I first heard of love languages on social media. Essentially it is how you prefer to communicate and receive love in human relationships. This is based on the book by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
Interestingly, love languages can be used everywhere, such as: with partners, family, friends, colleagues, and even yourself through self care.
As I was looking at the different love languages, the same coffee example kept showing up. This is a simple way of showing the 5 love languages through coffee:
- Words of affirmation: “Your coffee is delicious”
- Quality time: “Let’s go grab a coffee”
- Receiving gifts: “I bought you a coffee”
- Acts of service: “I made you a coffee”
- Physical touch: “Let me hold you like a coffee”
The last example is a bit odd, I sure haven’t been held like a coffee, but the other examples make sense to me.
So here is what I found on love languages to bolster relationships with others or to enhance your relationship with yourself, allowing you to open up space and show up as your most authentic self:
Words of affirmation
What this is: using words to motivate, validate, or encourage.
Examples with others: sending a thank you card, writing a letter, compliments, praise, recognition, verbal encouragement.
Examples of self-love: positive self talk, journal your strengths, be your own cheerleader, mantras, self-affirmation.
Avoid: criticisms, judgement, insults.
Why you might prefer this love language: words hold powerful meaning to you; you like to hear or read how much you’re cared for. The intention and emotion behind the words can be important too, as the more authentic and sincere, the more appreciated you may feel.
For me: I didn’t think much of this love language initially, but I do like reading messages in birthday/ Christmas cards. And especially with work, I feel a thank you or praise goes a long way.
This was definitely more so when I was going through my phase of imposter syndrome; hearing someone say that I’m technically skilled or good at my job chipped away at that, which I was super thankful for.
It has been mentioned a few times at work networking events that I was a “cheerleader”, which caught me by surprise. I have since read that those who cheer the loudest and most often for others do so because they weren’t cheered on as children. I’d say that’s pretty apt for me, maybe deep down I’m simply projecting how I’d like to receive appreciation.
What this is: spending quality one-on-one time, active listening, focused and undivided attention, meaningful conversations.
Examples with others: asking questions and following up on conversations, maintaining eye contact when talking, taking walks together, weekend getaways, cooking together.
Examples of self-love: switching off your phone, not over-committing, freeing up your schedule, making time for hobbies, reflection, meditation.
Avoid: spending time apart, being physically next to someone but mentally checking out, failing to listen, over-committing.
Why you might prefer this love language: quality time is about quality, not quantity. Focus and attentiveness breeds belonging and togetherness.
For me: again, I didn’t think much of this love language at first, but I definitely feel listened to when someone maintains eye contact and focus during a conversation.
I have had (pre-Covid) work dinners with colleagues who constantly check their phones, which I found rude. In fact, we used to take potential candidates out to lunch for assessment centres, and one offended colleague told the hiring manager not to hire one candidate as they were on their phone the whole lunch. They were not hired in the end, but was it really because they were on their phone the whole lunch?
Switching off your phone can be hard though; the best I can do is switch off the wifi so I only receive phone calls – the old fashioned way. I don’t meditate, but I do often reflect; and I do refill my cup when I make time for hobbies.
What this is: tangible symbols showing thoughtfulness ie showing you know who they are and what they like.
Examples with others: thoughtful gifts and gestures, sharing something important or sentimental.
Examples of self-love: buying yourself a gift, or gifting yourself an experience.
Avoid: forgetting special occasions, giving thoughtless gifts, buying gifts for yourself that you feel you “need” instead of actually “want”.
Why you might prefer this love language: sentimentality – you appreciate the other person was thinking about you when you weren’t around. A gift is a token that reminds you of the other person.
For me: I felt this was my lowest ranked love language. For Christmas wish lists I include things I “need” more than things I “want”, but when on holiday I do like to get souvenirs like jewellery or clothes for myself so when I’m home again and wear those items I’m reminded of the holiday.
I feel I’m better at giving gifts than receiving gifts. For the last two weddings we gifted the couples experiences they would really enjoy instead of objects. I feel I’m quite a minimalist person when it comes to objects; experiences and memories are definitely my kind of gifts.
From memory, my favourite gifts received were experiences from the hubby: tickets to see The Lion King and a weekend away in London to also see Wicked. Maybe I just like seeing musicals?
Acts of service
What this is: where actions are more important than words, easing the burden of responsibility or going the further step to make life easier for another.
Examples with others: helping out with chores, making a cup of tea, making breakfast or cooking dinner, looking after them when ill, acts of kindness.
Examples of self-love: preparing healthy meals for yourself, creating a clean and calm home for yourself, asking for help when you need it.
Avoid: not following through on tasks, laziness, ignoring requests while helping others, ignoring your own needs whilst helping others.
Why you might prefer this love language: you feel cared for, nurtured, and looked after; you prefer to be shown how much you’re cared for. You appreciate the tangible actions taken to simplify your life.
For me: I thought this was my highest ranked love language. I really appreciate when someone bakes me a cake rather than buying one or when someone makes me a card rather than buying one. I feel appreciated because time and effort was put in and not just money.
I also genuinely believe that actions speak louder than words. Before, I thought my organised laziness was key, where I cook dinners at weekends so I save time and reheat during the week; but maybe that’s self care through acts of service.
As I grow older, I feel I agree more and more with the saying that you can always make more money but you can’t always make more time. Maybe that’s why I appreciate acts of service: it saves me time doing something, and I also appreciate the other person took time out of their day to do something for me.
What this is: non-verbal communication, using body language and touch.
Examples with others: hugging, hand holding, physical presence, high-fives.
Examples of self-love: massages, stretching, taking a hot bath, using a weighted blanket, using high quality bedding, stroking a pet, skincare, physical exercise.
Avoid: physical neglect or abuse.
Why you might prefer this love language: you value the warmth and comfort that comes from physical touch. Physical affection can foster security and belonging.
For me: I think I was indifferent to this love language. I love hugging and dancing with the hubby, but after the past year or so, I would feel slightly apprehensive having physical contact with someone else.
Self care through physical touch may be quite high for me though: I find our blankets super cosy, our 100% cotton bedding feels super soft, our 10 tog duvet feels quite heavy – maybe even like a weighted blanket, and I used to love stroking our dog.
Finding out about the 5 love languages has made me rethink my self care, it has given me both things to avoid and things to try. For words of affirmation, I’ll try to stop the critical self talk, and start being my own cheerleader.
I also plan to start making more time for hobbies (quality time) and start asking for help when I need it (acts of service). Now I know it’s a form of self care, I feel future me will appreciate past me more when I do things out of so-called organised laziness.
How do you feel about the 5 love languages and will you do anything differently to enhance your wellbeing through self care?