People express and receive love in different ways, Dr. Gary Chapman identifies these as the five languages of love. The five love languages are: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
If you express love in a way your family does not understand, they will not realize you have expressed your love at all. The problem is that you are speaking two different love languages. Our basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to know that we are loved unconditionally. Dr. Chapman describes each person as having a love tank that needs to be filled. When our love tanks are running on empty we will experience a communication breakdown. This is exactly what was happening in my family a few years ago. I was attributing our communication breakdown to having three teenagers running high on hormones and testosterone. We knew we loved each other, but we didn’t know how to fill one another’s love tanks. In order to survive the next few years we decided to read the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Chapman as a family and then take a love test to see what made each one of us tick. It was very enlightening.
My husband Chuck’s love tank is filled by words of affirmation. As a pilot, often passengers will comment on his smooth flight and ‘greased-on’ landings. When he would relay these comments, I took it as him patting himself on his back. My feeling was that pilots tend to be arrogant, and I was not going to fuel his ego, so I seldom praised him.
I enjoy cooking, acts of service, and I show my love by making delicious meals. The meals were appreciated by my family because they like to eat, but they could not understand why I insisted on a sit-down dinner every night. Quality time is another way to fill my love tank. Now it is a family joke about sitting at the table to fill Mom’s love tank. Often I would ask Chuck to ride along with me to the grocery store, he would usually decline, not realizing how much I cherished these chiseled-out moments of time away from the kids and phone.
Rhonda Ellis shared with me that one of her husband’s love languages also is acts of service. She realized that having the house orderly was very important to him, so she asks him to give her a phone call when he’s about ten minutes away. When she receives John’s call, she will say, “Daddy’s almost home. Let’s clean up so the house will look really nice for him.” Everyone puts it in high gear and tidies up the house. This is a tangible way the children can show their love to their father. Rhonda’s primary language is words of affirmation. John has learned that there is much mileage in him saying, “I appreciate you investing time into the children,” or “I am proud of the way you keep the house orderly in the midst of so much on your plate.” Rhonda has learned that complimenting on a person’s character or an area of importance in their life is the finest way to praise someone.
Talking openly amongst family members about our love languages is very beneficial. Each family member feels valuable, and then knows how to reach out and best encourage the others. It isn’t always easy; it takes discipline and effort. This is a life lesson too about putting others before ourselves. Learning to speak the right love language will help our children to be open and honest with their future mate and in their line of business. Find out what your love language is as well as the love language for each member of your family. Then begin speaking their love language. Yes, my family still has communication breakdowns and emotional meltdowns but, when the dust settles, we now know how to get back on track and fill each other’s love tank.