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Speaking of love

by ELENA JOHNSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| May 15, 2021 1:00 AM

I refuse to be without the Word.

The written words..All strung together by the dozens like merry friends nestled together on paper. Especially when they’re good story tellers.

Now, my eyes besieged by surprisingly painful dryness and allergies, I must do the unthinkable. I have turned to audiobooks.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no snob and won’t argue about book “purity.” All books are good books, and audiobooks bring the joy of reading to many. However, I’m horribly impatient, and narrators are always too slow. Frankly, I just don’t have an audio brain; if I can’t see it, it might as well not exist.

But I can listen much longer than I can read comfortably right now, so I turned to an old title I’ve read much about but never read: The 5 Love Languages.

Dr. Gary Chapman, after years of counseling experience, feels each of us “speaks” a particular “love language,” one which when spoken to us, makes us feel most loved and valued by others. Even if we’re fluent in a second, perhaps because we grew up speaking it, we will respond to our personal love language most strongly – whether we realize it or not.

Why do love languages matter? In Chapman’s experience, many couples don’t actually speak the same love language. Nor do all parents speak the same primary one as their own children. If you don’t speak your loved one’s language at all, you can inadvertently fail to show how loved they really are.

Speaking someone’s language well fills up what Chapman calls their “love tank.” Speak it often and well enough, and the tank is full. If you can’t communicate love in the language they speak, however, you risk leaving them running on empty – even when the love is there.

How can love go unrecognized? Think of the partner who “never makes time,” “never wants to talk,” or “never makes an effort.” Instead of selfish or unloving, what if they were just speaking Swahili to your Portuguese? Maybe it’s a communication problem and you’re not even speaking the same language.

Spouses and partners, parents and children, friends, and relatives can all benefit from learning a little more about the languages of love. So here’s a brief introduction to Chapman’s five:

1) Words of affirmation: This one is all about verbal expressions of affection. Think not only “You’re such a great artist,” and “You’re just so kind,” but also “I really appreciate that you always take the garbage out,” and “Boy, I love it when you cook dinner. I feel so spoiled.” Whatever your words, make sure they’re kind; criticism is an even sharper blade to these speakers.

2) Quality time: As you can probably guess, those fluent in this language would love your time and undivided attention – that’s sans phones and television. Giving them a little one-on-one lets them know you care. Sometimes the dishes – and movie nights – can wait. Everything will still be there in 10 minutes.

3) Receiving gifts: These speakers aren’t spoiled. They just feel loved by gestures and physical tokens they can hold onto. It’s not about the price tag. A love note, a wildflower, the gift of your time, or picking up the “good” cereal they like so much are all great choices.

4) Acts of service: Some feel loved best when they get your help; sacrifices big and small don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. This type might notice a birthday gift less; they’re just excited you got up to make the coffee this morning.

5) Physical touch: Most of us like hugs, but some draw strength and feel a special glow from physical affection. This can be confusing, since experts suggest we all benefit from it, but if nothing in the world could make you feel more loved than a gentle hand on your shoulder, this may be your primary love language.

If you’re struggling to identify a loved one’s (or your own) language, Chapman has interesting advice. Consider not just how well they respond to demonstrations of love, but also what they complain about! Your doing the dishes may be verbally appreciated, but if they’re frustrated you never want to hold their hand, that may be telling.

You could fill a book with nuances and “dialects” within each love language – and Chapman has a few times over.

But it’s worth noting that even when we appreciate most love languages, there’s still that special one that speaks straight to each heart and best fills our love tanks. Chapman also says you can learn to speak another language. The 5 Love Languages is full of advice on where to start, especially if a partner’s language feels foreign or difficult to you.

Now I’m off to fill the cat’s love tank with some quality time. (Not that a gift of tuna would go amiss.)