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Today I'd like to share How Knowing Love Languages Can Support Your Relationships.
Most of us are quite familiar with how personality tends to influence how we behave, but there are numerous other qualities that
affect your daily life as well – including your love languages. Several years ago I read a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages and it really opened my eyes to yet another aspect of how we might be different from our loved ones.
Being self-aware is a huge part of standing in your power and bringing out your vibrant and powerful self. Understanding love languages and how they apply to you as well as those you love is definitely one way to increase your awareness and build stronger relationships.
Becoming aware of your family’s primary love languages can be both helpful and rewarding because it will allow you to focus your energy on the language that's going to have the greatest positive influence on the person you are relating to – rather than assuming they will feel most loved the same way that you do. It also allows you to share with your significant others so that they know how to 'love you' and become aware of the things they might be doing that make you feel unloved most easily.
The Way We Love
Your love languages actually determine what actions by others are going to help you feel loved. In other words, they dictate the way you receive love easiest and it will also be your first choice for how you try to show others you love them.
This was exciting for me to learn, because first off, I hadn't really thought about what kinds of actions helped me to feel loved – so becoming aware of that allowed me to really appreciate who I am and what I need in this area. It was also enlightening to learn that my husband speaks a whole different language…so what I was doing to express my love to him wasn't hitting the mark nearly as accurately as using his own language would.
Let me share the languages as I understand them and please keep in mind, if you are familiar with Gary Chapman's work, that I've been using this material for almost 20 years and I'm giving you my version of his categories which is slightly different from Chapman's work.
Visual: A person whose primary love language is visual will feel most loved when she receives things she can see: gifts, love notes, a clean house, or a thoughtful dinner on the table.
Auditory: An auditory on the other hand needs to hear that you love them. They feel most loved when hearing words of affirmation like: “I love you”; “You look great”; and “I love spending time with you.” They will do well in any relationship that shares verbal praise and encouragement.
Kinesthetics: The touchers as I like to refer to them, require physical contact like hand-holding, hugs, fingers running through their hair, or gentle massage.
A word about "touchers". The kind of touch I'm talking about here isn't sexual – we're talking about loving touch. Your Erotic Blueprint dictates what you like in the bedroom – or whatever room you're being erotic in. Your love language is a whole different thing.
I find it usually helps when I ask people to think about a kinesthetic child first, to understand the category, rather than their life partner, because it's easier then to see the difference. This will be a child that likes to sit close to you or on your lap. Hold your hand, love back rubs, hugs. They feel loved when you touch them.
Digital: The digital connectors respond well to shared laughter, meaningful conversation, and quality time together – they need to feel like you are connected to them
This doesn't mean an auditory won't appreciate or enjoy a gift or a backrub… they certainly can, it just means that these things alone won't help them feel loved as much as your words of love will.
Those are the 4 types that I use – Chapman actually has 5 and calls some by different names – but the main idea certainly came from his work – so if you're questioning what I just shared, or want to learn more – check out Chapman's book because he is an absolute expert on this topic.
I also want to point out that it is not my intention here to fit anyone into a box – you may be a variety of all types. What I would like to do is help you understand yourself and your loved ones just a little bit better and we can best do that by starting with precise boxes and allowing you to pick out the pieces that apply to you and your family to get the real picture of what is going on.
In fact, most people have a primary and a secondary love language. These will be the ones that affect them the most and upset them the most when we act in a contrary way.
Let's talk about this for a moment – if a note or gift makes you feel loved, then an angry note – maybe written in all caps with 3 exclamation points and left for your visual child is going to have the opposite effect. This about that…the opposite of loved is unloved which can result in a person feeling rejected, disliked, cut-off from others, etc.
Here's a few contrary examples:
Visual: Coming home to a messy house or receiving nothing for important life milestones can be very upsetting to this person. Auditory: A disapproving tone of voice or set of words can be very upsetting to them. Toucher: A joking push or a shrugging off of their hand can feel like serious rejection. Digital: can be quite bothered if not asked about how they are doing or what they were up to that day – or not remembering when something important is happening in their life.
In my life for example, I'm a Digital-Auditory. I need to hear that I'm loved and receive verbal compliments. This is not about vanity or self-worth… it's how I'm wired to feel loved. When I hear these things, I feel loved by that other person. I also thrive when I get quality time with my loved ones – I need to feel like we are connecting with each other. And this is even true, if I'm speaking in front of a group of people and it doesn't feel like we're connecting, I have to really work at it to not allow anxiety to take over and run out of the room. Talk about a critical thing to know about yourself.
My husband is more of a Kinesthetic-Visual. He likes touch, like a little shoulder rub or a hug from behind. He also feels loved when things are done for him - he's not really into gifts, but instead, acts of service – like when I make his lunch for him. He doesn't expect this from me necessarily, but when he comes home and supper is made or the house is relatively tidy he feels loved. This is not about gender roles and expectations about the good-wife…this is simply how he is wired.
When he feels stressed, unloved or frustrated… he speaks in shorter, clipped, sentences… he explains less, he doesn't want to chat. I call it his 'efficiency zone' and it would be a real problem for me if I wasn't aware – not just of this tendency of his, but of the fact I am an auditory so it really affects me.
Now, remember I said that how we feel loved is also how we tend to express love to others?
Let me point out that, although I love having someone clean the house, do the dishes, make supper…it doesn't make me feel loved – it simply helps to release me from these repetitive tasks. I love that something that has to happen is getting done, but I don't feel loved by it.
Conversely, giving my husband compliments, saying I love him or asking a tonne of questions about his day is not filling up his love tank – especially as a way to fix a momentary misunderstanding.
Looking at this then you can probably see how it would be very easy for our relationship to derail and never get back on track if we were totally unaware of these languages.
Let's say one night hubby comes home exhausted from a stressful day at work and sees that I'm still at my desk working. Walking into the kitchen he notices there is no supper or supper plan (i.e. something sitting out defrosting). He feels a little miffed – he thinks because he's hungry, stressed and tired, but in reality it's probably at least in part because no supper means unloved… disliked or rejected and the ego is not fond of those feelings.
I hear him banging around in the kitchen and finish up what I'm doing so I can go and help…but when I ask what I can do to help he tells me in short clipped sentences that he has it under control. Which is simply the truth – he's great in the kitchen, a much better cook than I am and because of his singular focus (which is part of the male wiring) doesn’t need or want my help at the moment.
Remember, I'm an auditory, so his words feel harsh and now it's my ego's turn to feel rejected. Without awareness, there's a good chance I'd be stung by this action and disappear to lick my wounds or strike out at him… a few minutes later supper is ready and he calls me to the table as if all is great…but I'm still hurting, not enough to turn down a meal, but enough to make me standoffish. I don't smile, I don't create conversation and I don't provide feedback or ask questions about his day.
He doesn't know what is going on, he's already dealt with his frustration that supper was not made and has moved on. He's not even aware his words were harsh. So he tries to lighten the mood by talking about his day, sharing stories from work, maybe bringing up something in the news (that I don't watch) and so on. The digital part of me that needs connection has unplugged – kind of like a plug being pulled out of the wall – and unless he makes an effort to plug me back in, I'm cold as ice.
"How was your day," he asked.
"Fine." I respond, coldly
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"Nothing." I say feeling tears threatening to arise.
At this point he might get up and start doing dishes – because unconsciously this is how he shows love! Depending on how hurt I was to begin with I might see this as further disconnection causing the digital side of me to sulk…which means there is less touching (likely none) just a cold shoulder where he is concerned.
All his unconscious efforts to 'love me' by making supper or cleaning things up, are actually making things worse… Even worse, now that's he realized something is wrong he might try to hug me or massage my shoulders…which are nice but not when I'm in ice mode.
Overtime, patterns would be created, misunderstandings would build up and we would be drifting into relationship breakdown mode.
Can you see how this would be a problem?
What's really amazing is, once you learn the language, the whole cycle can be circumvented.
For example since I know supper is important to him I could address it as soon as he walks in. "Sorry there's no supper ready. I had a lot going on and I haven't gotten there yet." Even better if I get up and give him a hug before saying this.
Or, if I miss that window of opportunity, when I hear him banging around in the kitchen I could join him…if he's not at a critical cooking point, I could hug him from behind while he's making supper and ask, "Can I help."
If he responds in clipped sentences, I can address it right away by assertively telling him, "I'm not sure of your intention, but the voice you just used felt harsh. Are you angry with me?"
"No," he might reply, "I'm just tired and had a stressful day – sorry if my voice sounds harsh."
Or…if he is really hurting he might reply. "Well, I'm starving!"
Then I can tune in with something like, "Guess it doesn't help for you to come home and find supper isn't ready if your day was already stressful. Sorry about that. How about I do dishes while you focus on that…let me know if you change your mind about the help?"
Can you see how this conversation can clear the air, help us connect (which my digital loves!) and even pull him out of whatever slump he might have been slipping into.
Even if he didn't catch on right away or if I didn't use my assertiveness skills, he might have stopped the pattern later when he realized I wasn't talking at the table.
"I just realized I've been pretty focused since coming home on my own day…tell me about yours, how did the meeting go with the school?" Bonus points with Digital for remembering what was up for me that day and if he says this in a concerned and caring voice – even better.
Another example… when he was harsh and saw me tense up he could come over and pull me into a hug (his language) while saying…"I'm sorry - that came out snappier than I intended, come here my beautiful wife and tell me how your day was." The auditory in me feels loved by the compliment and if I laugh at his words digital feels the connection.
My point isn't to tell you how to fix misunderstandings, because we all know there are so many factors that can play into something like this. What I want to highlight is that when you are aware of the love languages and which one your partner falls into, you can use this awareness to help you get things back on track before the whole evening is lost.
Learning which love languages your family falls into can save you a lot of time, energy and misunderstandings. When you speak a person's language they will feel your love much more potently than if you speak just in your own (unless of course you share the same languages).
. . .
Visual – notes in the lunchbox, little trinkets from dollar store, cards for special occasions
Toucher – back rubs, scratching back, hugs, physical play
Auditory – praise, words of love, using light hearted tone, friendly voice
Digital – making and keeping promises for quality time together – remembering friends name and what they are up to. Laughing together
If this topic piques your interest I strongly suggest you pick up one of Chapman's books or look on-line for his personal assessment tool. This will help you figure out your family's languages and tailor your efforts to what they need most from you. Doing this will help you understand yourself so you can make sure your needs are being met …which is part of standing in your power and being the vibrant and powerful person you've come here to be.
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