By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.
“Where there is love there is life.”― Mahatma Gandhi
A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of “Love Languages,” essentially analogous to learning styles, but pertaining to how individuals express love for one another. This sort of thing is usually relegated to popular ladies’ magazines, but it ought not. Understanding the ways we communicate love to our partners and family and friends helps ensure that those we love recognize that we love them, eliminating the pain of feeling unappreciated and unloved. Identifying our individual loving style helps us give and receive love more freely and openly. Here’s where you can find the quiz to uncover the ways you prefer to express love.
The Five Love Languages, as defined by Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known expert on marriage, are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Each individual has dominant love languages, which significantly impact relationships. Some relationships forgo one love language altogether, for example a pair of life-long friends may never utter the phrase “I love you,” but love one another deeply. In The Princess Bride Wesley shows his love for Buttercup through acts of service, followed by three other little words: “As You Wish.” Just as there is no “right” way to learn, there is no “right” way to love another person. We all love in our own way, in our own style.
Loving others is my life’s ultimate joy. I’m fortunate in that I also like all the people I love. Therefore, I enjoy spending time with them. “Quality Time” is my dominant love language. If I love you, I want to be with you; I want to spend time with you; I want you around; I want to hang out; I want to come early to the party and stay too late. I communicate my desire to spend quality time with my friends and family when I invite them over for brunch and out for drinks and for a picnic, or just for coffee or to talk. The people in my life are the stars that light my universe.
“Words of Affirmation” are second on my list of love languages, fitting for a student of poetry. My favorite love poem is the evocative and provocative “I like my body when it is with your body” by ee cummings. If I can’t write you a poem, I will send you a long letter. When I go on a trip, I always send postcards. Spend time with me, and you’ll hear the way I love you: I’ll call you ‘kitten’ or ‘sis’ or ‘dear’ or ‘darling’ or ‘doll’ or ‘doll face’ or ‘sugar plum’ or ‘baby shugs’ or ‘pumpkin’ or ‘sweetheart’ or, Maria’s favorite, ‘sweet potato’. Terms of endearment: love gift-wrapped in words. I am quick to say “I love you,” quicker now that I’m older, wiser, too.
The next category is “Acts of Service.” Need a hand? I’m happy to help (just no whole-house moving, I’m too old for that shit). I want to paint your living room. I want to babysit your son and read him a story. I want to pick you up from the airport, mostly because doing these things means I have more time with you. Friends make running errands wonderfully fun. When loading ice and beer into the back seat of Stacy’s car in preparation for her birthday party, I said, as I often do, “many hands make light work,” an aphorism intrinsic to anyone from a large family. I loved doing yard work with my brothers and sisters. In my capacity as a volunteer for 826Chicago, I experience the pleasure of helping children with their homework. The homework may not be a treat, but the sense of pride and accomplishment visible on a child’s face when he or she has completed a task is pure gleam.
Next on the continuum of my preferred loving styles is “Physical Touch.” I grew up with a family light on physical touch. We hug, but not often. Conversely, my Urban Family and I hug constantly; cheek kissing is frequent, too. Our own Hanna & Ryan are always touching, sweetly holding hands seemingly every moment. The human need for physical touch is well documented. The sick become well more quickly after receiving healing touch. Still, the amount of touch can be adapted to the relationship and circumstance; each relationship is another shining creature in the sea of love.
Last on my list, no surprise, is “Receiving Gifts.” I appreciate and cherish the many thoughtful gifts I have received over the years, but I certainly don’t expect them. By all means, continue to send me flowers, because flowers make me feel like this. Yet having my friends around, spending time with them is the best gift—“your presence is present enough.”
Love is a source of endless inspiration, and with good reason. Love takes all forms and floods all things with meaning. Love is personal and universal, minuscule and magnificent, infinitesimal and infinite. It doesn’t matter how we love, just that we do.