Friday, March 16, 2012

Love Notes: The 5 Love Languages

{small ways to show great love}


Sparklers, wedding photography, love, love sparklers, marriage, Catholic wedding planning, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic brides

If you've ever picked out the perfect present for someone, only to garner a less-than-totally-blown-away reaction, or if you've ever wished someone could just listen instead of trying to do lots of things to solve your problem, you know what it's like to want a specific kind of love from another person.  A big hug, a compliment, a special date, help with chores...all of these actions are well-intended, yet almost anyone can attest to the fact that some mean more to her than others.  It's enough to make you feel kind of guilty, knowing that someone has put in significant effort to show you they care, but in fact, there's nothing wrong with preferring different expressions of love than others.  Maybe you've heard of Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages, which discusses this very fact.  He's a psychologist and marriage counselor who identifies five primary ways that people give and receive love, concluding that many feelings of miscommunication or underappreciation in a relationship are usually the result of a husband and wife speaking different languages of love.  Maybe he thinks it's unperceptive of you to ignore household tasks like laundry, for instance, or maybe his instinct when you're upset is to bring you flowers instead of holding your hand or talking.  In my small experience (I'm walking this road right along with you), growing in self-knowledge always seems to help my relationships with my husband, family, and friends.  So, take some time to get to know yourself when it comes to love!  There's an assessment here to help you identify your love language.

In the spirit of taking time for fun among all your wedding planning craziness, here are some small, meaningful dates and gestures you can add to your lives right now, according to your fiancé's and your love languages:

Words of Affirmation: To someone with this love language, words mean so much: compliments, support, and saying exactly how you feel are long remembered.  Try writing a letter to put all of that joy, anticipation, and appreciation into words and onto paper.  It's such a tangible reminder of your feelings and something you'll treasure down the road.  Who doesn't like getting love letters?

Quality Time: Everyone is so busy and always multitasking and plugged into everything these days (I know this makes me sound kind of like an old lady, but it's true.  Maybe I feel extra strongly since this is my own love language).  For someone who most values time spent together, focused only on one another and not on distractions like text messages or an overbooked schedule, being present is the greatest gift.  To honor it, I highly recommend my favorite way to just kick back and enjoy each other's company: stargazing!  Seriously, this can be as simple as sitting on a blanket in your yard to as fancy as packing a nighttime picnic for a trip to a spot you've never visited before.  Something about the combination of good conversation and looking at the sky just stops time for a while.

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Gift-giving:  I think some people feel funny identifying this as their love language, as if it means they're materialistic or something.  That's so not true- the heart of the matter, it seems, is simply that someone who speaks this language feels incredibly special knowing that another person took the time to think about what they would really enjoy and appreciate.  My friend Bob and his brand spanking new fiancee, Jenny, do this so well.  They dated long distance for a while, and were always sending each other weird things like pancake mix, remote-control airplanes, drawings, and homemade bread.   As odd as care packages like that sound, those two absolutely loved them.  See?  Gift giving doesn't mean it's got to be diamond earrings or anything.  Just little things that you know the person you love will completely enjoy or get a kick out of.  To put this language into practice, take a cue from Bob and Jenny and go to any store you want.  Take on the challenge of picking out the two cheapest, quirkiest things you can find and giving them to each other as presents.

Acts of Service:  One of my favorite professors used to talk all the time about this thing called moral perception, which is this awesome quality that takes knowing the right thing to do and goes a step further by cultivating the awareness to see opportunities for actually doing that right thing.  Acts of service are kind of like that- if you notice your fiancĂ©'s stressed out by work or studying, it's nice when you can take care of more insignificant things for a day or two, like doing the dishes when you're over visiting or sorting through the mail for him.  Speak this language with food: cook dinner all by yourself and just let your beloved relax.  It doesn't require multiple courses or gourmet desserts (unless you want to, of course), just the sincerity of wanting to serve the person you love.  Extra points if you do the clean-up, too.

Physical Touch: Along with gift-giving, this love language seems misunderstood sometimes, too.  It's not about lust or anything, just about feeling love through physical expressions of comfort like holding hands or hugging.  You know some people are huggers and some aren't?  Bam.  Physical touch.  Anyway, here's my idea for this love language.  Make no mistake; I'm not about chapel PDA at all, but next time you pray together, a subtle touch can be a nice reminder that you're there for each other and are facing the Lord together.  After we receive communion and are lowering the kneeler, Andrew always touches my ankle or wrist for a second before we get to praying, and I find it so affectionately sweet.  A hand the back or elbow is a thoughtful, non-showy way to show your love.

There you have it, girls.  The love languages aren't just a personality quiz like the ones we loved when we were twelve; they really can provide a deeper insight into another person's heart.  Beautiful, practical stuff here.  Now go get fluent.

What's your favorite way to show your love?

Next up: Celebrate right.



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