“I Love You,” and beyond

“I Love You,” and Beyond

Love languages.  You may have come across this concept before.  Love is complex, but expressing love has become somewhat simplified in popular culture.  Love is all about the first kiss, the moment of truth.  “I love you.”  Without it, it can feel as if your love isn’t true.  That you are missing out.

…but someone put into words that there are many and complex ways to express love.  Love languages is not wholly comprehensive, but it is a good way to think about expanding how one communicates and receives love beyond a statement of “I love you” and a kiss.

The 5 love languages states that “I love you” is merely one of the five basic love languages (similar to the five basic senses).  Saying “I love you,” falls under words of affection.  The following are the five:

Words of Affection

Physical Touch

Gift Giving

Quality Time

Acts of Service

Words of Affection

Shall we start with perhaps the simplest?  Words of affection are often the language to which we are the most accustomed.  Most of us are taught to say and look for those words.  If someone says, I love you, that is generally understood to be a foolproof way to know that someone loves you.

Words of affection may be the most common (there are really no statistics), but doing them well is another matter.  How many times has someone said “I love you” to you and it fell completely flat?  I can guess at least once, if not several times.  If this works for you, you may want to ask those near you (whether it is your parent, sibling, romantic partner, or friend) for affectionate, loving words.  Not only, “I love you,” but, some of the following:

Affectionate nicknames, e.g. “Pup” or “honey” or “brat”

Praise, e.g. “I just love that you make the best pancakes” or “You’re so sweet” right before falling asleep

Public thanks, e.g. including saying thank you to the person when receiving an award

Physical Touch

Next, let’s address physical touch.  Again, this is one of the most commonly taught forms of love.  In fact, without physical touch, many believe that there is no love at all.  Think of every romantic comedy.  How many had two loves that didn’t realize their love from their first kiss?  That defining moment where they knew they were in love?  Almost none, right? (To be honest, I can’t think of any but I’m sure they must exist somewhere).  Even in Free Guy, the girl kisses the fake guy which activates his whole persona (later, she finds out she loves the real, in life guy through his words, but that Kiss was still a defining moment for the movie, and there was a definite kind of overlap where her falling in love with Guy makes her realize she loves her best friend.)

The First Kiss is probably one of the key moments in speaking Romantic Love.  But there are many other physical expressions.  Here are some of the following:

Snuggling with someone

Sexual intimacy, e.g. sexual intercourse, unclothed intimacy, or play that involves sexual energy

Silly forms, e.g. “booping” someone on the nose

Gift Giving

Next, is gift giving.  Gift giving can come across as superficial (“buying someone’s love”) but done well, it can have little to do with actual spending and money.  A gift might be sending someone a card.  Or, even better, making someone a card or a small craft.  Gift giving simply refers to the exchange, or giving, of a tangible object.  It could even take the expression of quality time, i.e. creating a special day with someone.  Love languages don’t necessarily exist in a vacuum; there can be overlap.

Those who lean towards gift giving may feel a stronger attraction to holidays and traditional days of giving; but they may also have their own favorite holidays or times to give.  May even prefer to give sporadically.  While some may find it easier to give mostly/solely on traditional days, others may like to give gifts whenever they find something of worth to give.  Holidays might actually be pressuring!  Or undesired.  Valentine’s Day is one that has particular mixed feelings.

Here are some examples:

Find heart shaped objects to give on Valentine’s Day (preferably something that you don’t go out and buy for that occasion, say, an extra candy necklace with a heart pendant from a party, a painting from a friends’ outing that includes a heart, or using a heart shaped cookie cutter to make and decorate sugar cookies together, especially good for those who also favor quality time.). OR

Taking up a crafting/baking hobby to make presents for friends and family

Quality Time

Next is quality time.  Quality time is a love language that few do not need; yet the significance of a love language is not “something someone likes” but more “things a person needs to feel loved.”  For example, someone might know you love them, but without physical touch (as mentioned above), they have a hard time understanding that you really love them.  Quality time, similarly, might be a child of yours that struggles to feel loved by you, unless you take time to visit them personally.  Or open your home to them to visit.

Quality time is fairly straight forward.  The emphasis, if clarification is needed, is probably on the quality vs. the time.  For example, you could spend all weekend with someone doing something they love.  But if you spend it all on your phone, they may feel neglected anyway.  Or if you buy them concert tickets, but forget to take into account they have trouble standing on cement for hours.  The time may not be as quality to them as you think it should be.  Take some time, with this one, to make sure the quality fits the person.

Examples of this could be:

Driving to a location instead of flying, taking your time and stopping along the way 

Playing a favorite video game together

Encouraging the person to sleep in with you all morning

Acts of Service

Finally, there is acts of service.  Acts of service is something few folk will turn down (if you’re the sort who often has people reject your service, please come to me!  I could use some help.). Again, as with quality time, ensure that the act you provide is something that they could also use help with.  That does not create undue burden on them in other ways.  The more you consider their feelings and needs, the more love they will feel from your acts of service.

Do not be afraid to ask someone what service acts might be extra appreciated (asking does not take away from the act).  Or maybe they would like to do the thing with you; have you come over and help them clean the house, maybe, but specifically do the things with which they have trouble.  Make a show out of it.  If you’re cleaning, dress up in a maid’s uniform.  Or if you are driving them somewhere, wear those white gloves that cab drivers wear in Japan.  Make it fun.  Service doesn’t have to be menial.

Acts of service might look like the following:

Helping someone finish a puzzle, especially the boring parts!

Offering to spend a day baking and cooking with them

Accompanying them to an event so they don’t have to go alone

Implementing the Love Languages

But how do I know what is the right amount or if I’m doing it right?  You probably don’t.  Emotional intelligence isn’t about getting the right answer.  It’s about learning how to accomadate yourself and others.  If you don’t know if you are speaking love in the “correct” manner to someone?

Ask them.  No, seriously, the most emotionally intelligent people do not presume to know everything, but to ask.  Just say, “Hey, I know you don’t like physical touch much, but sometimes I just really want to give you a huge squeeze.  When you celebrated that big award, did you like that I hugged you?”

Again, don’t overthink.  Most people don’t even bother making others feel comfortable in receiving love; they are expected to appreciate it, regardless of whether or not they like it.  Doing your best is good enough (if it isn’t, well, maybe they aren’t a good person to be in your circle.  Maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s theirs.  Regardless, if your best isn’t good enough, that may mean adjusting your relationship.  Not killing yourself to try to be perfect.)

I hope this helps you understand some basic expressions of love and how to communicate them with your loved ones!

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