After over 35 years of being a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman developed the concept of The 5 Languages of love. Over the years he learned that spouses often sincerely attempted to give love to the other, but fell short of the mark because they did not speak the love language of their husband or wife. He realized that these languages fell into five categories and that everyone has a primary channel through which their “love tank” is filled.
During a lecture produced by PBS, Dr. Chapman talked about children growing up with empty love tanks and how they then turn around and look for someone to fill them. But that never works because love is something that you do for somebody else, and the way you fill your tank is by filling theirs. As adults, you can learn how to make that happen by learning the five languages of love and speaking to your spouse or mate in their language.
According to Dr. Chapman, your spouse/mate will be fed through one of the following:
- Words of Affirmation: They may be positively affected by compliments, encouragement, or kind words. Knowing that you support who they are tells them that you love them.
- Quality Time: Some people crave undivided attention. Looking them in the eye, listening to them, paying attention to what they are saying and feeling validates who they are and tells them you love them. Pursuing activities together is another great way to give them quality time as it often leads to relaxed and intimate conversation.
- Receiving Gifts: For some people nothing says I love you more than a thoughtful gift. If you are not good at gift giving, start paying attention to your loved one’s comments on items they like and keep a list. Recruit ideas from family members. And don’t forget that all gifts are not material. Sometimes the gift of your presence is just what they need to fill their love tank.
- Acts of Service: For the person who speaks the service language of love, your willingness to take over a chore, maintain something they don’t like to do, or simply provide TLC during a rough time lets them know that you love them.
- Physical Touch – Non-Sexual: To others nothing says love like a pat on the back, kiss on the cheek, or good old fashioned hand holding. When you touch them you say “I love you.”.
Dr. Chapman uses his own marriage as an example. He likes affirmations. When his wife speaks in his language his tank is filled. But she does not respond to words. She feels loved when he commits acts of service. So he shows his love through thoughtful service. Because they speak love to each other in their respective primary languages, both tanks are filled and they are happy in their marriage. He adds that continuing to sprinkle doses of the other four languages is also a good idea.
In fact – back to children – he advises parents to fill the tanks of their little ones with all five languages in the beginning. As the children grow into independence and their primary language reveals itself, give them plenty of what they respond to, while still generously sprinkling the other four. What that does, beyond showing children what it is to be loved, is equip them to recognize the languages of others so that when they move into adulthood and begin to establish their own relationships, they have the tools they need to form loving relationships.
We know that we can not change other people. We can only change ourselves. Learning to recognize and respond to the five languages in all of our relationships is a powerful tool for giving the best gift you can give to others – LOVE. And, as we have learned, what you give is what you get back. Imagine a world populated by people operating from full love tanks. Just imagine……
*For more on Dr. Chapman, his lectures, his “The 5 Languages of Love” book, and others, please go to his website above.