Valentine’s Day. Two words that can conjure up a whole host of feelings that run the spectrum from joy to dread. What’s certain is that Valentine’s Day will most definitely make you think of one 4-letter word: LOVE.
As a Denver relationship therapist, I witness stories daily that remind me how love is the most elusive, confusing, and sought-after feeling on the planet. We have a lifelong obsession with looking for and understanding this complex experience. What could be better than uncovering how love shows up in our lives and in the lives of those closest to us by understanding unique love languages?
The Five Love Languages
In 1995, Gary Chapman, renowned relationship therapist and modern-day philosopher, first introduced what’s known today as “The Five Love Languages” or a theory that we all, as individuals, express love in different ways, and feel loved in different ways. These five types of expression and perception are the five “love languages.”
In case this approach is new to you, here’s a review of the Five Love Languages
Gifts or receiving meaningful presents
Quality time or sharing activities and receiving undivided attention
Words of affirmation or verbal reassurance and praise
Acts of service or devotional gestures and help
Physical touch or physical intimacy
Applying the Love Languages
This Valentine’s Day, why not examine the 5 closest relationships in your life and ask these beloved friends, children, and lovers to take this short quiz to understand how they feel most seen, appreciated, recognized, and heard. It’s by understanding the type of love they truly need to feel loved that we know how to interact in the most loving and emotionally generous ways.
Perhaps through this quiz you’ll understand that your loved ones expresses love as “acts of service,” while you need “words of affirmation” to feel loved. Without knowing, you can imagine the ongoing frustration this discrepancy could cause. Or if a family member expresses love with “gifts” to a partner who feels loved through “quality time” that expression of love won’t be understood, felt, or appreciated. So often we feel we are acting loving according to our own standards, but it’s not what a partner needs. It might take some retraining to make your message of love heard, felt, and understood.
Here’s some examples of ways you might speak your loved ones’ language this Valentine’s Day, depending on their unique needs and expression:
Words of Affirmation - Use praise and encouragement any chance you get. Write a poem, letter, or card that outlines your feelings and how much this person means to you. Leave a sticky note with kind words in their lunchbox or briefcase. Send your friends old-fashioned Valentines with a message of gratitude. Compliment your partner, child, or family members daily.
Gifts - Meaningful presents don’t have to cost lots of money. Make a handmade card, artfully re-purpose something, or beautifully wrap your best friend’s favorite kind of chocolate.
Quality Time - Spend time doing what your loved one loves best -- shopping, skiing, drinking tea, watching movies, walking, reading, or simply relaxing together. Set aside time for your child, partner, friend, or anyone meaningful in your life to be alone without distraction.
Acts of Service - Lighten your loved one’s load by cleaning, cooking, picking up the children, paying bills, getting the groceries, or whatever odds and ends might relieve them. Help your children by cleaning out their backpack, setting out their school clothes, packing their lunch, or occasionally picking up their room. Pick weeds in your best friend’s yard, or bring her dinner and give her a break from the nightly dishes. Doing these things without being told and without the need for recognition makes them all the sweeter.
Physical Touch - Overdo the hugs, back-rubs, hand-holding, hair-brushing, tickling, back-scratching, and holding.
Take the quiz for yourself and fearlessly express to the people closest to you what you most need to feel loved this Valentine’s Day. If you are curious about your own relationship dynamics, challenges, and triggers, contact Dr. Kristen Hick for a free consultation and assessment of how therapy can best support the most important relationships in you world (including the one with yourself). In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest relationship insight delivered right to your inbox.