Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


The Real Gift of Love

OK, so I finally read “The 5 Love Languages”, by Dr. Gary Chapman, this past week.  I must be one of, like, 4 relationship therapists in the world (it’s been translated into 38 other languages) who hadn’t read it yet, and I’ve been ashamed to admit it until now, but I can now join the rest of my colleagues and other readers in discussing Dr. Chapman’s insights.  Yay me!
The book basically explains that we all have unique ways of receiving and interpreting love from others.  Just as a teacher would need to determine the best learning style for each of their students (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc), we also need to tune in to how our partners best recognize and feel that we truly love them.  There’s a quiz at the end of the book, to determine which of these five are your primary and secondary languages:
Words of Affirmation,
Quality Time,
Receiving Gifts,
Acts of Service,
 and Physical Touch.  
The notion is that, after discovering which ones each of you have, you then discuss them and make requests of various actions the other could take to make you feel loved and appreciated, using your particular language.  Dr. Chapman does a great job of giving case examples so that you can see which scenario you and your partner might fit into.  For instance, despite the fact that you might not be a naturally “touchy-feely” person, you may need to learn to become more physically affectionate — making a point to touch your partner when you walk past them, hold their hand on a walk, or rub their shoulders or feet as you watch TV.  The expectation is that they’ll respond to you more positively and be more likely to “speak” your love language because they feel more fulfilled by you.
So this made me wonder how many of my clients, wrestling with relationship problems, were even aware of what their partner’s love language was — much less their own.  I mean, you may think you know, but you might be wrong.  For example, I knew my husband’s would most certainly be Physical Touch (I was right), but I thought my love language would be Words of Affirmation, first and foremost, but it turns out that I primarily like Receiving Gifts —who knew??
It’s interesting to discover this because it probably goes back to how you were loved as a child.  On my part, the gifts discovery made sense after I reflected on how my dad used to show his affection.  When I lost my first tooth, he bought me a way-cute, brown-plaid outfit for my Kindergarten picture (LOL….it was the 70’s, ok?).  When I stopped biting my nails, he bought me an amethyst ring.  When I was going through a particularly rough time one summer during college, he bought me a single white rose to show his support.  My second strongest love language was Words of Affirmation, which makes total sense because my mother was (and still is) extremely complimentary and affirming, always telling me how proud she was of me, how special and smart I was, or how thoughtful a gift to her was, etc.
So…whatever your language is, it can probably be traced back to something you were either used to, growing up, or maybe it’s something you were starved of, as a kid.  If you didn’t have physically affectionate parents, and missed out on hugs and kisses, you might now be someone who can’t get enough sex from your lover.  Or maybe some of your fondest childhood memories are times you had just hanging out, making cookies with your grandmother, or gossiping with your best friend — and now you love spending time cooking dinner, or reading and discussing the Sunday paper, with your partner.
If you don’t want to buy the book, I do encourage you to go to the 5 Love Languages website and take the free assessment, so you have an opportunity to really think about how you best receive love from others.  Then take stock of which people tune into your language.  On the flip side, have the important people in your life (partner, friends, siblings, coworkers, etc) take the assessment and then talk about what they discovered.  See if there are changes you can make to express your love and affection differently, to that it better meshes with those languages — then see if that enhances your relationships!
As we head into the holiday season and think about gift-giving, I think it’s the perfect time to consider a more appropriate gift for those you love: 
  • a weekend getaway, for a Quality Time person
  • an original love poem, for a Words of Affirmation person
  • an hour-long massage, for a Physical Touch person
  • a month of doing all the grocery shopping (or other chore), for an Acts of Service person
  • a well-thought-out gift, wrapped in special paper with a fancy bow, for a Receiving Gifts person
Someone once told me that they believed that when you die and go to heaven, God’s first question isn’t going to be whether you were “good” or “bad,” but rather “How have you loved?”  Even though that’s from a Christian perspective, I have to wonder if, generally speaking, that’s the biggest purpose of our lives –not just if you were loved, or if you loved others, but how did you extend yourself to do it?  
At the end of your life, will you be able to say that you: a) communicated to others how you would like to be loved, and b) tuned into and accommodated others’ love radars so that you participated in a multitude of genuine love exchanges?
Dr. Chapman is clear about the fact that it’s a choice.  And it does take effort.  
But the reward, he says (and I have to believe), is that a mutual appreciation for making those choices and efforts takes root and grows into a deeper love than what most people experience.  Try it and see…I’d love to get any feedback about personal experiences.
Finally, as “glad tidings” means good news, information, or intelligence, so I offer this post to you, my readers, as my expression of love and well-being, during this holiday season.  I hope you find it motivating and beneficial in some way. ♥
☮ ॐ ☯ ☀
Happy holidays, 


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