Henry works very hard for his family because he loves them. He works up to late at night in the office and does overtime during Sundays and holidays. When someone tells his son how much Henry loves the family, the son says that “My father loves his office more than us. He is always there and he has no time for us.” When Henry hears this comment, he feels very hurt because he has been doing all this hard work because he cares for the family. But the son did not feel the love.
What went wrong? Why did his son misunderstand him?
Henry did not realize that his way of expressing his love for the family is something that may not be understood by his son because they speak different languages of love.
An American psychologist, Dr. Gary Chapman, in his more than 20 years of counseling families, found that people express and understand love in five different ways. He calls these the “five languages of love.” If a father shows his love by working hard, his children may not feel that love because they speak a different language of love. Many of us have read of cases when teenagers tell their parents: “I don’t need your money! I need your presence!”
Here, according to Dr. Chapman, are the five languages of love:
1. Words of affirmation – these are words that affirm the worth and importance of another person. It may be “I love you,” “Thank you,” “I am so glad that you are here,” “You are so skillful, how did you do that?” “I like your t-shirt,” etc.
2. Quality time – this is one on one conversation or interaction with the person in a way that is meaningful or enjoyable for them. It is to give someone your undivided caring attention.
3. Touching – If you tell babies that you love them, it does not mean anything to them. But if you cuddle and hug them, they will feel it. Many adults feel the same way. When they are hugged, or you hold their hands or put your arms on their shoulders, then they feel that you care for them.
4. Acts of Service – this is to do something for them, such as helping them in finish something. To them, “action speaks louder than words.”
5. Gift-giving – Some people appreciate receiving gifts from others as a sign of caring. Some children may come home from school with a small gift to a mother. It can even be a flower. Their love language may be gift-giving and receiving. It is not they are greedy or selfish. It is just that this is how they understand how people care.
In the example given at the beginning of this article, Henry’s language of love was acts of service, while his son’s love language was quality time. Thus Henry’s way of expressing love is not appreciated by the son.
Dr. Chapman says that some people may express love in two languages but may not appreciate the other languages. Some people will go out of their way to look for a nice gift to a special person, but that person may just put it aside and not feel the love that is expressed in that gift. It is thus helpful for a person to understand the languages of love of other members of his family, so that he can better express love in their languages. Dr. Chapman designed a survey with 50 questions which can reveal which are the primary love languages of an individual. This questionnaire can be downloaded from the internet.
It is best that parents should be able to express their love to the members of the family in more languages than what they are used to. Then their relationships will become deeper and happier.