During a couples counseling session a few years ago, I was introduced to the book The Five Languages of Love. It is an insightful look into the ways each of us personalizes how we offer tangible evidence of our love to another through:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
The premise was that we often are conveying our love and support to another in the way that we wish to receive love and support in return. But sometimes this causes conflicts because our partner may offer us gifts (bouquet of flowers or a pint of our favorite ice cream) when what we truly desire is an act of service (help with the mountain of laundry or fixing the leaking kitchen sink).
Even as I took the quiz to determine my predominant “love language” I was feeling a bit confused. It just seemed to me that in a healthy, strong and thriving relationship all of these 5 love languages get incorporated on a regular basis.
It is worth mentioning that this book is not just intended for couples but for all our relationships including children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, etc.
Certainly as a parent you can easily recognize that you offer all 5 of these love languages to your small child all throughout the day — it just comes naturally.
Now that I have some hindsight and mindfulness under my belt, I am wondering if there should have been emphasis on gratitude and an awareness of the love acts regardless of the style. And that got me to thinking about being in a “receiving mode” vs. a “resisting mode”.
When we have blinders on and are only focused on what (or how) we want someone to convey their love to us, we may be missing what they are already doing that is a true expression of their love and support. We are inadvertently resisting (and not even noticing) what someone else is lovingly doing for us and with us.
So what if we started to pay attention to those little expressions of love and became grateful for them? Gratitude is truly a game changer.
Gratitude helps us shift our attitude and perspective – it sets us up to be in receiving mode for lots of good things in life. Expressing our gratitude to those who contribute to our lives strengthens our connection. It enhances that easy flow of give and take in relationships.
From my personal experience, I know that when someone says “thank you or I really appreciate that” after I have folded a load of their laundry, ran an errand, or cared for their pet, it makes me feel valued and very inclined to pitch in again. (This encourages both giving and receiving mode)
However if my efforts go unnoticed or are criticized for not being done a certain way, I can find myself resentful and far less inclined to help out in the future. (This can trigger resistance mode)
This is where things can really go awry in relationships. Being in resistance mode contributes to negativity and resentfulness. It sets up a pattern where no matter how much someone might being doing for you, it is never enough, not the right thing, or never done to your satisfaction. People just stop trying.
A healthy dose of gratitude for someone’s efforts and intentions (even if they missed the mark) can have an impactful effect that yields a much better result for everyone. After all, here is another person willing to offer their time and energy to help you in some way — that alone is worthy of a “thank you”.
Watching my young grandchildren, I can see how they use all 5 love languages interchangeably every day. They gleefully offer a homemade card or sloppy kiss. They say “thank you” to a sibling for sharing a toy. They tell mom she is their best friend. They eagerly want to help fix dinner. They light up when dad builds legos with them for an hour. Kids are naturally attuned to gratitude and to receiving.
As I reflect on the five languages of love, I think any one of them could land softly on a heart. The key is to be aware that someone who loves you is genuinely “trying” and to be sure to tell them how grateful you are. When others feel valued and appreciated, they will strive to bring their personal best to the relationship — and they will be more inclined to see the best in others too.