Monday, July 03, 2006

Love Languages

What's your love language? Take the test here. Your results may vary with this version of the test, but it's a good starting point if you're not already familiar with the system.

Love languages are the different ways that people express their affection for others. It's possible to appreciate all five, but most people have one or two primary 'languages' that make them feel loved and appreciated. The five languages are:

Acts of Service
Gift Giving
Quality Time
Words of Affirmation

My primary love languages are quality time and touch, with words of affirmation at the very bottom. Not that I don't appreciate compliments, but for me, personally, talk is cheap, especially if it isn't backed up by a person's actions. In general, giving verbal affirmation is very difficult for me, because I always feel like I'm being insincere. It just feels unnatural, even when I know it's what the other person needs from me. I'd much rather hang out with them, or give them a hug.

If I care about somebody I'll instinctively make it a priority to make time for them. Touch comes naturally as well, though I'm far less likely to offer it (which can make me seem far more stand-offish than I really am, which is both a concern about crossing other people's boundaries and the result of years of internalized homophobia - but that's another issue entirely).

Of course, both of these love languages can place a person out of sync with modern society. People (at least in the United States) tend to be so busy with a million different things that they just don't have a lot of time to offer to their friends and loved ones. Although I understand that it's nothing personal for someone who speaks a different love language to be too busy to give more than the occasional verbal warm fuzzy, it still leaves me feeling unloved and unappreciated more often than not. I've always avoided letting myself get too busy precisely so that I can make time for my friends, but I can see how someone who receives affirmation in different ways wouldn't necessarily interpret that as "I love you."

Touch has also been undervalued in modern American culture, at least among men. Although it is acceptable for male friends to hug or otherwise make physical contact in certain ways and under certain circumstances, there are still strict boundaries to be respected, lest the gesture be misinterpreted by anyone who might possibly be watching. And yet for some, an arm placed around the shoulder (and not immediately removed) is worth more than a thousand words.

Some people might find touch invasive, or see gift giving as bribery, or take an act of service for granted. It's not that what was being offered wasn't valuable, simply that the recipient didn't recognize what it represented. Understanding that we all speak different languages, and that what a person most readily offers is most likely what they want in return, can forestall countless unnecessary conflicts. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we overcome the language barrier.

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