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Love may be universal, but the ways in which we express it aren't. Here's how finding out what your love ones' love languages are can help you — even if you're a dyed in the wool skeptic.

Imagine this. Your teenage daughter and you have entered into those muddy waters of puberty together, and the atmosphere in your family has gradually been deteriorating. Already at your wits' end, your daughter sends you a text message declaring that she feels you don't even care about her. What? You've just spent the afternoon cleaning her room for her, and was planning to cook her favorite meal afterwards!

Telling a good friend about the encounter, she asks you: "Well, what's your daughter's love language?"

Your friend is the kind of person who likes to read self-help books, and her question just has you wonder what on Earth she's been into now. "Love languages", at first sight, sounds like something right out of some New Age course, right? Well, perhaps. Wait up, though!

Understanding what they mean might actually help you communicate with those you care about most much more effectively, leading to higher mutual satisfaction than ever before.

What? Wasn't Love A Universal Language?

"If you smile at me, I will understand... 'cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language," Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang in the harmony only they could nail so well. While healthy humans experience love and form bonds, however, we all know that there's a lot more to expressing it than smiling.

Take my mother. Good at DIY, she's been known for her inability to sit still for long periods of time and the accompanying tendency to just get up and start fixing things that are broken in the houses of people she is visiting for as long as I can remember. If someone's in trouble, she'll be there — taking care of the practical side of things, whether they want her to or not. Then take me. When I'm facing stressful times, what I really want is for someone to sit there with me, listen, and offer encouraging words — which is also what I tend to try to give to others in difficult situations. Sure, I'm happy to go grocery shopping or book plane tickets for someone, but I'm much more likely to first ask a loved one if they'd like to share a beer and a nice chat.

My mother's primary love language is, it turns out, "acts of service". Me, on the other hand, I'm a "words of affirmation" kinda gal. It doesn't take much to figure out that someone who really appreciates their loved one mowing the lawn for them might get frustrated if they instead get a pep talk, or that someone who just wants a listening ear and instead gets their chores done for them might feel that their needs are unmet.

Love might be (near) universal, but the "language" we use to express it is far from that.

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