I had occasion recently to be thinking about the different ways people express affection for each other — their “love language,” if you’re referring specifically to significant others, but I think it applies to some degree to all friendly and loving relationships.
I’d heard of this concept of a “love language” theory some years back, but hadn’t really looked into it until now, when I found myself wondering: what is MY love language? How do I express affection for someone? How do I show them how much they matter?
Once I looked up the Wikipedia article (rather than actually reading the book by Gary Chapman), I pegged my style immediately — and some of my friends’, too.
1. Gift Giving
2. Quality Time
3. Words of Affirmation
4. Acts of Service/Devotion
5. Physical Touch
My one friend is primarily a giver of gifts (to friends, at least; I don’t need to know about her romantic M.O.) and secondarily one who does acts of service. My other friend skews toward words of affirmation. I’m definitely quality time and physical touch (there’s lots of hugging in our house), and I feel like my husband is, too, which works out well.
When I think about it, it makes sense to me why I feel the need to host gatherings at our house: Come spend time with me, so I can show you that you matter to me. I don’t host parties because I think I make awesome party food and have superfun games — I don’t. I provide an excuse for us all to get together at the same time, because we’re all grown adults with jobs and lives and schedules that may or may not be conducive to hanging out with friends one-on-one (especially if they live in another city).
My gift-giving friend pointed out last week that I don’t need to be exactly like her, especially when it comes to ways of showing affection or friendship. At that point, though, I hadn’t realized that quality time counted as a way to show someone you care. I thought maybe I was just taking my friends and husband for granted by not doing special things or giving gifts or whatnot. I thought of quality time as a basic part of having friendship or affection for someone, not so much as a way of showing that affection.
It explains the disconnect I had with friends when I was younger, too. Specifically, with the one friend from church who used to give me rides everywhere right after she got her driver’s license. I appreciated it, but I also thought that we were just hanging out together because we were friends. Imagine my surprise when I found out through the grapevine that she felt like I’d been taking advantage of her, since I didn’t explicitly thank her for the rides very often. That experience made me more aware of my interactions with my friends… but also more self-conscious of those interactions.
On the physical touch side of things: Aaron and I were in a parent-teacher conference a couple weeks back, where we were discussing our son’s current behavior and emotional maturity as opposed to, say, six months ago. One of the questions revolved around whether we were affectionate at home, and I was unsure how to respond. Isn’t everyone affectionate at home? Doesn’t everyone hug hello and goodbye, snuggle just because, give goodnight kisses, and dole out I love yous like water?
Actually, no. Everyone doesn’t. So, yes, we do have an affectionate home life.
(Turns out that Connor’s individuality and independence grows out of his feeling of safety and stability at home — but that’s a story for another day.)
I’m not sure if this newfound theory of love languages is going to make me second-guess my relationships with others or make them stronger. Only time will tell, I suppose.