This is not a recent read. I read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages two or three years ago. It had a profound impact on how I interact with everyone — my partner, friends, family, etc — so much so that iterations of, “Thank you, I know that was hard for you; that is not your love language” or “I know this is not your love language BUT I need X from you” have become a regular part of my vernacular. Or, if I am trying to make a client or friend feel better about one of their recent interactions, I might even say, “But is that realistic? That is your love language not theirs” … or something to that effect!
I had not realized how integral the love language philosophy was to me until I wrote a “Pocket of Joy” column on “slippers.” Sounds unrelated but stay with me. Slippers are not just “slippers.” As with most of the inanimate objects that fill my heart with joy, slippers represent something special. My love relationship with slippers was “seeded” growing up. My mom would often gift pyjamas with matching socks or slippers. (It was a way for her to give me fun gifts, without them being food-based.) Then, my LOVE of slippers grew from an acorn into a full-blown tree when my partner, James, brought me AMAZING seal slippers from Vancouver. I (obviously) loved the actual physical slippers (they are goofy and fun and fluffy and white), BUT what I loved most is what the gift demonstrated. The gift showed that he listened to both my childhood stories and my “language of love.” I would call “thoughtful gift-giving” my language of love. Growing up, my mom brought me gifts when she traveled for work — it made her leaving on the trips more palatable. I have kept that tradition and try to always bring both my mom and James small memories when I travel. Traditionally, “gifts” were not his language. The slippers showed me he knew me, that he knew I would appreciate the gesture, and that he was willing to figure out a new combined language of love. A, shall we say, “Harter” family language of love? (Harter is the combo of our two last names.)
The basic premise of the book is that we all have different ways (languages) of giving and receiving love (physical touch, gifts, acts of service, etc).
One love “language” is not inherently better than another, BUT in any interpersonal relationship, it behoves both participants to learn their own language, their partner’s language, how to ask for the love language they need, and how to listen for the love required.
It NEVER feels good to try to express love (to be vulnerable) only for your friend, mother, partner to feel unloved. Those misfires are an inherent part of any relationship. The book won’t eliminate them, but it will (hopefully) decrease their frequency. If not frequency, intensity. I have found that having a language to express relationship “misfires” is a powerful diffuser. I can say to my partner, “Sweetie, I think you were expressing love in a way I did not compute. Please explain.” Or “Sweetie, I was trying to be loving but obviously my intentions did not land. Please talk to me. Tell me how we can make this better” … or something to that effect.
Basically, read the book!!