Sometimes we social worker types in Work/Life forget that other people don't use phrases like "love languages" with the same ease that the typical SAS employee might talk about "data-driven customer experience." In Work/Life we are kicking off a February series on relationships, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you what a "love language" is, who came up with the term, and why I think it is a helpful concept to introduce into your relationships.
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate is a 1995 book by Gary Chapman with a revision released in 2015. Although there isn't any solid research to back up his theory, in my opinion the value of these concepts doesn't lie in the scientific validation, but in the opportunity to open up communication about a topic that can enrich your relationship. The theory is that we all experience love in different ways and if we learn how we feel loved (our love language) and how our partner feels loved (our partner's love language), we can improve our relationship by better expressing love in the ways our partner prefers to receive love.
Let's get specific. Chapman proposes the "love languages" (remember, this means the ways we like to express and experience love) as: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion) and physical touch. You can take a quiz on-line (Google it) and have your partner take the quiz, and then have a conversation about your love language.
Before you "poo poo" this, just give it a try. A year ago when I entered into my current romantic relationship, we used the quiz as a fun and lighthearted way to talk about ourselves and what we wanted in a new partner. It was the first time I had taken the quiz and I scored very high on "acts of service." Chapman would consider that my primary love language. I was a little surprised, but I don't know why. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that as a single mom, nothing is going to win my heart more than going to Home Depot and buying salt for my sidewalk before the snow (a recent act of service by my partner). There isn't a piece of jewelry or a bouquet of flowers that would have meant more to me than that simple act.
This example illustrates why I think this is a worthwhile conversation to have with your loved one, even if it isn't exactly hard science. One of our greatest desires in our relationships is to be seen--I mean really seen--for who we are...our struggles and our victories, our desires and our disappointments, our intelligence and our feelings. By learning your partner's love language and then telling them you love them in that language, you are "seeing" them and valuing them in a profound way.
So give it a try... and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for a month full of blogs on relationships, lunch-and-learn seminars, a dating clinic, and all sorts of fun offerings from your Work/Life team in February!