This article starts a couple years ago, when my teacher was out of the country and the administration couldn’t find a sub for my class. So instead of reasonably leaving us to have a free period, we got combined with one of the other classes happening concurrently with ours.
I just… have you ever had a teacher who’s sweet and devoted and doing everything right, but you just can’t stand them? Picture me raising my hand a la Hermione Granger when Snape refuses to call on her. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t take her seriously. So when she decided to forego her intended lesson plan because of the 25 kids unceremoniously dumped into her custody for 50 minutes, and told us she would speak about her latest passion, love languages, instead, I was completely unimpressed.
And I probably would have stayed that way if I weren’t such a sucker for what I like to call “pop psychology”. You know, those things that everyone knows about in a superficial sense, like Myers-Briggs personality types. And I had a friend who, in addition to actually being a psych major, was really into this stuff as well, so that only exacerbated my relatively tame fascination with the field. After plying me with online quizzes to help determine my enneagram type (“of course you’re a tri-type,” she groaned, “you never could fit into a box, could you?”) she moved on to love languages.
Our friendship was fraying at that point anyways, so I ignored love languages, again. And even though the concept flitted around my brain for the next two years, I never really did much research on it. All I knew is that there are five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and receiving gifts, and apparently understanding your partner’s language is key to a strong relationship.
And then it was my birthday. I got a 12:01 text from my best friend and fell asleep smiling. And more messages through the day from friends all over, both casual and close. E-cards from my baby cousins and my dad (well, my sister on his behalf. He still thinks that there’s a tiny someone in his computer telling him that ‘you’ve got mail!’). I got hundreds of words that day, and I have never felt so loved in my life. And that’s when it hit me. Words of affirmation. Caroline, time to do some research.
The idea of five love languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. In 1995 he published his book The Five Love Languages – the Secret to Love That Lasts, and it became a New York Times bestseller in 2009. The basic premise behind love languages is that while everyone appreciates love in each of its forms, each person has one love language that’s most dominant. So you can love your partner to death and spoil them with a gift a day, but if their love language is physical touch, just they won’t feel loved.
It’s a simple concept, really. But I feel like there’s more, and I want to share my personal thoughts on the topic. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. I haven’t taken the quiz either; my assessment is purely from a self-knowledge perspective, as well as some casual analysis of and discussion with my friends. With this in mind, I would like to propose my theory: every person encapsulates all five love languages.
Because thinking back to that same birthday, I recalled my friend sitting next to me in calc and telling me that she had a present for me, she just couldn’t bring it to school that day. I also remember inwardly cringing, because I get so awkward about receiving gifts, and honestly, if I want something, I’ll save up for it myself. It feels better that way. So here are two love languages- my love language, and what I’ll call my un-love language, the language that makes me feel uncomfortable.
And then I was talking to my sister, who told me that she found love languages so funny, because what she likes getting is different from how she actually shows affection. And I realized I’m like that, too; compliments and words keep me going, but I rarely dole out any of my own. Instead, I am all about acts of service. And the flip side to that is the love language I have the hardest time giving, which for me is physical touch. And the final love language is your neutral one.
So what does this mean?
It means love languages are a little more complex than they appear. Because it’s no longer simply about identifying your and your partner’s love languages; all the types have to be somewhat compatible. Because if the one language I can’t stomach is quality time and my partner craves it, then it takes extra effort on my part to fix myself and my aversion to quality time to make sure my partner feels love.
Because at the end of the day, I believe that the point of love languages is to become comfortable giving and receiving each and every one of them. Obviously, you will always have an innate preference, and that’s perfectly okay! But I would be knocking out a good 2/5, maybe 3/5 of the world if I only stuck to people whose preferences for showing and accepting love were exactly compatible with mine.
And one final thought; I think love languages are for more than relationships. I think every friendship, every encounter with a parent or child or sibling can only be strengthened when you know their love language and engage them with it. Loving isn’t exclusive to a romantic relationship.