Dr. Gary Chapman, a marriage psychologist, wrote a book called The Five Love Languages. It explores how different people communicate love and how they want love to be communicated to them. Chapman discovered that most marital problems he encountered in the counseling room stemmed from a mismatch of love languages. If you speak one love language and your spouse speaks another, you may be misinterpreting each other’s attempts at showing love. Once you understand what method of showing love is meaningful to someone, you can meet them there. Likewise, you can start to see how they were loving you when you didn’t even realize it.
The love languages aren’t just for marriage or for romantic relationships. They apply to any type of love and affect your interactions with family and friends.
The five love languages Chapman described are: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Usually a person has one that is most important to them, though another might be a close second. You can take a free assessment here. People change overtime, but the most important ones will probably stay the same based on your personality. I own the book and have taken the assessment several times, and my results are always a little bit different. I just took it online with the following scores:
Words of Affirmation: 10
Quality Time: 5
Acts of Service: 5
Physical Touch: 10
So basically, if you love me, give me a hug and tell me I’m awesome. Haha. 12 is the highest score possible, and I have too split a personality to ever have such a clear winner. A big change this time around is that quality time lost some surprising ground. Words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time are usually all very close contenders for my highest score, and affirmation usually wins by at least 1 point. I think my love needs adjust to how I’m feeling about myself. Low self-esteem craves words of affirmation and depression/loneliness go for physical touch. I also think the state of my relationship has a big impact on my love languages. When Michael was close by, he often did things to take care of me like fix my dryer and work on my bike and my car. During that time, I took the assessment and scored higher than usual on acts of service. I knew he was doing that stuff because he loved me, so it made me feel loved. Now that he’s six hours away and constantly at work, I cling to his words over the phone to reassure me. And physical touch is just innate with me. Anyone close to me will notice that.
So here’s the big one that never changes. I score zero on gifts. Zip. Zilch. Not a thing. One time I scored one, but the gift I was specifically thinking of was a song Michael wrote for me, which is also words of affirmation, quality time, and acts of service all rolled into one. But I just don’t usually connect emotionally with gifts. Even good ones. I drive my parents crazy because I usually refuse to ask for anything for Christmas. I feel guilty about the money they spend. Another result of my zero score is that I am a terrible gift-giver. I absolutely hate it. Those subtle hints you dropped? Nope, I didn’t remember those. I hate times of mandatory gift-giving (like Christmas) because I can never come up with something good to give. So then I buy something just because I have to, meaning it’s lame and a waste of money. And I know that there are people who really care about those gifts. I don’t want to disappoint. I’ve been trying and I may be getting slightly better at gift-giving. But it sure doesn’t come naturally.
People who have gifts as a love language see this whole Christmas business in a completely different light. My stepmom is like that. She absolutely loves to buy stuff for the people that she loves. She knows it’s not about the price but about the meaning. She’s masterful at navigating garage sales, outlet malls and doorbusters. It’s not uncommon to come home and find a little something or another sitting on my bed because it made her think of me. When someone says, “boy, wouldn’t it be cool to have a whatsit?” her gift-dar is bleeping. It may be September, but she’s gonna remember to get a whatsit in December. My friend Shannon is also a gifts person. This year, she had an amount of money set aside specifically for Christmas gifts. A few weeks before Christmas, the back window of her car shattered from the cold. She said thank God she had the money set aside, or she wouldn’t have been able to fix her window. I asked her what about the gifts? She said she was still getting them all – she knew exactly what she wanted for everyone and would be totally bummed if she couldn’t give them the perfect gifts.
So when I moan and complain about the commercialism and evil debasement of Christmas based on gifts, I hope my gift love language people know I’m not referring to them. They know what it’s about. They’re giving gifts out of love. It’s the gifts out of necessity and for the sake of extravagance that upset me. There must be some balance. Christmas gift-giving is the perfect example of “too much of a good thing.” Americans just need to learn a little moderation and self-control. That’s all I’m saying.
And if anyone notices me looking a little nervous when they open my gifts, just pat me on the shoulder and tell me that I did a good job. That should do the trick.