The "In Love" Experience
First, I think it is important to note the difference between love and infatuation. Gary Chapman makes this very clear in his book. He says that normally, people meet, become attracted to each other, and "fall in love". But this form of love is not truly love, it is infatuation. This love will not last, although it feels great when you are in it. Chapman says this love lasts anywhere from 2-5 years on average, but then it wears off. During this time, people normally get married and start having kids... then they wake up one day and realize they "don't love each other anymore". Is it that they don't love or is it that they are no longer infatuated with each other?
Infatuation is almost a drunk-love: the person is happy and giddy to be around you and will agree with pretty much anything you say. They are blinded by how awesome you are, and you are stupefied by their beauty and wit.Everything seems to go perfect in the "in love" experience, but that love cannot last and must move into a more mature, true love.
True Mature Love
Mature love is selfless, it seeks the needs of the other before the needs of itself. The first and foremost thing to learn about love is a selfless love: one that gives and doesn't expect anything in return. That is true love. The Bible calls this agape. It is the love of God, given by God, to be spread to the world. This kind of love does not just go to your spouse, but to every person you meet. Love is not limited to a certain group of people, but to everyone.
Love as a Language
When you first meet someone of a different culture, what is one of the first things you must overcome? Assuming they don't know English and you don't know their language, it would be the language barrier. If you can't communicate well, problems can escalate exponentially without either person knowing what they are doing wrong. To over come this barrier, one of them must learn the other person's language so they don't accidentally offend the other.
Love is the same way. Surprisingly, not everyone feels love the same way. In Gary Chapman's research, he has found there really are five languages of love. In order for the person you are trying to show love to to hear what you are saying as love, you must speak it in their language.
As a side note, just like each language has different dialects (i.e. English has Australian, British, and American), each love language has different dialects. Those languages and dialects are described below:
Words of Affirmation
People in this language need to hear the love. By telling them how much you love them and how awesome they are, they feel the sense that you really care. Encouraging them in what they are doing builds them up and makes them feel confident in themselves. Dialects in this language are encouragement, compliments, second-hand compliment (you bragging on them to other people and then they tell the person), praise, etc.
People in this language need DIRECTED ATTENTION in conversations. Did you catch the emphasis there? People who need this love language need one-on-one QUALITY time, where you have their full attention, and they have yours. These people just want to be listened to and converse, not just be heard and talked at. Sometimes no words need to be said, just the presence of the other person is enough, as long as the person is there for only you. Dialects include dinner dates, quiet walks, focused activities (running, swimming, shopping, crafting), or just spending time around the house.
People who have this language see objects given to them as symbols of love. Something as simple as a card caries heavy weight to the person receiving it. These gifts need not be expensive, although expensive gifts do speak volumes. One of the most basic gifts someone can give is the gift of time; sacrificing their own time for the other person. The "gift of self" may be to someone one of the most powerful. Dialects include the "gift of self", cards, candy, trinkets, flowers, money, watches, pens, drawings, hand-written letters, dinner, etc.
Acts of Service
People in this language see small chores as monumental love-gifts. Something as simple as changing a diaper, making dinner, or opening the door can speak volumes to these people. The most important thing to consider is that the action is done happily and WILLINGLY. Obligation to do this does not set well with those who language is Acts of Service. Some dialects include vacuuming the house, taking out the garbage, making lunch, cleaning the car, carrying things, etc.
People in this love language see the smallest touch as something great. Most people get confused by this language because they think it is only sex. However, sex is only a dialect. Sex is important for all healthy marriages, but for the people whose language is Physical Touch, sex speaks louder to them. Sex is not all in this language, a simple pat on the back, a hug, or a brushing of the arm tells them that you love them. Dialects include sex, hugs, kisses, high-fives, pats on the back, a squeeze of the shoulder, an arm around the shoulder, etc.
One final thing to note is that the languages have the opposite effect. Refusing to give one of the above languages can severely hurt the individual. At the same time, speaking one of these languages out of obligation or spite only makes it worse: it is not seen as love but as meaningless. Be careful that you first master true selfless love before you start to practice any of these.
Have fun with this! Find out your friend's love languages and start speaking them. Find out your parents and I guarantee your relationship will improve with them (and you may start to understand why they do some of the things they do to you that annoy you.)
So how do you find out? Well, you can take the test here, or you can just ask yourself a few questions:
- What do my parents do that really tells me they love me?
- What do my parents do that really ticks me off faster than anything? (The opposite of this might be your language.)
- If I had to go without one of the five love languages, which one could I never go without? (i.e. If I never received a physical contact from another human being, would I be ok?)
Understand we all will feel love in each of the five categories, but one of them should speak louder than the rest. Sometimes, you can be bilingual, and have two that are equally valid. For me, I think I might be bilingual. My top two are Physical Touch and Quality Time. For me, its hard to see what I can go without because my dialect in Physical Touch directly involves Quality Time. So, you can be both. But if I had to pick, Physical Touch. To me, if someone feels comfortable enough around me that they can give me a hug, or pat me on the back, or whatever, that tells me they truly care.
So what is your love language? Let me know, I'm curious. That way, I can start speaking it to you. God bless!
Following His Call,
(1 Corinthians 13:1)