The Languages of Love
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s a good time to think about love.
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of love in my life, first from my parents, who adopted me when I was very young and gave me a better life than I could have imagined; then from my now ex-husband, who helped me get through the transition from kid to adult; then from my son, who will always be the light of my life; and now from a new love, who has taught me that the universe is never done doling out joy.
And then there are all the wonderful friends and significant others who were (and are) constant sources of love, in one form or another.
I’m not an authority on the matter, by any means, but I’ve learned a few things about love over the years.
First, love is an action. Love without deeds is just a word. We show each other we love them by doing, not by being.
We may show our love by buying thoughtful gifts, handling the family finances, going to endless tennis tournaments, or watching movies we’d rather skip. Those are all actions that make concrete the intangible squishies we get when we’re around the person we love (and that person could be a romantic partner, a child, a parent or a friend. Love is love is love, after all).
There was a popular book a few years ago called The Five Love Languages. It was big in religious circles but the principles in it transcend the theological message. To summarize, we each speak our own “love language” because we each show our love in different ways. That’s all well and good until one person doesn’t know that the other person speaks a different language, so they’re both thinking they’re showing their love, but their messages aren’t getting through.
The lesson is that, as in most things in life, we need to communicate better with those we love. We need to make sure that we know how they like to show love and that they know how we like to show it. And we need to each make an effort to speak the other’s language as much as possible.
The second thing I’ve learned about love is that little actions count. Very few of us have it in us to do grand gestures on a regular basis, but we can all make a small, daily effort for those we love. I found a great list called 50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime on a site called Tiny Buddha. These were some of my favorites (and I’m happy to say I had incorporated many of these into my life even before I saw this list):
· Compliment them on something people may not often acknowledge, like their work ethic or consideration for other people.
· Give them a book you’ve already read and inscribe it with a meaningful message.
· Tell them they were so right about something and let them know how that information impacted your life.
· Ask, “What can I do to help you today?”
· Cook dinner for them.
· Offer them your skill for free. For example, my friend Cori who’s a graphic designer designed something for me last year as an early birthday gift.
· Tell them which qualities of theirs you admire.
· Introduce them to someone you love as, “My dear friend who taught me…”
· Say thank you for something they don’t realize they gave you, like inspiration to seize the day or the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship.
· Send them a picture of you two together, and remind them why that day was amazing.
· Share their pain when they have it. Hold their hand, wipe their tears, and be their shoulder to lean on.
· Look out for someone they love.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, may we all commit to learning each other’s love language and try to show our love, in big ways and small, the best we can.