I was having lunch with my friend Emily the other day—it was her birthday so I brought her flowers and chocolates and ordered up a pitcher of margaritas. “So, what did your husband give you,” I innocently queried. “Nothing,” she replied. “Nada. Zip. I’ll be lucky if I get a card.”
Uh-oh. I’d hit a nerve. My friend’s husband does not “gift” well. Emily does. In fact, for Emily nothing says “I love you” quite like a box with a bow on top. “Gifting” is her language of love; it’s a dialect she comprehends with utter clarity.
Gifting, though, isn’t the only way to communicate caring. It turns out there are many languages of love. My husband, for example, could care less about the parade of sweaters and bathrobes he’s been presented with over the years, but give him a hug and a heartfelt kiss and he’s putty in my hands.
Here’s the thing: What we perceive as a gesture of love is entirely subjective; it’s different for each of us. On a mythical scale of one to 10 (10 being the highest) gifting clearly ranks a lowly three or four for my husband (and Emily’s). For Emily, though, it’s a nine. That’s a problem. In order to feel truly valued, we need to “hear” love expressed in our own language. A bunch of fours will never add up to a 10.
So, how do you score a 10? American marriage counselor and author Dr. Gary Chapman outlines several distinct “love dialects” in his book The Five Love Languages. Knowing which one speaks to you is important, but knowing which one speaks to your partner is even more important.
Try this at home
As you read the translation of the love languages, try to guess which language your partner speaks — and then ask. You may be surprised.
Dr. Gary Chapman’s five love languages are…
· Words: For people who speak this language, receiving compliments and hearing “I love you” is the most powerful mode of expression.
· Time: The undivided attention of your spouse (TV off, iPhone away) tells you that you are truly loved.
· Gifts: There’s nothing like a thoughtful present to prove you are prized.
· Service: Acts that ease your burden (raking, cooking, grocery shopping) are, for you, clear acts of caring.
· Affection: For you, to be touched is to be loved. But it’s not just sex that counts; hugs, hand-holding and caresses are equally powerful.
Join relationship columnist Liza Finlay each week as she dishes on ways to keep you and your partner close through the rocky terrain that is marriage with kids.
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