that she had on a bunch of expensive designer jewelry. I guessed that she probably liked to receive Words of Affirmation and commented on her good taste in jewelry...I received an immediate positive response from her (where in the past she was always dismissive). She remembered me after that and I was finally able to get several deals done with her and her company - something that no one in my company had managed to do for over 10 years!
Glad you liked the book, Ben, it really was helpful a few years ago in my marriage. I think that realization that what matters to me in my marriage is just not what matters to my wife in my marriage (and vice versa) was huge. If your SO's love language is not one that you easily or regularly think to produce for her, then everything you're doing to show her love is not very effective and eventually may be resented. "Why does he keep doing all this crap, when what I really want from him is X??"
Once you start seeing what you can do to meet her on her terms, then the littlest things actually become huge, because they are the RIGHT things. And vice versa: knowing why you're feeling empty when you're feeling empty and using that in your communications for better understanding from her, helping keep yourself from becoming resentful.
Simple in theory, but really profound stuff.
I completely agree with your comment. Before I read the book I was dating someone who showed love through Physical Touch and since I am Acts of Service I felt like my needs were never being met. To me it is "showing basic consideration" to offer to get me a drink if he was getting one for himself...yet he never did. I was telling a friend about how inconsiderate I thought he was and she told me about The Five Love Languages. The ideas really resonated with me and I put them into action immediately. Even though the relationship did not work out it helped me put his behavior into perspective.
Since then I have become engaged to a man who is Words of Affirmation. Understanding his need to be fed by Words of Affirmation allows me to be a better partner.
I don't think the author of the book implied incompadibility based on a person's love language. (Granted I have not read the book either.) It seems to me that love (or rather true love) drives us to express in the other person's listening language. Another person posted here that there is a receiving language and a sending language and they are not always the same for each person. It could also be said that depending on the person my language is different. IMO the big take away is grasping a person's natural language and beyond the book would be realizing love will give us the power to recognize and receive and send with those of different personas. :)
The bottom line is we are all different. Using love languages and other books like this we can embrace a person's differences. We can also look and figure out that someone who is an obsessive drunk, yells at people more than expressing gratitude or other disorder is not a love language. We need to seperate love of others from love of self. Love languages may help us heal others and receive others but it may also reveal to us the other person is not acting in love. Without love relationships don't work right. Love is the battery behind our communication.
@John - Or one might say that the correct love language is the code that makes the relationship program run successfully. ;) (I know, I know... I am probably the LEAST qualified person posting here to be making programming jokes :)
I think this is such a wonderful book because it shows that "do unto others" doesn't cover every situation!
It has been said the letter kills but the spirit gives life. If we do onto others by the letter you are right Sarah, that would be the death of a relationship most of the time.
I'm now reading The Noticer by Andy Andrews, and he talks about the love languages as well, though he refers to them as dialects (his book is a somewhat fictional, narrative book as opposed to a "self-help," but it deals with many of the same issues). He draws animal analogies between these dialects and the people who "speak" them:
Physical contact = cat.
Quality time = canary.
Words of approval = puppy dog.
Favors and deeds = goldfish.
I can elaborate, but reading the book would give you a more precise picture.
Your relationship sounds somewhat like one of the ones that Chapman related. It is a difficult situation, no doubt, and the advice that he gave would be tough for anyone to follow. In his story, he suggested that this woman do basically everything that she could to do what pleased her husband. Then, after a month or two, only *after* her husband started to show some appreciated, then, and only then, should she make any requests as to how he could make *her* happy. The woman he was talking to was a deeply religious woman, so he was hoping that her faith would help her get through this experiment (and it was explicitly stated to be an experiment on his part). I can't imagine having to do that - to go out of your way to do for someone who shows you zero appreciation. It almost seems counter-intuitive.
Yeah, definitely a quality book.
I certainly didn't mean to over simplify anything. With any of these things, the thought behind them is exactly what makes them meaningful. Of course, this applies all of the languages, not just the Acts of Service.
That's awesome to see you applying this in non-romantic relationships. I think that has got to be even harder as there is typically not as much invested into "making it work."
"Once you start seeing what you can do to meet her on her terms, then the littlest things actually become huge, because they are the RIGHT things."
... Well put.
@Ben - Believe me, even without any positive feedback, I really really tried for a really really long time. :( However, being at my core a positive person, I'd like to think that I learned from that experience, and I have to say that, for the most part, the people with whom I have chosen to surround myself more recently defintely appreciate me and do so in a "language" that I can understand. Likewise, I really hope that I show them they are loved and appreciated in a language that they can understand. :)
More grist for the mill; interesting review and interesting discussion. I would have to take the quiz, but I'm pretty sure I'd fall firmly into the Physical Contact camp. It's how I withhold love too. Yes, sadly, I have done that.
I've heard much about this book and these concepts but never actually read it. Perhaps now is the time!
If you check it out, would love to hear what you think about it.
I've just ordered it!
In the meantime, a book reccomendation of my own.
Whom Not To Marry, by Father Pat Connor. It's aimed primarily at women, because he feels women are often the decision makers around marriage (!) but would make equally valuable reading for a guy.
It's really about choosing the right person before you get so entangled in the relationship that you can't see clearly. It was a real eye-opener!
Never marry a man who is tied to his mother's apron strings, for example. Oh dear, was my reaction.
It really helped me clarify what to look for: and what to avoid!
Thanks for the recommendation. I have not heard of that before.
Awwe, man, @Ben... I said not to waste your time on anything beyond the T.O.Cs.! ;-)
Oh well. Maybe you gained something more from it.
I know, I know :) But I decided to go for it anyway - it was short enough, so I figured I'd see if I could extract some value from it, which I feel like I did.
What would be the animal for someone whose love language was gifts?
@Shay, Andrews didn't assign an animal to the gifties. I think something like a cow, whose milk and meat and hide we use, might be appropriate. :) Any ideas of your own?
I will take this opportunity to note that, in the afterword, Andrews did credit Chapman for the origination of the Love Languages concept.
Just ran across this blog post this morning that you might find interesting: sounds like a gem of a relationship ...
I've been using (and talking about) this one for years as a parent and talking to other parents. One of the easiest ways to determine a child's primary 'love language' is to ask "How do you know Mum loves you?"
With my three I've got "Because you give me lots of cuddles" (physical touch) "Because you tell me and you get me stuff" (words of praise/gift giving) and "Because you do things with me" (quality time). It is 100% how they primarily choose to show their affection too, so it lets me appreciate their gestures to a greater degree. Such a simple tool for building better relationships and appreciating others' individual needs.
(I've also found this helpful with 'im indoors as well. I'm an acts of service/gift kinda girl :D)
Wow - what an awesome article. Thanks for passing that along here - quite on topic!
I like how easy it is to figure out what a child's love language is; wouldn't it be so nice if we were all that easy to understand :)
Thanks, Ben, for pointing me to the link for this review. You did a really good job of summarizing the book. I had heard about it before, but never have taken the time to read it. I really hope that someday, I wil be able to make time to read it. It sounds so interesting. I find you truly amazing in that you seem to have it all and be able to do it all...you're smart, a programmer, an absolute authority on ColdFusion, very knowledgable about jquery, you lift weights, and then, if that isn't enough, you read books to help better yourself too! I honestly don't see how you find the time. I have a hard enough time staying up-to-date with the latest in ColdFusion and jquery. When I find the time to workout on top of that, I feel like I've really accomplished something! Sometimes, I think there really is more than one Ben Nadel, like they've perfected human cloning or something, and that's how you seem to have more time. :-)
But, anyway, it sounds really interesting. That emotional gas tank thing sounds similar to the emotional piggy bank thing I wrote about in a previous comment post. Whenever someone was telling me about the love languages, I jokingly said that mine was receiving gifts, not realizing there was even such a thing, and that person told me what I said was valid. But I really love both giving and receiving gifts...however, I'm with you when it comes to not knowing if I could expect someone else to know what I want. And I KNOW this is going to sound snotty, and I don't mean it that way, but I'd really rather not get gifts from someone who isn't in touch with what I need or want, because I'd rather not have a bunch of junk I feel guilty about getting rid of. And by the same token, a much as I love to give, I would be hesitant to get something for someone unless I really knew they needed/wanted that particular thing, because I wouldn't want to give them junk either that they felt guilty about getting rid of.
@ Mr. Fisher: I appreciate you bringing up the point about compatibility, but I do have a question, and this is really for anyone reading this: it is possible, isn't it, that with SOME things, it really could come to a question of compatibility. Like, say your person was really strictly an acts of service person, and you complimented & gave gifts, but because of your lifestyle/work situation, you simply did not have time to do ALL if the acts of service they expected/needed. Wouldn't it eventually come to a point to where you just really were not compatible with that person? And say you really did love that person, but you just simply could not do the level of service that would make them feel loved...
@Sara...I was thinking that same thing about how a love language you receive could be different from what you give. I think its awesome that you recognized and correctly deduced with the woman you work with and was able to apply the principles. How perceptive!
I think for the most part, in general, I like quality time, praise, gifts, and maybe fourth, physical. I think with acts of service, I don't really care for it so much for the most part, except for things like massage. There isn't much better when I actually do find the time to work out regularly, and my muscles are hurting, than for my SO to offer and give a massage without expecting anything back in return. And I have found that if a person EXPECTS it, it kind of makes it less appealing, but if they just give me the massage and doing ask for one in return, that makes me WANT to give them one in return. :-)
But I think it is also different for different guys for me. With some guys, I think the physical will be much higher on the list, like maybe 2nd or 3rd, whereas with some guys, the affirmation will be higher on the list. Again, I hate to sound like a snot, but there are drawbacks to a all of them. For instance, with the quality time, with some guys, I may get to where I want my space. Nothing against them personally, I might just want done time to myself every now and then. With the physical touch thing, it may be that that particular guy rushes it before I'm ready, or wants it all the time whereas I may want a little time not attached to him or something. With the praise, the guy could come off sounding insincere. Or sounding like a broken record, praising the exact same thing the exact same way every time. Or noticing the wrong thing. Like, you wear an outfit that accentuates your nice legs that you have been working on getting into shape, and you are proud of that, and all he can praise you on is your boobs. So that's why its hard to pick for me, because each of them had drawbacks, and it kind of depends on the person, too. Or maybe I'm just confused. Sorry this was such a long post. :-/
Some good questions and observations there! To answer your question on compatibility, yes, I think it is certainly possible to just reach a point where one person's expectations simply cannot be met by the other person. I think this happens in friendships quite frequently (friendship = a relationship not as deep or committed as a marriage or other Significant Other level).
Sometimes this is probably because one emotional tank is simply so empty that it's effectively un-fillable, or at least by that other person (too much baggage, maybe). Other times perhaps one partner simply cannot make the transition to doing what needs to be done for the other. I know my wife's primary language is acts of service, yet I don't always manage to get off my a$$ and do the dishes in the evening: if I *never* did anything on my own for her, eventually it would be unsustainable, and the same would be true if she became insistent that I notice and act on every single thing in her life every day. One of the keys to the Five Love Languages is that you have to step out and start feeding the other person, even if you yourself are not being fed at that moment in the relationship. This can be really hard, but it will generally result in a cascade effect, where you both begin to get healthier and then to start helping each other get healthier. It's goodness. That being said, I know there are plenty of cases out there, where it ain't gonna work no more, and so learning as much as you can about the other's needs is great but it's never a guarantee of success.
As for your last point, definitely read the book to get clarity on what you think your gifts are. As you note, everyone's got some of all of them. They're all good, right? I don't thrive on affirmation, but a recognition of a job well done once in awhile is still nice. I'm big on physical touch, but it doesn't have to be sex ... I just really enjoy contact: a hug, a squeeze on the arm, holding hands for even just a minute. I don't really care about getting gifts much, and I'm horrible at giving good gifts, but I really love giving good gifts ... just bad at it LOL
It's definitely complex, but I thought the book did a good job of helping to navigate through what you simply enjoy to get to what really fills your emotional tanks.
Fun to see this thread get a new jolt :)
Thank you for answering the questions I had! Wow! I am impressed!!! You read my whole thing! I will admit, the relationship area of life is one area I have a whole lot of confusion in lol. You seem to be an expert, since you have successfully secured what people like me would like to eventually one day have. You would think I was an expert as much "dating" as I have done, but quite frankly, I don't think I am too good with the commitment thing. I think I bail way too easily when things get hard. I know there are times when I should stick it out, but I also have trouble knowing when to walk. I know there are times when it is necessary to walk also.
My thing, too, is that if a guy won't commit to you, and the relationship has become a total nightmare, isn't that a sign that you should just go ahead and walk anyway? Anyway...yeah, like I said, I have a lot of confusion in the relationship arena where commitment is concerned.
I would consider myself to be a positive/optimistic person. But maybe I am not, maybe I am confused about that, too...lol. I seem to be pretty upbeat and positive in day-to-day life, but I must admit, as I was reading the five languages of love, I kept finding faults and bad things with all of them, when trying to decide which one mine was. At first, I thought...Quality Time, that sounds good! Then, I thought...no, I don't want to be smothered or to HAVE to be with someone all the time. Yuck. Then, I thought, the physical touch...that sounds good! Then, I remembered guys who had come on way to strong way too quickly. No good! Then, I thought...yeah, flattery would be nice (especially compared to some relationships that I have been in where I wouldn't get any compliments ever, or they were directed to the wrong place). And then I thought about all the insincere compliments I have received, or the ones that had ulterior motives, and all of a sudden, that didn't sound too great to me at all. Then, I thought about the acts of service. And it's kind of nice, yeah, but I don't know that it's what I "need". But then again, some of them, like the massage, sounds really appealing! (but then again, that kind of goes back to the physical, huh?) I hate to sound greedy, but I kind of like all of them lol. And I also dislike aspects of all of them. I guess if I had to choose the ideal sitation (without reading the book...this might change when I read the book), I would say I like all of them, in balance. Like, I want to get the compliments, but I want them to be sincere and directed to the right place. I want the physical touch, but at the right time and in moderation (and at the appropriate level). I'd like to get services performed for me, but the ones that I most enjoy. :-) I like gifts, but please make them something I actually want. lol. I know I sound like a high-maintenance beeyotch, but there ya go. lol. I mean, it may make a guy comfortable that if he is terrible at giving gifts, he doesn't really have to give them, because I would rather not get them than get junk.
I guess I have a lot to learn about committed, long-term relationships!
@Ben...I meant to mention this previously, but forgot...the case study you mentioned about the guy (or girl) who had to step out and do for the other for a whole month without getting anything in return...that reminded me of the Love Dare in the movie "Fireproof". You probably have no interest in seeing that one (it stars Kirk Cameron) if you haven't already, but if you would like me to summarize it for you, I can, you can just ask. In spite of what some may find to be undesirable content, I felt the movie had some good points, and was worthy and worthwhile to watch. If you read any of my before post on this topic, you may come to the conclusion, and rightly, that I am selfish. I try not to be, but I can be, I guess. And it is because of this that I would have trouble doing that...or doing the Love Dare. The Love Dare would be hard for anybody to do. The movie was fictional (I think), but I wonder if the Love Dare would ever actually work, or if the person performing it would just get completely swallowed up by the other person.
Anyway, just thought I would mention that.
I read the book and appreciate Dr. Chapman's insight. The test results for my husband and I seem pretty accurate. And we both, for the most part, are able to speak each other's languages.
But I have a problem. I understand that Dr. Chapman is clearly not suggesting that couples with different love languages can't make it work. However it seems that my husband and I have not only different love languages but completely different attitudes about what love even means. His language is acts of service; mine is physical touch. I think these two languages are very very different AND that the kinds of people who have these different languages must also have different perceptions about love.
The situation I find myself in is that I do things for my husband, happily, out of love, because I think it will make him happy, and specifically happy with me--appriving I suppose. But it does not have this effect.
Don't get me wrong--I don't do things for him to get him to do things for me. I just want to know he appreciates what I do for him and that they really make him feel loved. When he does things for me I always thank him, but when I do things for him I get "finally" or "but you DIDN'T do such and such" or "but you didn't do it the right way." It's like he just sees the things I try to do for him as things I OUGHT to do as his wife, things that don't deserve thanks because they are a given.
Part of the problem, too, is that I just don't understand how doing laundry can communicate love more than a gaze and a squeeze can. Finding out my husband's true love language has been daunting and confusing almost more than it has been helpful. First because he doesn't seem to feel loved when I do things for him even though he answered on the test that he "loves it" when I do things for him even more than he loves spending time with me or being physical. And second, because to me acts of service are things anyone could do, something you could just pay someone to do, and therefore cannot really mean that much. To me, the kind of physical touch that makes me feel loved is something only my husband could give me, something that money cannot buy. Intimacy. Laundry is simply not intimate. (Ben, if you've read this far, I think you know what I mean, because you say something similar in your original post).
The combination of this seeming ungratefulness and the problem of simply being so different that it's hard to understand each other makes for some serious tension.
I guess I said all that to say that it's not enough just to do it. He touches me, happily, and I cook meals for him, happily, and there's still something missing. How do we get over this chasm between us?
I think part of why this book was so eye-opening for me is, as you say, it's quite hard to even understand why certain things make other people feel loved if that's not how *you* feel loved. Love is an emotion that runs quite deep. I think that's why we assume (to some degree) that we all experience it in the same way. But, I think we all also come up against the realization that we don't experience it the same way (and that it's hard to mentally model why this is such).
It's hard to say why your husband would react the way he does (and I'm not really any kind of expert on this). If he is actually an acts-of-service kind of person, perhaps he is just doesn't know how to express his gratitude. I think self-expression is very difficult for some people and they deal with it by not acting "appropriately."
One of the things that I believe Chapman mentions in the book (it's been a while), is to actually ask your lover how *you* can be more giving. The point of the exercise is not to be sacrificial; but rather, to get to the bottom of what truly makes your lover feel loved. If you tell him that you don't perceive any appreciation for the things you do AND want to know how to make him happier, perhaps it well help get to the bottom of the chasm.
I had an interesting moment a few weeks ago that I think is relevant to this conversation. I have a friend that I like to take care of. I take her out to dinner and the movies every now and then and I typically insist on paying for everything. I like to pay because it makes me feel like a "provider," which is something that I was raised with.
But, a few weeks ago, my friend insisted on paying for the dinner (if I paid for the movie). My gut reaction was definitely to refuse - "put your money away, I've got this." I thought about it for a minute though and then agreed to the division of costs for the evening. What I realized was that she probably wanted to pay for the dinner because it would make her feel good about herself, much in the way that I feel good about myself for paying.
It was an interesting epiphany. I am NOT a gifts person as far as love languages go. But, sometimes, you have to let others be gift givers because, from their point of view, it can be about the expression of THEIR love and self-esteem.
I'm not really explaining myself well here. I guess, rather than worrying about the fact that getting gifts doesn't do all that much for me, I concentrated on loving the other person by *allowing* them the opportunity to express their love (and therefore feel good).
I thought you explained yourself quite well. Though my view is these are value languages. Love to me is not an emotion but emotion and action are the byproduct of love. There are men and women who have been betrayed by friends and out of love took the pain of the betrayal with no reward. That is an act of love. Love to me is the desire to put the benefit of another above one's own personal benefit. Your act for your friend and personal gain (gratification of providing and expressing you care) is a greater gift when packaged as you have allowed. It has been said that is more blessed to give than receive. Sometimes it is good to allow others to get the blessing in relationships. Hope the best for you in this concept.
Cool :) Glad I wasn't just babbling incoherently.
I liked how you described it. I know that when I love someone, seeing them happy is the greatest joy, and I can't stand to see them upset, even if it is something that they have to go through as a part of life. Although probably a crappy example, one thing I can think of is when I have liked or been with people who were not morning people. They would be visibly upset if and when they had to get up in the morning. I never wanted to be the cause of them getting up unless it was something that absolutely had to be done, or something we had decided together would be fun to do and we would just have to deal with the getting up.
This isn't just boy/girl relationships I am referring to. I have a lot of female friends I feel the same way about, so it is relating to 'just-friends' relationships as well. There are female friends of mine that I somewhat 'take care of'. That's mostly because they are broke all the time. When I am broke all the time, and it does happen, I feel really crappy when people (outside of men I date) have to 'take care of' me. In high school and when I was in college, there were many, many times when I was a poor college student, broke all the time, and I had quite a few female friends who were more well off, and they would take care of me. If we went out, they would pay for my stuff. I think that may be why I like to pay for other people sometimes, too (including my female friends). I feel now, like I am giving back for having been so well taken care of growing up.
@Ben, I enjoyed your description of the situation...I felt it very relatable. I have a male friend who is the same, we go out sometimes, and he pays for my stuff. I think part of the reason is because he has such a nice job and makes tons of $$$, it almost makes him feel emasculated if he doesn't pay. If I go out with a guy, and he has planned for the start that he is going to pay unless I make a fuss about it, that is huge bonus points towards the guy in my book. I like for guys to let me make it special when I pay for stuff, and let me make this huge, grandiose plans to spoil and surprise them with things...instead of it being 'expected' when we hang out together or whatever.
Although I am not exactly sure which category this falls into exactly, I think a huge love language for me (which makes me feel loved) is respect...towards my upbringing, the way I am, my ways, etc. That includes the whole male chivalry thing. The traditional stuff...holding doors open, etc...things like that, and letting me be. I like to plan things and do things for the person I like or am with. But when it is expected, that puts at least a little pressure on me, and it takes magic and fun out of it.