Interpreting the 5 Love Languages

This is a guest post from Monica McCarthy.

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I have to admit, when Tara asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest post about The Five Love Languages I was a bit confused. I’m not a relationship coach. I’m not even married. What insights could I possibly offer on the subject?

But Tara recalled how emphatic I was on the topic during a girl’s night out and admittedly found the topic intriguing.

For those of you who have no idea was I’m talking about, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a book that summarizes “the primary ways of expressing and interpreting love.”

The Five Love Languages Are:

  • Verbal Affirmation
  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Gift Giving

Note: You can read more about the languages and take a “self-assessment” test here.

As I sat down to write this post, it hit me: The Love Languages can apply to any relationship, whether romantic or platonic in nature.

The main takeaways from the theory are:

1) We want to receive love the way we give love

2) Not everyone wants the same things.

A side note: The only modification I’d make to the Love Languages-apply-to-any-relationship statement is with Physical Touch. Of course there are completely platonic ways of showing physical closeness, but I’d like to add that in platonic relationships, physical touch could also be defined as physical presence. For example, speaking with someone face to face instead of on the telephone. But that’s just my two cents on that one.

And now for the good stuff…

What you want is what you give.

This is what stuck out to me most from the book: How you give love is how you want to receive love.

If you get the warm fuzzies when you tell your partner, “Wow, that mustache works for you,” chances are you’re hoping he’ll express his love in return with something like, “You look hot in that little black dress.” (Verbal Affirmation)

And if you want to show your roommate you care by doing the dishes, chances are you’re hoping she’ll express her gratitude by scrubbing the shower clean. (Acts of Service)

It all sounds even-Steven doesn’t it?

Except….

Most people are drawn to people who don’t have the same language.

What the what?! Are we all masochists? Gluttons for punishment?

Nope. We’re just human.

Sometimes these differences in communication are due to gender specific tendencies (women tend to crave more verbal affirmation than men, for example), sometimes it’s a matter of opposites attracting, and sometimes it’s the idea of the good old fashioned chase. Again, any of these options can be applied to relationships beyond the romantic.

Chapman goes so far as to claim that not understanding one another’s love language is the root cause for almost all divorces. As previously mentioned, I’m no relationship expert and I’ve never been married, so I don’t know if this is true.

But I do know that being aware of the other person’s language helps ease the question of, Why don’t they understand what I want? When we know how the other person likes to receive love, it’s much easier to give it to them.

This need to be understood is so strong that some could argue the case for a Sixth Language.

My best friend has a theory that there’s another Love Language: Paying Attention.

The idea behind the language of Paying Attention is that you know someone so well that you know what he/she wants without having to be told.

I’m not sure if this occurs only after we’ve spent so much time with a person that we don’t have to guess their preferences, or if this is purely based on intuition, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Why should anyone care?

Like I wrote in my Philosophy Statement, what humans desire most is to matter.

We all want to be heard, understood, and appreciated.

By being more aware of how we want to be loved (you can substitute “love” for words like “respected,” “admired,” “treated”), we can better express our needs to others.

And by desiring to know the love languages of others, we can take the first steps toward understanding what they need from us.

The people in your life want to matter whether they are your boss or your clients, your best friend or your lover, your parent or your child.

So show them a little love.

I guarantee you’ll receive a whole lot back in return.

* * * * *

Monica McCarthyMonica McCarthy is the founder of SHOW & TELL, an online home with the purpose of inspiring people to find and share their own story. A former Broadway, television, and film actress, Monica is also an on-stage and on-camera public speaking coach specializing in helping bloggers and entrepreneurs create engaging video content and stellar keynote speeches. Based in New York City, Monica has led a series of successful Get Unstuck workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and artists. She is currently writing the chapters of her own story by traveling (next stop: a one-way ticket to Thailand), writing, running, and meeting incredible people along the way. Follow Monica on Twitter and Facebook to learn more.

8 thoughts on “Interpreting the 5 Love Languages

  1. Hey Monica,

    I adore the idea of different love languages. Sometimes, I catch myself feeling so frustrated at my significant other because he’s expressing his love through acts of service and physical touch. In the meantime, I’m feeling all unloved, simply because I need verbal affirmation, gift giving, and quality time.

    Understanding that we simply have different ways of expressing ourselves is incredibly liberating.

    Thanks for sharing this,

    love love ~

    Nikki xo

  2. Hi Monica!

    Interesting topic, I’ll sort of use it as a compass for me, since I live in Austria – Germanic people, rather brainy, mental and logical – and I am Brazilian – Latin, very into my emotions and body.

    In fact I sometimes have a hard time of understanding how people show their love, here. It is nice to know this idea of love languages, I will try to see what’s underneath their cultural shell. :)

    Thanks a ton!

    xoxo
    Sabrina.

  3. Hi Monica,

    While I’ve often said ” Love is a universal language” I too adore the concept and other side of the coin that there are also different languages. YES, it makes so much sense!

    I can recall countless arguments with my ex sounding something like…” But I did this, this, and this…” all the while thinking that they were showing me love…when what I was wanting was to be heard myself. Absolutely I can see how the ” I don’t matter” button was pushed in both me and the other person.

    Great blog! Keeping aware that we do express ourselves differently and it is important to develop an awareness around this is sooooo helpful and freeing!

  4. Amen! I own the book also the version designed for understanding your children. Had I understood the 5 love languages earlier in my life, I would have muted some of the personal pain I have been through. Better late than never and the themes in the book – as applied to ANY relationship – are a true roadmap for how I approach my understanding of others.

    Thank you so much for your post!

    michelle

  5. I LOVE that book! and all it’s subsequent material. I recommended it to anyone I know (or meet) that’s going to get married. It is a great resource for singles too because it helps you learn who you are which is a great way to be true in business. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi! I’m an Australian author of children’s books and have just published a new book called What Love Looks Like by Nikki Rogers (me). This book was inspired by the popular book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and can be useful in helping parents and children recognise the different ways they give and receive love. Hope this can be helpful o someone. :-)

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