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Love Languages

We get it, we get it: Juan loves conceptual theory to provide language and structure for the everyday aspects of our lives so we can increase our self-awareness. Today, on Valentine’s Day, I have to stay on-brand and discuss a fantastic resource about articulating needs within love: The Five Love Languages.

Lotsa people know about love languages because they’ve taken the test, but most people haven’t actually 1) asked their partner what their results are, 2) told their partner what their own results are, and 3) modified behavior in their partnership based on this new information. In the Five Love Languages book, Dr. Chapman writes not only about each of the five languages, but also some context about why understanding love languages is important: most people don’t have the same language as their partner. If you think of literal language barriers, how could any couple function healthily if they don’t speak the same language?

Welp, Dr. Chapman says that rather than breaking up, you both learn a new language. Even outside of romantic partnership, I ask my interns, students, and friends to tell me what their love languages are so I know how to best acknowledge their value to me. It’s not a surprise that most people I work with or am close to have the same love language priorities as I do, which makes our relationship so much easier. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the five languages, they are:

Words of Affirmation: People with this love language believe words are very important. They enjoy verbal or written affirmations, compliments, love notes, positive praise, and other outwardly affirming actions. Hearing “I love you” is as good as it gets.

Quality Time: People with this love language believe time is the most valuable gift someone could give them. They enjoy meaningful conversations, road trips, retreats, and other forms of individualized attention. Spending time with someone they love is as good as it gets.

Giving and Receiving Gifts: People with this love language believe physical gifts show thoughtfulness, evidence of paying attention, and true understanding of a person. Giving someone a gift perfectly chosen for that person, or receiving a gift they know was perfectly chosen for them, is as good as it gets.

Acts of Service: People with this love language believe kind gestures show love because they are relieving someone from the burden of a responsibility. Vacuuming, grocery shopping, cleaning dishes, or filling up gas for someone are examples of such responsibilities. For these people, knowing someone did an undesirable task for them is as good as it gets.

Physical Touch: People with this love language believe physical connection demonstrates emotional connection, perhaps through hugs, handshakes, holding hands, casual grazes, kissing, sex, or even simple taps. For these people, knowing someone is present and focused on you via a physical touch is as good as it gets.

Many people who take the love language quiz will score highly in at least a few areas. For example, I scored highest in quality time, narrowly followed by physical touch. You can imagine that being physically present with people and spending meaningful time with them is blissful for me. By identifying these love languages, I’ve learned valuable lessons about my romantic needs, such as the need to see my partner on a regular basis. If you can cuddle with me and my dog for hours, I’m damn near putty in your hands. What’s irregular about my results, however, is that I only value physical touch in romantic relationships. In platonic relationships, I’m cold as ice, and I give polite, awkward back pats for hugs, whereas in romantic relationships I give suffocating bear hugs and always want to hold hands.

It’s also important to note which areas you score low on. For me, giving and receiving gifts has always been–and probably will always be–my lowest score by far. My aversion to giving and receiving gifts is quite extreme; I refuse to be sung “Happy Birthday” or even to open Christmas gifts in front of many people. I’m uncomfortable with the motives of gift giving if it’s out of obligation, which is why I rarely give gifts. If you receive a gift from me, you can bet your ass that I genuinely wanted to give you something because you are special to me and I wanted you to have this specific item that was also important to me. Otherwise, the greatest gift to you is my time (see quality time!) because I don’t give my time to people I don’t care for.

Take the quiz if you haven’t already! Also let these two notable quotes from Dr. Chapman simmer:

“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.”

“We cannot take credit for the kind and generous things we do while under the influence of ‘the obsession.’ We are pushed and carried along by an instinctual force that goes beyond our normal behavior patterns. But if, once we return to the real world of human choice, we choose to be kind and generous, that is real love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all. The best gift we can give to each other is love.



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