The Five Languages of Love

There was a video link on my friend’s Facebook page today where a guest on the Steve Harvey show was talking about the five love languages from Gary Chapman’s book. They are:

1. Physical Touch
2. Words of affirmation
3. Acts of service
4. Quality time, and
5. Receiving Gifts


The guest went on to explain how a common hurdle in relationships is that we tend to show love in the way that we want to be loved – and not in the way the person wants to be loved.

The clip kept running on the screen but my mind was far away – and my first thought was piecing through the puzzle of how I wanted to be loved.

Instinctively I knew that my two are Quality time and Acts of service.

I like to spend time with the person I care about. Activities, talking, even just silence … but it has to be together. Sharing a meal, reading a book, going for a walk, a bike ride – all of these things qualify.  I could spend an entire post unravelling why quality time is so important to me; I could follow the threads right back to my childhood and how my relationship with my parents and my sister developed. It is why the New York Times article on the 36 questions that lead to love resonated so deeply with me. Because of that precious level of intimacy that develops from spending time together. And it is why I could fall in love while getting to know someone on Whatsapp.

The other is Acts of service. I learnt a long time ago that words don’t mean as much as action. Few people act on what they say. And words have become disposable – they are said today and forgotten tomorrow. But actions – putting energy into something, acting on a thought – that means more to me. It’s all about the follow through. The litany of broken promises that everyone experiences, and which I seem to remember most acutely, have no value for me. But making that extra effort – showing it and not saying it – have always meant much more to me.

Chapman talks about a primary and a secondary love language. I am not sure which of the two comes first for me. And to be fair, it doesn’t really matter and so I didn’t take one of the many internet quizzes designed to help figure it out .

My second thought was about how the people that I care about want to be loved.

My father: he is all about quality time. And he is aware of this and asks for it. Which I think is incredible. Where most of us struggle to voice what our needs are, he has done this all my life. I just haven’t been listening the right way.

My mother: Acts of service. She is also disillusioned by the empty vessels of words. She needs proof that you mean what you say. Growing up it was difficult for me to adjust to my mother’s way of loving – she never said the words but always showed it instead. And I often didn’t understand the gesture for what it meant.

We both do now, but because we spend so much time apart – in different countries, different worlds really – gestures are not so easy to share across time and space. And so we have made words the proxy. At the end of every Skype conversation, it is a game of speed – whoever says I love you first. And then we cover the tangy sadness of the moment by sharing a laugh.

My sister: she is a mix of quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch. First she needs to hear it and then she needs you to prove it by spending time with her and by demonstrating your affection. For us, the physical touch was holding hands. I would hold the little finger on our hand whenever we were walking together, and I still do it today even.

And for the man that I think I am in love with: I am not sure. I think physical touch may be one of them. I quality time may be another.

But I need to ask him. There has been too much miscommunication already between us, too many silences, and too many wasted conversations talking about none of the things that really matter.