From time to time I come across references to Rev. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. His premise is simple and in the decades since the book was published, continues to resonate with many. According to Chapman, we convey liking and love primarily through five different forms of expression: Acts of services, quality time, gifts, physical touch, and verbal affirmation. A relationship is more likely to flourish if you know how you prefer to be loved, and how your partners/friends/family like to be loved.
When I consider how I fell for my life partners, or how an acquaintance can become a friend, I see myself as drawn to heartfelt words (duh), and to acts of service. If you care about me, have the courage to say so, and pay enough to attention to give me a hand when needed. I am also prone to speaking my heart around my loved ones, saying the sincere, honest things that I hope bolster courage and connection, even if they are a bit mushy and awkward.
And I like to be of practical use to those I care about. At the therapeutic riding barn, I don’t care if my job is mucking stalls, side-walking in silence, or horse-leading a reluctant pony. I just want to be useful to a good organization. I’m happy with quality time as an expression of caring, but less comfortable with gifts. Affection isn’t casual with me, either.
That said, I realize that I’ve been snookered by the ways I perceive that somebody cares about me. I’ve fallen for the words when those words weren’t backed up by deeds. “I so appreciate you,” is balm to my soul, but the words are not always meant truthfully. When somebody presents me with a gift, by contrast, I’m not sure what to do. I might say the right things, but often what I’m thinking is, “You really should not have. I have too much stuff as it is and nice things never last long in my house…”
When somebody browses for hours shopping for the exact right way to convey, “Congratulations!” or, “I’m thinking of you,” and my internal response is, “Where am I going to put this?” I’ve missed the point. I’ve missed the caring and the love, and that’s a darned shame. When some guy says all the things but never offers to grab the check, and I’m smitten just because of the smarmy words, that’s another kind of darned shame.
The takeaway for me is, “Enjoy the words when they come my way, but look behind them too, and appreciate the affection, the tangible tokens, and everything else that conveys caring.”
I’m not sure how these concepts will show up in my books–maybe an affectionate heroine will utterly baffle an acts of service hero–but I will continue to ponder the topic.
What is the best way for somebody to show you that you’re appreciated? (And if you want to take the 5 Languages quiz, you can do that here.)
(And PS: Happy launch week to Miss Dashing!)