Learn the Love Language

– By Sharon Ashton and Raksha Dave-Gates (Counselling Psychologists)

“Hu tane prem karu chu”. Unless you speak Gujarati, a language from India, this sentence will leave you baffled. The English translation is, “I love you”. Through experience, we know how important it is for both speaker and listener to converse in the same language. This month we want to highlight the need to use common language whenever we want to communicate love.

In North America, February represents a time to express “I love you” to partners, friends, and family. Dr. Gary Chapman suggests that people speak and understand love in five love languages. In his book, The Five Love Languages, he describes differing expressions of love: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and receiving gifts. While we may use any or all the languages, each of us will have a primary love language. In many cases, your primary love language may differ from your loved one’s preferred style. Therefore, your loved one may not feel loved despite your genuine expression of love. In contrast, you may be loved but not feel loved. Clearly, it is essential that we learn, and communicate in, the love language of the person we love.

To discover your love language, notice how you show love. It is likely to be the same way you feel loved. Do you usually show your love by giving compliments, affirmations, kind words, or by writing notes or cards? When you are criticized, do you perceive that you are not loved? These responses indicate that your love language is words of affirmation.

If your love language is based primarily on quality time, you are likely to cherish one-to-one time with a loved one and you will try to share activities or have conversations where you can focus your attention toward each other. You may feel unloved with lengthy separations or unfocused time spent together even if your loved one tells you that you are loved.

Do you become upset when someone you love forgets about a special day or does not extend efforts to give meaningful gifts? If so, your primary love language may relate to receiving gifts. You value concrete, visual symbols of love. The gift represents that the person remembered you, and acted to show an expression of love for you. The gift of self or a loved one being present for you in time of crisis, or for support and encouragement, is just as powerful for you.

If you get into conflicts with loved ones regarding incomplete chores and feelings of not being helped in daily life activities (e.g., housecleaning, laundry, etc.), then acts of service may be your primary love language. If so, you feel cared for when a loved one says, “What can I do for you?” On the other hand, you feel unloved when your requests for help are ignored despite other expressions of love such as quality time, affirmations of words, etc. There is an important difference between expecting acts of service as expressions of love and manipulation or coercion based on guilt or fear. Also, be sure to examine your gender role stereotypes if this is your love language.

Does physical touch more than anything convey love to you? Touch is a powerful communicator of love and has healing properties. For you, being told “I love you” will have an impact, but not as much as being held, hugged, kissed, etc.

This Valentines Day, you may say “I love you” in many different ways. Your understanding of the five love languages can help you choose the perfect way to show how much you care.