Speaking of Love

Your love language is defined as your “emotional communication preference,” according to Gary Chapman’s website. It sounds touchy-feely, but that description fits only one of the five potential love languages: physical touch. The other four – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, and quality time – employ different means of expressing affection. No one language is better than any of the others, and we all have reached varying degrees of fluency in each, but one may speak to you the most. A quick way to test yourself is to take the survey at http://www.5lovelanguages.com. There are three veins of thought that can also lead you to the answer: thinking about how you express love, thinking about your complaints when you feel less loved, and thinking about how you request love.

That’s a lot of thinking about love, a word that gets thrown around in reference to a wide variety of things, from a surprise Athens snow day, to an adopted kitten, to that one song about crashing your car into a bridge and watching it, letting it burn. While the notion of romantic love can be used to identify your personal language, there are other emotional and interpersonal connections to consider. Family is an important factor, both in sibling dynamics and parent-child relationships. Interactions with friends and coworkers can also be revealing. Maybe the most subtle love of all is how we care for ourselves, figuring out if the magic, instant feel-good potion you drink when you’re down is composed of reading encouraging poetry or treating yourself at the mall.

Arguably the most fascinating, empowering part of knowing your love language is that you hold in your hands (or in your words, acts, gifts, and time) the ability to communicate on a universal level. Love is spoken across the globe, in silences and shouts, in sonorants and sibilants. Although the “dialects differ,” as hugs, handshakes, and high fives that carry different meanings in contrasting cultures, these languages can be learned in order to achieve a more compassionate humanity. Chapman refers to something he calls an “emotional love tank” in each person, which is essentially a positive spin on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s idea of “emotional bankruptcy” – that sometimes we give so much of our hearts away, we feel we don’t have anything in ourselves anymore. If you’ve ever been disappointed in a significant other buying you flowers to try to compensate for rescheduling a date when all you wanted was to spend time with him or her, or if you’ve ever wished a parent would tell you that he or she is proud of you but hadn’t thought about the years of folding laundry and making dinner and driving to soccer practice that went unacknowledged, maybe it wasn’t a lack of love, but an emotional miscommunication. Maybe all we really need is to listen to the love languages our friends and family are already speaking, and learn to speak love back.

Article originally published in the February 17th, 2014 issue of The Chapel Bell.

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