Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dialects of Love

I wrote the following a long time ago, so long ago that I think it must have been on my now-defunct website, Mothers Almanac, as I can not find it on my blog. But this morning my dear friend Diane asked for it, so - luckily - I was able to find it in my computer.

Dialects of Love

Two women, best friends, were once discussing their husbands. One lady loved going out. Her husband would vacuum the house but was reluctant to say, "let's go somewhere." The other lady's husband enjoyed taking her out to dinner or a dance but what she wished he would do was help around the house. The ladies, fortunately, laughed together over this.

We all have different needs and desires but more than this, we give and perceive love in different ways. Not so fortunately, sometimes a person tends to think someone doesn't love her because he isn't speaking her dialect of love. These needs, and these methods of communicating love, apply not only to romantic love but just as much to friendship, and our relationships among parents and children, siblings, and other relatives. And they do not seem to be gender-based nor necessarily passed from parent to child.

So how do we know how our loved ones perceive love so we can be sure to speak their language? One way is to observe how they themselves demonstrate love. Another is to ask them questions. And another is to notice their enthusiasm as you do things for them or with them. But perhaps we don't always have the time and energy (or even the inclination) to evaluate each of our loved one's individual needs in this regard. It seems that the more of the different love languages we "speak", the more we will meet the needs of all of our loved ones. There is someone who I think "spoke" in all the five general "love languages" and that was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I will explain that on another page, after sharing with you here what the five love languages are, as named by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, M.D., in their book, The Five Love Languages of Children.These are not their explanations; these are my words. But the names are theirs and the explanations are inspired by my understanding of their concepts and my observations of these concepts at work.

We probably all need all of these manifestations of love to some degree at different times. But generally a person has one or two which are most important to him or her. The beauty of this knowledge is both being better able to meet the needs of our loved ones, and also recognizing that when we don't feel loved by someone, it may be that the person truly loves us but is simply "speaking a different language". This understanding in and of itself may help, and we also may be able to communicate better to them our needs.

Acts of Service
Acts of Service may be doing something for someone. Or it could be doing something WITH them to lighten their load. Some adults like acts of service but definitely prefer "a hand" to something being done for them, while others would love to have you just do something for them to give them some free time to spend as they wish.

Of course, especially in dealing with children, we have to be careful not to do everything for someone else, but there are ways to manifest our love this way without taking away their incentive for independence. For example, we can do errands they want or need cheerfully without complaining, or cheerfully do other things that they cannot do for themselves yet or perhaps don't have the time at the moment to do for themselves.

Quality Time
For some people, the best quality time is spending time together recreationally, while the love dialect of some others might be quality conversations. Even quality conversation may have a different meaning to different people. To some it may mean that you are willing to listen to them without interrupting, while to someone else it may mean a give-and-take discussion on deep matters. Still others may prefer working together with their loved one. Quality time often means personal one-on-one contact rather than a group activity, and can be demonstrated by giving the person our full attention.

Physical Touch
Some people seem to avoid physical contact and some seem to thrive on it. Of course physical contact varies depending on the type of relationship. Besides the hug, or squeeze of the hand, of friendship among women, or handshake or hand on the back among men, there are other contacts which we may not think of right away as filling a need for closeness, eg. men playing basketball together or a parent and child sitting together reading a book.

Words of Affirmation
Again, there are different dialects within this "language" of love. Words of praise are important to some. Some are comfortable with giving words of praise but not with giving words of affection. But some people may feel a greater need for one or the other.

We all know that some women long for a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers to feel loved. But depending on who we are thinking of, and our resources, a gift need not be extravagant. A rosebud or a candy bar might do in some cases. For a child, or other family member, a "gift" could even be something that he or she needs, presented in a joyous or surprising way. For a friend, it could be as simple as a candle or a magazine or home-baked goodies. If someone's love language is gifts, the gifts can be small; it is the thoughtfulness that counts.

PS: First of all, I believe the above is very good for awareness, even if it can often be difficult to implement. Secondly, I found out that someone apparently resurrected Geocities websites, as I don't know yet, if it's anything I can make changes to, or if it's "frozen in time"; but it's interesting that it's still there, complete with a picture of me, when I was much younger. 

No comments: