Saturday, February 12, 2011

Five Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

Gary Chapman alleges that there are Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; Gifts; Acts of Service; Physical Touch.

There's plenty of information on the web about how to find your love language, or your significant other's, or your child's.  I'm going to talk about mine, and give some examples.  In reality, there are aspects of all five languages that are a part of my personality.

One of my major love languages is Physical Touch.  It's a language that not many people speak to me, in part because I'm isolated, and in part because I'm kind of stand-offish.  Yes, I am a living dichotomy.  I'm not really, though, because I don't want total strangers speaking this language of love.  Some of my favorite moments: a former male roommate used to put my head in his lap and play with my hair.  There was no sexual component, no expectation, he just liked playing with my hair.  I loved it, and I miss him every time I think about him, because he touched me, all the time, without any message behind it.  A hug, a hand on my shoulder, sitting with our feet touching on the couch, simple things that expressed a world of meaning to me.  Physical Touch is one of the reasons I LOVE babies of all kinds.  They love to be touched, for the most part.  Humans, puppies, kittens, goats, rabbits, whatever they are, they like being touched or stroked.  I can give them that, without any subconscious worry about what they're going to think about what I want (which is nothing), though as much as I give, I'm taking, too, because they're touching me without meaning anything except, "I'm glad to be alive and I like you right now, whoever you are."

Some of the deepest roots of my depression are entwined with the lack of physical touch, at least physical touch without something behind it.  In today's society, and I'm going back my whole life, so 46 years, touching someone is rife with unspoken meaning and expectation, whether or not we want it to be (though this was less true in the heyday of the 60s).  Very few of us manage to "speak" to each other without subtext involved.  When it's not perfused with unspoken meaning, it's superficial, which says a whole other thing.  The simple act of holding hands becomes a commitment, rather than a simple statement of belonging to the human race or moral support.

Another major love language for me is Acts of Service.  I get much more of this, because it's much simpler than touching for most people.  Have you ever performed a Random Act of Kindness?  Then you gave someone an Act of Service.  When someone holds the door for me, it tells me that he values me as a human being (his actual intent makes no difference to me).  Offering me a seat in a crowded waiting room is another example.  When Mrs Potatohead was younger, she would sit behind me and check my back for spots or pimples and take care of them.  It sounds silly, but it told me she loved me.  A friend likes for her toes to be pulled, because it was something her mother used to do for her.  So while an Act of Service can be something big and overt, like serving in a soup kitchen, for me it's the smaller, everyday acts of kindness that mean the most.

It's also the smaller, everyday acts that raise my ire the most when a simple Thank You does not follow - like the person who walks through the door I'm holding without even looking at me or acknowledging me in anyway.  What, your life is going to go spiraling down the toilet because you stopped to say Thank You to an old lady?  Brat. I'm not actually sure if I think it's just a lack of manners, or if it's because many of these simple things physically hurt for me to do, but it's ingrained in me to do them because a polite and courteous person does them.  Sometimes I want to just let the door go and watch the look on their face when it hits them in the nose.  I don't, though, because a mannerly person doesn't stoop to the level of others.  I have higher expectations of myself.

Gifts mean a lot to me, and I'm not talking about GIFTS, like little blue boxes or money.  Those are fine gifts, but they're not as meaningful to me as the small ones.  A card in the mail just to say hi, when email is so much easier and faster, means that you thought of me.  Bringing me a handful of coke bottle tops with codes means that you thought of me specifically, and not just at the moment of bringing me the gift, but several times over the course of a week or month or however long, and it actually means more to me than if you were to send me a check for $1000 every month.  Yes, the money would be useful, but it would be meaningless.  That sounds wrong, but I'm not sure I can clarify the thought.  When I ask a question and you don't know the answer, but do some research and come back a week or so later when I didn't even know you were looking, that's a gift to me.

Quality Time and Words of Affirmation are less important to me.  Quality time is something I shared with my mother, for instance.  We could be simply sitting in the same room, reading our individual books, drinking our carbonated beverages (or boxed wine, in her case), with occasional desultory conversation or sharing a quote from the book, and pass hours that way.  To us, that was quality time, where watching TV or going to the zoo was not really.  Quality Time, given to me, means that you went out of your way to come see me or meet me somewhere, and we just spend time together - splashing the kids in the pool, going through boxes of clothing to go away, taking a nap together.  I know, I'm boring.  lol  Quality Time with Mrs Potatohead is sitting at a table somewhere, eating a meal with me.  She never has understood (and I've never articulated it) why this means so much to me.

Words of Affirmation are probably least important, because I learned early in my life that the words themselves meant nothing if the action behind them was the opposite.  "I love you" became something that I didn't believe, because a person's actions said quite the opposite to me.  "You're doing a great job," when coupled with the suggestion that I train someone else to do my job, or take a cut in pay, was baffling until I learned not to listen to what people said, but what they did.  I tend not to take what anyone has to say at face value.  I believe them when they do what they say they will do, and not a minute before.  Sometimes, this creates problems when people mean what they say and I don't believe them, or when someone I have come to believe actually doesn't mean what they say this time. 

On the other hand, if I take the time to give someone a compliment, it takes me far out of my comfort zone, so it really does come from the heart.  If I tell someone she has beautiful skin or that her dress is very flattering or that he's doing a great job teaching his kids manners, I'm not fishing for some kind of response other than perhaps to make someone's day a little brighter.  I didn't really start doing this until after my mother died, and the first two or three dozen times, I would actually tear up and have trouble getting the words out.   I'm certain that more than one of my recipients of Words of Affirmation thought I was a total nutjob.  They weren't far off the mark, but that's beside the point.

Learning to communicate with someone in their Love Languages, not just communicating to them, but also "listening" to how they communicate to you, can make a dynamic difference in your interpersonal relationships.  What Love Languages do you speak?