A very valuable thing to understand is that everybody loves differently. From the moment we are born, we receive love from the people around us which teaches us how we will love others and how we want others to love us. But what we are often not taught is that not everybody will want love and express love in the same manor that we do.
In psychology, there is an attributional bias called the false-consensus effect. The false-consensus effect causes us to overestimate the extent to which our beliefs are shared by others. It explains why we often assume people are intentionally trying to hurt us. We assume they share our values and our beliefs so when there is an action that contradicts them, we assume it must be an intentional one. The same thing applies to love. We figure that people were taught to show and expect love in similar ways, so we blame them when they do not meet our expectations.
The book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman illustrates that there is more than one way to love. Love languages are deeply rooted within us, typically from our familial relationships. Our parents teach us most of what we know about love and no two family experiences are the same. Were your parents married? Divorced? Same-sex? Were you adopted? Did your grandparents raise you? How did your parents treat each other? How did they treat you? Was your father keen on showing emotion? Was your mother the one in control? There are an infinite amount of factors that went into your love training, which is why it is so critical to understand the differences between you and the close people in your life.
What are the love languages? According to Chapman, each of us has a primary and secondary language. One language that we may have is words of affirmation. This is my primary language. It includes words of praise or words that reaffirm love. People who share my preference enjoy hearing the reasons behind why someone loves them, that they are appreciated, and verbal acknowledgements/compliments. People in this category also experience greater harm from negative comments or the absence of praise. Another love language is quality time. People with this love language expect a great amount of undivided attention in their relationships. They experience satisfaction depending on the amount of time their loved ones dedicate to the relationship. Distractions and cancellations are most harmful to anyone in this category. A third love language is gifts. Upon first glance, this language seems very material. However, it is most often not the monetary value of the gift that is important, rather the time and thought that goes into it. People with this language like to know that they are being thought of and that their loved ones know them well enough to choose appropriate gifts. They are unsettled by impersonal gifts or the absence of them. The next love language is acts of service. Men and women with the “acts of service” love language are fulfilled when their loved ones are eager to lend a helping hand and share in their responsibilities. They are most upset by broken promises and relationships that generate more work for them. The final love language that Chapman discusses is physical touch. This is my secondary love language. For those who share my language, we emphasize physical bonds. Hugs, kisses, holding hands, pats on the back, etc… are very important to us. This language is interesting because it almost always develops either from having parents who often expressed physical love or from having parents who never expressed physical love and a lifelong desire for them to do so.
Understanding how your love languages align with the loved ones in your life will clear up a lot of misunderstandings. In our relationships, we often confuse their inaction as a sign that they do not love us. Knowing how they prefer to show and receive love can redirect our attention to help us reaffirm our relationships and teach us how to make them more fulfilling.
To find out which love languages you prefer, check out this quiz 🙂