It’s got to be the most important word in the human language; the most important thing that we can do for one another as well as for ourselves, and yet it is so often withheld, misdirected, manipulated and misunderstood. Why is it that something so natural, so fundamental, can be so complicated? Because we’ve experienced love, shouldn’t we understand it better?
Our knowledge of love is very one-sided. We can only be sure of love from what we have experienced; and we make assumptions about love based upon those experiences.
For example, we assume that others want to receive love the way we would like to receive love. If we like to get gifts, then we tend to buys things for those that we love. If we like to express our love by saying, “I love you,” and other forms of verbal endearment, we most likely prefer to receive loving words as well. That’s where things start to get complicated. We forget that when it comes to love, everyone is wired a little differently.
According to Gary Chapman, the author of “The Five Love Languages,” our style of love can be broken down into five basic types. When you understand your type, or types, your relationships take on a whole new improved level. You can use this valuable information to improve your love life, your relationship with family members, co-workers, employees, etc. So, which one or two are you?
• Task oriented. A task-oriented person likes to do things for others as a way of showing his or her appreciation or love. By keeping the house clean, supper on the table or by putting in a full day at work, task love types are saying, “I love you.” Lending a hand to help someone fix something, or running an errand – that’s the task-oriented person’s way of showing their regard for a person. Task-oriented types usually like to receive love that comes in the form of a task. They prefer for others to do something for them or help with a task as a way of showing their love.
• Quality-time oriented. The quality-time person shows their love by spending time with others. Just hanging out, going for a walk, having a long talk, going on a trip or running errands together, etc. They in turn want love shown to them in the same manner.
• Gift oriented. The gift person likes to give and receive their love in the form of gifts. They know you love them if you’ve put a lot of thought into a special gift just for them. Making the effort and thinking of them in the form of something tangible lets them feel loved.
• Physical touch. The physical touch person likes to give and receive hugs, tickles, shoulder massages, etc., etc., ETC. Snuggling up on the couch with someone they love is a very important expression of love to these people. Keep it physical and these types are happy.
And finally ...
• Words of affirmation. These people have pet names for their loved ones. They frequently say, “I love you,” and other terms of endearment. They know you love them by the words you say to them, so keep those words coming and say them often. Kind words are important to them at home as well as on the job, from their friends, etc.
Love, when properly delivered, can be transforming! I have seen children who are starving for love from their parents, parents who already love them ... just not in the way that works for the child. When the child’s love language is understood, the child feels nurtured, loved and begins to flourish. Children can even learn to relate to their own parents differently by understanding their parents’ love language. Suddenly having to clean their room is no longer about the chore itself, but becomes a way of showing Mother or Father love.
So often this love disconnect occurs within a marriage. What does it for him, doesn’t make it for her. One example (and there are so many): he wants her to help in the garage with clean up and she wants him to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. She doesn’t feel the love because the words are missing; he doesn’t feel the love because she isn’t helping him with the task. By changing the way we show our love to better meet our loved one’s needs, we change the relationship for the better.
When we don’t feel loved, we can feel lonely, lost, unfulfilled, depleted, sad and out of balance. The sense that we are not loved can lead to divorce, infidelity, depression and poor health.
Children who are deprived of their particular type of love can miss out on the important nurturing that helps create healthy, self confident, independent adults.
However, when we are feeling the love in our lives, we have more energy, confidence and joy.
In every family there exists several love types. Make a point of figuring out your family’s love types and watch the love grow in your life.
• Jamie Palmer is a Batavia resident and a licensed clinical professional counselor and senior mediator with more than 35 years of experience in the field of psychology working with families, couples and individuals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.