Respectful Parenting: What are “Love Languages”?

What are Love Languages?(Identifying your Love Language)

It has been said that having a baby is like buying a blender without the instruction manual or the lid. Caring for babies and figuring out their communication preferences and strategies can be head-spinning stuff, and it doesn’t get any less intense as they get older. One of the things that we have found helpful is learning about Love Languages, and getting used to the idea with each other before applying it to our kids.

‘Love Languages’ are the out-workings of a theory about how we as humans give and receive love. The theory suggests that we generally communicate love in five different ways. These ways are:

  • Physical touch
  • Words of encouragement
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts

How these aspects are communicated depends on the relationship as well as social and other contextual factors, and there are many examples. Physical touch between friends might manifest itself as a hug, play-fighting or ruffling hair; between romantic partners it will often be kissing and sex. Words of encouragement are any verbal affirmation that can be used to ‘build someone up’, such as telling a spouse how much you missed them, complimenting a friend on their new haircut, or telling a child how proud you are of them. Quality time is simply spending dedicated time together such as on a date, taking your child out for lunch with just you, or going out with mates for a drink and a chat. Acts of service are things like emptying the dishwasher, helping put the kids to bed, tying up shoelaces, fixing the car, fetching snacks, etc. Gifts are fairly obvious; anything that can be passed from one person to another.

Identifying your love language is a great start in learning how to use them to create better family relationships. Think about what matters to you and how you like people to treat you. Does it make you really happy when your partner makes you a cup of tea, or gives you a back rub, or buys you a gift? Do you really appreciate it when they say ‘thank you’ for a meal you’ve cooked, or when they spend an evening chatting to you without being distracted? If you can’t put your finger on it, try thinking about what you do to try and make people feel special. Is your instinct to buy them something to cheer them up, or to give someone a hug, or set time aside for them? Often we give love in the way that we most receive it- I, for example, always find myself encouraging people and telling them about their great qualities because it comes naturally to me; words are what make me feel loved. I’ve had to train myself to buy gifts for people’s birthdays as I’m not remotely bothered about them so I often forget that other people are!

Once you’ve identified your own love language and your partner’s love language, maybe practise doing things for them in ‘their language’ over the next week or so. It might take effort as we are used to responding according to our own needs, but this sometimes means that our partner completely misses our attempts to connect. If Patrick bought me home a present every day, I would think it was weird. I would much prefer that he organised a date out for us, or helped me by clearing stuff in the house (#everymum). Likewise I can cook a meal every night for Patrick, and he likes it, but it’s not his priority. Given the choice he’d probably rather I spent that time working to buy him a gift, or saved my energy for… cuddles (#everybloke). I could be wrong though, I should probably ask him! Do ask your partners if they think they know what they have a preference for.

It is worth noting that love languages work in reverse; things communicated negatively in our ‘language’ can be more hurtful than if done in another way. Patrick likes words of encouragement, and finds it extremely painful if I swear or use a harsh tone of voice with him. In a similar way, if I dress up to go out and Patrick says nothing about my appearance, or if I do well at work and he doesn’t enthuse as much as I’d like, I am likely to feel a bit huffy as verbal affirmation is important to me.

Once you have figured out yours and your partner’s love languages and practised at responding to them in the ways they prefer, have a look at my post ‘5 ways to show love to your children using love languages’.

Family Life respectful parenting

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Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.

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