When you think of “love languages”, do you automatically think of your partners love language? That’s normal; after all the word “love” is more often used with romantic relationships. Not to mention the fact that when the world was first introduced to the concept of love languages back in 1992, it was introduced in Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” The book outlines five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love. The reason why Chapman conceptualised this was that, in discovering which love language you and your partner respond to the most (and then regularly putting that into practice), you create a lasting relationship.
But, in the book, Chapman also extends his love language theory to those with whom we have platonic relationships, friendships, families and working relationships. Over the years, it became more and more apparent that love languages within these relationships are important to take note of. It even reflects on the way we show ourselves love! With that being said, I decided to check how I unconsciously rank the love languages – acts of service, physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time. The quiz comes with options – for children, teens, couples and singles – and out of the 30 statements they make you choose from, you’re asked to select the ones that mean more to you. I discovered that my primary love language is physical touch (not the best considering my singledom), while quality time and acts of service are neck in neck. All three, are difficult to attain during a pandemic.
So I looked to see if I could fill my ‘love tank’ (the part of us that represents our emotional need for love) in other ways while living with my two housemates during the lockdown. I discovered that while one housemate lights up when she gets gifts, the other would rather sit at the same table as we have dinner – and the acts didn’t have the same effect when swapped. So what was the effect of loving them the way they need to be loved?
1. Gifts: Housemate #1
First off, forget the notion that people whose love language is receiving gifts are materialistic or money-grabbing. The truth of the matter is, they like tangible reminders that you thought/were reminded of them. The price of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the sentimentality of knowing, “Hey, I got this for you because it reminded me of you”. My housemate loves canned coffee, the honey butter biscuits at a certain fast food place, and green tea lattes. So once in a while, when ordering in, I’d add an extra butter biscuit to cart or if I’m out buying groceries, I’d pick up her fave canned coffee.
The result: When I checked in with my housemate, she said that the knowledge that little things remind me of her made her feel cherished. She also mentioned how receiving memes from people – despite not being a “gift”, per se – was enough to brighten her day. Because to her, knowing that those close to her understand her and care enough to remember little things about her make her feel loved.
2. Quality Time: Housemate #2
A common misconception about quality time is that you need to be interacting with the person you’re with 100% of the time. Rather, when someone’s love language is ‘quality time’, they often want for you to be intentional with your time together. When you live with someone, you often take for granted the time you have together. My other housemates love language is quality time, but she’s also introverted. While she likes spending time with us, she also likes being in her own company. To connect with her using her love language, we (my other housemate and I) plan little things: movie nights, dinners, drives around the neighbourhood. Often, we sit in the hall, doing our own thing, occasionally sharing a funny meme – and that’s enough.
The result: My housemate says that these moments – whether or not we talk during them – helps her feel acknowledged. Intentionally setting aside time for her, for us three to be together, allows her the space to share her feelings and feel heard.
3. Words of Affirmation: My high school best friend
People whose love language is words of affirmation don’t just want you to tell them you love them. They want to know that you appreciate them through verbal encouragement. My best friend from high school is miles away, in Australia. But we tried to make time for each other – to call, chat and share the good and the bad from our days. During every call, I’d make a conscious effort to make sure she knows I’m listening, that I remember things discussed in our previous calls, that I am proud of every achievement (no matter how small!!) and that she’s doing so, so great (what with her being so far from home and alone in a foreign country).
The result: I texted my friend after a few of these calls, to ask her how she felt about our talks. She said that it gave her more energy to go through the day, made her feel less homesick and more supported.
4. Acts of Service: My mother
My mother can’t be the only parent whose love language is acts of service, right? When you give Acts of Service, you give up your time. This non-verbal form of love can be time-consuming and exhausting, but if it’s what your loved one needs, then it’s worth the effort. My mother is not the cuddly type – not unless she’s the one who feels cuddly (and that’s very, very rare) – and growing up, I didn’t understand that. So I’d try to force my affection on her, which usually led to her pushing me away and scolding me for invading her personal space. But, as I grew older, I noticed that my mum would be happier after I helped with the dishes, offered to sweep the house or change the curtains. These days, because we don’t live together, I offer to pick things up on the way to visit or to have things delivered to her if only so she doesn’t have to make the trip out.
The result: My mum agrees that she feels especially loved when she has someone offer to take tick a few boxes on her never-ending to-do lists. To her, she says, it shows that we’ve taken the time to notice the number of tasks she has, and care enough to get them done so she can get more rest.
5. Physical Touch: Me!
This tops my love language list, so I thought I’d leave this last one for an equally important relationship: my relationship with myself. The love language itself is pretty straightforward; people whose love language is ‘physical touch’ like the comfort and safety that comes with their partners/friends touch. It’s a physical manifestation of the fact that you’re there for them and that you are looking out for them. Of course, this was a difficult one to fulfil during a pandemic that relies heavily on physical distancing. Rather than focus so much on the “touch” aspect, I realised that moving – whether it be dancing to music I liked or following along to a YouTube exercise video – was an instant uplifter. I also got a hold of those roller-things to work out any knots after a long day of sitting in front of the computer.
The result: I felt more grounded. Whenever my anxiety would catch up with me, I’d sit and meditate or exercise, or wrap myself in my comforter to give myself a hug. I learned to be independent and find comfort in myself, rather than having to rely on others for it.
The voids that the pandemic and subsequent SOPs have created in people – the emptiness, loneliness, sadness – can be filled by understanding what people need and filling those voids accordingly. Bring yourself and each other joy by understanding what your loved ones love languages are – and you might find yourself filling your own emptiness. For example, I noticed how I filled my ‘love tank’ with my second most important love language – quality time – when I spent more time with my housemate, who had the same love language. As Chapman wrote in his book:
“In a time of crisis, more than anything, we need to feel loved. We cannot always change events, but we can survive if we feel loved.”