The Languages of Love – How Do We Learn to Speak It
The ability to speak different languages is a definite plus here in Luxembourg. I always find it fascinating if not a little daunting being surrounded by so many intermingled tongues. At the same time I can appreciate how isolating this can be for anyone who struggles to be heard or understood in his or her own mother tongue or has at least some proficiency in French, German or Luxembourgish. Being heard and understood as human beings is so important to us.
In the next couple of articles I’m going to introduce an idea that goes beyond the spoken word. Whilst studying to be a Parent Group facilitator I stumbled across a book recommended to me some time ago. Not needing to be nudged twice I threw it into my summer bag and absorbed it over a few cocktails on the beach (a useful study skill I learnt at University sans beach). The book was called The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman (1995). The premise of this book was that we all have a dominant or primary love language, that is a way in which we prefer to give and receive love. If we can identify this particular love language in our spouse, and ourselves, we can use this knowledge to enhance our relationships.
At a glance the idea did seem a little superficial, but with the two weeks of family holiday ahead of us we thought we’d give it a go. In between the family drama that is the ‘family holiday’ we both took turns to read a chapter and compare notes. It turned out to be a great way just to reconnect. In fact I think we were both surprised by how insightful the process was.
My primary language is quality time not just time spent together in the same space but time spent without distraction fully focused on each other. Not so easy in the modern day family – YES that does include time without smart phones, computer screens and children! His primary language is words of affirmation not just ‘did you pay that bill – PLEASE’ but the kind of encouragement we hopefully give our kids daily. In fact many of the case studies in the book spoke about how we tend to be more able to tune in earlier in our relationship generally because we don’t have added distractions and responsibilities, but we will have a tendency over time to give and demand of our partners in our own primary language.
The five love languages Chapman introduces are Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service. At face value we can make assumptions about what these are but it is worth looking at the detail. We may demand things of our partner in other ways because our primary love language is not being met. We may assume that they must feel loved because we are giving them love in the way that we like to receive it .
Having identified our own preferences it seemed logical to think about our children. Chapman has written two follow up books with the support of Dr. Ross Campbell who spent many years working with children and adolescents. This month I am going to start to focus on ‘The 5 Love Languages of Children’.
I’m sure we all know that the most important gift we can give our children is our love and acceptance. But still it seems that sometimes however much we genuinely love our children they just don’t feel it. Is there more to it than providing for them, taxiing them around , paying for their education or extra curricular activities, giving them wonderful life experiences or the ‘childhood we never had!’ Can it be that even though we do all this stuff for them and more… that they still don’t appreciate how much we must love them. Is it possible that individual people in our family may need to have love expressed in different ways to really feel it?
Chapman suggests that we all, including children, have a ‘love tank’ that is like an emotional bank account. We need it to be filled or fill it ourselves in our own special way, otherwise if it gets depleted we do not function well and may start to struggle with life’s everyday challenges. The best way to fill it up is by receiving love in a form most recognizable to us via our primary love language. Our children’s primary love language can be identified as young as 5 years old. Your child can take a simple test online or as outlined in the book. Chapman believes that as parents we should be trying to give our children love using all 5 languages (especially before 5yrs) but with particular focus on their primary one. He also says that it can be most detrimental to a child to receive negative feedback in their particular language. For example telling a child that they are useless at something can be doubly negative if their primary language is ‘words of affirmation’.
Ensuring our children’s emotional ‘love tanks’ are filled regularly helps them go out into the world and appreciate all the ‘wonderful life experiences’ to be had as Chapman & Ross put it:-
“The Foundation of love laid in the early years affects a child’s ability to grasp new information. Many children go to school ill-prepared to learn because they are not emotionally ready to learn… simply sending a child to a better school or changing teachers is not the answer. We must make our children emotionally ready to learn.”
Further Information: Useful Links
If you would like to take an online test they are available at (but I would suggest that you read the books for more detail):
Further Information: Recommended Reading
The 5 Love Languages: The secret to the love that lasts* by Gary Chapman (2015)
The 5 Love Languages of Children* by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell (2012)
The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers New Edition: The secret to loving teens effectively* by Gary Chapman (2010)
* Passage has a small library of books for parents to borrow. These titles are available. Please email us at email@example.com for more information.
Article by: Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.
Last updated: Tuesday 9th June, 2015