A little over a decade ago, I read a life-changing book titled “The 5 Love Languages®: The Secret To Love That Lasts.” This book, by marriage therapist Dr. Gary Chapman, Ph.D., has been on the New York Times bestselling list for years and years, with over 11 million copies sold and translated into 49 languages. I’ve been recommending The 5 Love Languages to every mom I know, because motherhood is greatly impacted by the quality of our relationships. Psychologist William James stated that the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated, and Dr. Chapman says there are five love languages, five ways in which an individual feels loved and expressed love to meet that need.
Identifying and understanding your love language, the one you tend to favor, will help you navigate every relationship in your life, and learning others’ love language will help you speak it “fluently” so you can communicate your love effectively. I’ve done this in my own life and it has made a great difference. I know my husband’s and each of my daughters’ love languages, and they know mine.
Though you may appreciate every loving gesture, unless someone communicates their love in your primary love language or secondary love language, you will more than likely feel unloved and unappreciated. The 5 Love Languages® are: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service,and physical touch.
Though The 5 Love Languages® came out of an experiment conducted with married couples, this simple yet powerful concept applies to how everyone communicates love and it can help you navigate motherhood with more ease joy. Dr. Chapman has other books that explore the topic more deeply in other settings: The 5 Love Languages of Children, The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition, and The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (co-authored with Dr. Paul White).
Let’s explore The 5 Love Languages® one by one!
If you feel loved when someone spends time with you and gives you their undivided attention, your primary love language may be quality time. You feel loved when someone is there for you, unplugged and undistracted. You know someone cares when someone carves time to be and connect with you. You feel unappreciated when they postpone or cancel scheduled time with you or seem to not be present or not truly listening when you are together.
This is both Elisha’s and Elyssa’s primary love language, so taking time to listen to them and to spend one-on-one time with each is really crucial to our relationship.
Words of Affirmation
Does hearing “I love you,” “You’re amazing,” “I’m proud of you,” and “You’re the bestEST mommy ever!,” bring a big smile to your face? If Words of Affirmation is your primary love language, you feel loved when someone expresses spoken or written affection, praise, or appreciation.
To connect with you, the people in your life must compliment you and affirm you verbally (or through a love note), it doesn’t just feel flattering, it feels like they really do care about you. Hurtful words, insults, and any other type of corrupt communication (such as gossip) can be very demoralizing for you and hard to forget, forgive, and move on from it.
I know this really well because this is my primary love language. I was attempting to heal my relationship with someone close to me and I tried to get her to take the assessment with me, after letting her know that my love language was Words of Affirmation, only to be rejected and told “I’ve always had a need to be worshiped and adored.” This was very hurtful to me, not only because the words were harsh, but because, in this particular situation, I am actually clueless about how she feels loved.
Does it make your day when someone brings you a little something that tells you they were thinking of you? If your primary love language is Receiving Gifts, gifting is symbolic of love and affection for you, so you treasure meaningful, tangible, and thoughtful gifts and surprises, like roses on Valentine’s Day (or any day!).
Dr. Chapman describes it like this: “The perfect gift shows that you’re known, you’re cared for, and you’re prized above [the cost of] the gift.“
You may feel hurt if someone forgot it was your birthday or even when they give you a visible gift that demonstrate they don’t really know you or take the time to make it special. Last-minute.
I scored 1 out of 30 in receiving gifts, however, this is one of my dad’s main love languages so I’ve put conscious effort in becoming more proficient at the art of giving and receiving gifts graciously.
Acts of Service
Do you subscribe to the motto “actions speak louder than words”? Someone may want to be with you all day, telling you over and over how much they love and appreciate you, but unless they help you around the house, feed the cat, take the trash out, take care of your oil change, or do anything that you find helpful, you just don’t feel they mean it… That’s a sign that your primary love language is Acts of Service.
You know someone loves you when they do little things to help you achieve your goals, like vacuuming the floors, doing the dishes, making you breakfast in bed, or picking up a task you dread to ease your burden at work. And just like “Let me do that for you” sound like magic words, by contrast, if someone is breaking their promises, demonstrates laziness, or makes more work for you to do, you feel alone and uncared for.
Is it reassuring for you when someone holds your hand, hugs you tight, or snuggles with you? Physical touch may be your primary love language if you feel affection through the human touch. The people in your life may refer to you as a touchy-feely person, because your face lights up when you come in safe and assuring physical contact with others and that’s how you express concern, care, and love. Being physically present and accessible is vital to a relationship when someone in it speaks the love language of physical touch, and the opposite (such as physical neglect or abuse) would destroy it.
This is my husband’s primary love language, so he felt really loved when I treated him to a couple’s massage at Cozumel beach when we went aboard the Disney Magic.
Many people could easily have a misconception when it comes to physical touch that it may be about sex; however, research in the area of child development has proven that babies who are held, stroked, and kissed grow up to become healthier emotionally and the benefits of physical contact continue throughout life.
In fact, physical touch is Eliana’s main love language. She claims that the most favorite things in the world are snuggling with her mom, smelling her mom’s skin, and feeling her mom’s “warmnness.”
It’s also been proven that positive words are beneficial to the brain and and that sharing your time, gifts, and talents with others with a positive purpose increases your level of happiness. Learning to speak someone else’s love language, even when it doesn’t come naturally to you, it will be a blessing to you.
The love languages are helpful in motherhood as we express our love for our children and teach them to express love to one another in the family. Every family member can benefit from learning to speak in all five languages, while emphasizing the primary and secondary love languages in an individual way with each one.
But don’t forget about yourself! It is important that you get the affection you crave, in the way you crave it. If you don’t feel cared for and appreciated, especially with all you do for everyone, the family unit cannot possibly function properly, because “if mama ain’t happy…”, you know!
Right now, grab pen and paper and write down the things people around you do and say that make you feel most loved and the things people do and say or don’t do and don’t say that make you the most hurt and upset. You will start to see a pattern that will give you important clues.
Then go to 5lovelanguages.com and take Dr. Chapman’s 30-question quiz called the 5 Love Languages® official assessment, to determine, in just a few minutes, what your top scoring love languages are (your primary love language and your secondary love language).
I believe in “nurturing yourself first,” (one of the seven steps in the Stepping Into BALANCE course), which means that as you discover your love language, your responsibility is to make sure your emotional needs met by affirming, appreciating, and approving yourself using your primary and secondary love languages to do so.
Once you discover someone’s primary love language, things will click and you will start to understand why they value what they value. You can have a blueprint of better connecting with them in a way that is meaningful, which is priceless, because without it, they feel unloved.
The next step is to find out what is called a “love dialect,” which is the preferred form love takes for particular people within a love language, beyond common stereotypes. This is why speaking someone’s love language is not the cure for all relationship ills, and it requires study, effort, thought, planning, energy, and money, just like learning a foreign language.
Gratitude is a strong dialect of mine. Words that show thankfulness, appreciation, and admiration greatly surpass any compliment I can receive. As I receive these words, I feel loved and understood, and it strengthens my bond with the friend or family member who offered them.
It’s so important to learn what you value, what most matters to you, what makes you tick, and how you express (or don’t express) your affection.
Do you know your love language? The experience of learning your love language and the love language of the people in your life may be an eye-opening experience.