I think what Forrest Gump said about life being like a box of chocolates can also apply to the search for love. If lately you feel like you’ve been sifting through a Russel Stover heart from CVS trying to find the only two pieces of chocolate without mystery nougat or strawberry cream in the middle, being a romantic can feel more like a nightmare than what it’s portrayed like in the movies. Even if you happened to reach in and pull out that one delightful milk chocolate, creamy, nutty caramel piece, events like Valentine’s Day, for example, can still feel forced or stressful. Not all of us have a significant other, but what we do all have is at least one person who loves us. Love is messy and difficult, sometimes estranged or strained or complex. But we should be celebrating love for what it is and also for understanding how to love better. Recognizing and honoring the five love languages, both in ourselves and others, is one way to reflect on how we can love best.
- Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation are written or spoken words that make the one you love feel seen, supported, or loved.
How to recognize it: Those who prefer to receive and express love this way value open communication and feel that words carry a lot of weight. Because words are the most important way to make these people feel loved, it is also true that words can just as easily tear them down.
DOs: compliment them often, verbally acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments, write love letters, brag about them in front of them to friends, tell them you love them frequently, speak from the heart
DON’Ts: insults (even playful ones), screaming or tearing them down when angry, store-bought cards with writing already in them, withholding verbal expressions of love or approval
How to make them feel especially loved: hand-made card with everything you love about them
- Acts of Service
Acts of service can be characterized as favors done for the one you love, who would be helpful or relieving for them.
How to recognize it: Those who identify most with acts of service are usually very giving people, but can also be very busy or have trouble having enough energy to fully take care of themselves.
DOs: be hypervigilant of anything they say about their preferences, memorize specifics about what they like (what’s their coffee order?) and surprise them, anticipate their needs, offer to help with anything they say they do not like, get to know the things that make them feel comfortable or cared for (an organized desk? fresh groceries? a bubble bath?)
DON’Ts: forgetting or not taking the time to learn their preferences, being unhelpful, consistently leaving them to do specific chores or activities that they do not enjoy
How to make them feel especially loved: Do something for them that they haven’t had time to do, surprise them with an activity or item you know they love
- Quality time
Quality time is the act of demonstrating love through spending dedicated and meaningful time together.
How to recognize it: People who show and receive love best through quality time are very good listeners and usually never get tired of spending time with people they love.
DOs: work quality time with them into your day as much as possible, be a good listener and attentive to them when together, prioritize good eye contact
DON’Ts: cancel plans often, act distracted or uninterested when with them, tell them you’re too busy to see them as much as they would like
How to make them feel especially loved: plan an activity both of you enjoy together and give your undivided attention to them
- Physical touch
Physical touch is the act of making someone feel loved through physical contact.
How to recognize it: Those with this love language are usually the easiest to spot. They enjoy being physically close to those they love and often describe themselves as “huggers”. It can be difficult to express love to physical touch people if you are less comfortable with touch, but starting slow can help.
DOs: hugs, cuddles, gentle touches such as back or arm scratches, holding hands, massages
DON’Ts: using physical touch in an inappropriate or uncomfortable way, putting physical distance between the two of you on purpose
How to make them feel especially loved: make sure to be close to them and depending on the nature of the relationship offer some cuddles or a massage/rub
- Gift giving
The act of gift giving is showing love through tokens of appreciation. A common misconception is that this love language is about money. It is really about physical and sentimental tokens that can be collected and treasured by the one you love.
How to recognize it: Those who feel most loved through receiving gifts are sentimental about material possessions they’ve received. They often keep a collection of previous things they’ve received and find special importance in things such as heirlooms or gift-giving traditions.
DOs: memorize things they like or have been saying they’ve been wanting, give small tokens of appreciation often, give them the same small thing over and over again as a little tradition
DON’Ts: generic gifts with little thought put into them, last-minute gifts, forgetting birthdays and holidays
How to make them feel especially loved: Make a basket with their favorite foods, drinks, items, etc.… and include at least one personalized and sentimental gift that can be cherished.
Everyone deserves to feel loved in a personalized and thoughtful way. Understanding how those you love wish to receive affection, whether it’s a friend, sibling, or significant other, can strengthen the relationship and create a deeper bond. Pay special attention to everyone in your life who you love and make them feel seen and cared for every day of the year.