Updated: May 26, 2020
With my flight to the UK approaching, I anxiously pulled the essentials from my drawers so I could stuff them into my hiking pack. For a long time, I wanted to live minimally and moving across the world was a good opportunity to start since I didn't have more than a backpack. Ok, ok, ok, you caught me. I actually had two backpacks. But to be fair, the second one was split with my camping gear and Francisco. Even still, I think I did pretty good on the minimalist part and am now rotating through the 4 shirts I brought *she said with a sigh.*
I thought about the 8.5 hour flight we would be on that night as I sorted my belongings into necessary or not. 8.5 hours is a long time and that doesn't include airport wait times. Luckily, my mom keeps a bin of books tucked away in storage so I rifled through to pick the most interesting. There was a time when I used to tease her for reading "self-help" books not knowing I would one day be thankful that she hoards them under the stairs for my advantage. I pulled out about 10 books and looked sheepishly at Francisco. When I moved to Mexico, half my pack was filled with books. Not that I actually read them, no, no, no... but I had the intention to. I eventually convinced him that 3 books were essential. One for fun, one to learn, and one for him (I let him pick but really it was for me muahahaha).
I finished my "for fun" book the last day of February and am proud that my goal is on track. If you're curious it's called "Cross My Heart" by Carly Phillips but this novel doesn't really fit with the theme of this blog so I won't be writing about it.
The book Francisco chose (for me) is called "The 5 Love Languages - The Secret to Love That Lasts." Good choice, babe.
I first heard about the 5 Love Languages nearly 10 years ago when I went to counselling during my time in university. I wasn't in a very good place with myself when I was 17-19 so you can imagine I wasn't so great in my first relationship either. My therapist told me about the love languages to inspire some improvements with my boyfriend. Although it didn't work out, I learned a lot about maintaining a relationship not only in love but also in friendship.
I love the way Gary Chapman compares love languages to the languages we speak at the beginning of the book. In a relationship, if you don't speak the same love language you're basically speaking English while your partner only understands Chinese. You do your best to communicate but no matter how hard you try, it never is truly understood.
Here is a breakdown of the 5 LOVE LANGUAGES
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
"Inside every child is an "emotional tank" waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehaviour of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty 'love tank.'" - Dr. Ross Campbell
UHM HELLO!!! THIS IS WHY DESTINATION: YOU EXISTS! This is a HUGE part of Destination:You. We believe it's so important to learn about communication and having a network of supportive, loving people around you. Our emotional tanks need to be filled and we want to show you ways to also do that, not only for yourself but to also amplify your safe community. This book is focused on love between a married couple. But at DY, we know this is important for any relationship. (Side note: I'll be referring to "your person" throughout this post as it can fit any role/relationship.)
Words of Affirmation
"Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love."
Words can stay with us for a really long time, in some cases, our entire lives. We often hear stories about a teacher whose words changed the course of their life; either they worked hard to prove those words wrong or they let the words define them. Francisco's French teacher told him that he was the biggest disappointment she'd ever had. Years later he still recalls her words. Good for him, Francisco doesn't let anything stop him. He is a machine and machines don't stop. My point is, we need to be conscious of the effect that our words have on people and use this to positively enhance our relationships. We can do this by:
Encouraging words. Your words should inspire courage, should inspire growth, chasing dreams, taking risks, completing goals. Your encouraging words should inspire a stronger belief in themselves.
Kind words. More than anything, this has to do with the way we speak (something I need to work on). The tone of our voice can change the meaning of the words we are speaking. If we use an honest, kind matter, our words can be an expression of love. For me, that looks like laying off of sarcasm. This is especially true in an argument where the best way to turn away anger is with a soft voice; a voice that seeks to understand and reconcile rather than proving our own perception is the only correct way.
Humble words. Love makes requests. Not demands. When we use language that creates a demand or a "you must do this" we change the dynamic from couple to parent-child. Demands are more likely to drive your person away as you become a tyrant. Requests lead to guidance rather than ultimatums; affirm our person's worth and abilities; communicate respect, admiration and caring.
More ways. Dr. Chapman suggests that you give "public honour" to your partner. What this means is that you express your words of affirmation publicly. This can be something as simple as saying something nice about your person to their parents and friends without them knowing. I like this because it is a subtle way to show you care but it also allows you to vocalize the wonderful qualities about your person and makes them feel more real.
"Possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated." - William James
Simply put, quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. For some of us, this is a huge challenge. Not because we don't want to give our person the time, but because we have so many distractions. For me, my own thoughts often get in the way of giving someone quality time. My head spins with ideas of what I need to accomplish in the day and what I am going to eat. And to be honest, these 2 thoughts consume most of my brain power (I have a serious addiction to searching for and creating recipes). But I know the importance of quality time and giving someone your complete attention - because let's face it... we all know how crappy it feels when we aren't given that time!!
When I first heard of the 5 love languages, I thought that Quality Time was just about spending time together and I didn't think it was one of my love languages but I realized there is more to it than that...
Focused attention. Giving your complete attention to what you're doing and who you're doing it will. AKA - no cell phones or TV or any other distraction.
Quality conversation. An uninterrupted dialogue that consists of sharing experiences, memories, emotions, dreams, etc. It's important to note that this is different from words of affirmation. Quality conversation focuses on listening and feeling understood. I have learned over time that it is important to voice our needs. When I tell Francisco about my problems or frustrations I sometimes say, "I don't want advice, I just need you to listen." It feels good to be heard and understood.
Learning to talk. I see this in couples that surround me - they are both totally opposite - one loves to talk and the other seems quiet. I love having someone I can talk to and share ideas with. Someone I know truly understands and hears me. Have you ever heard someone say something like, "He is so quiet, I never know what he is thinking or feeling." Dr. Chapman argues that that is a plead for intimacy; a love language not being spoken. In some families the expression of thoughts and feelings is totally inappropriate (think about how boys are told they shouldn't cry for example). People have become "trained" to withhold their thoughts and feelings. Being able to outwardly display such personal feelings is something that has to be relearned and Dr. Chapman has examples of how to do so in his book.
Quality activities. This is one of the most important ones to me. I love to go on adventures with Francisco. I think it brings out the best (sometimes the worst) sides of us. I love that we can share our interests and do fun things together. There are 3 important ingredients for a quality activity according to Dr. Chapman:
One of you wants to do it
The other is willing to do it
Both of you know why you are doing it
So get out there and spend some quality time together. Go for a walk, try a new sport, play a game, have a conversation, make a blanket fort and play truth or dare!
"Gifts are visual symbols of love."
I had preconceived conceptions about this one. I always thought that needing gifts from someone was selfish. Worse, I thought it was bad because it meant someone was "buying your love." I've been thinking about it wrong!!
It's neat really, that so much meaning can be intertwined in a gift. Do you have anything that someone once gave you and you hold onto it because as soon as you touch that object it takes you back to that moment and the feeling you had? (Ahhh! Light-bulb moment!!!) No wonder we hold onto things so much! It's why I still have dresses from Ecuador 8 years ago that I never wear. Just looking at them takes me back to the days when I was laying on the beach with my best friends. For me, gifts are important - but only if they are packed with meaning and thoughtfulness.
I remember one Christmas when my ex-boyfriend gave me a hoodie. It was size medium and I was chubby. I was disappointed when I saw "medium" on the tag when I was clearly puffing between "large" and "extra-large." To make it worse he said, "my sister picked it out." To me, it was insulting. I thought, "he doesn't know me at all, he didn't even care enough to choose a nice gift." I can see it now - with a more mature perspective - that he was putting in effort to give me something I would like. He actually cared enough to ask for someone else's opinion. When "Receiving Gifts" isn't your love language but it's your partners, it can be reeeeealllly beneficial to ask for help!
Gifts can come in all shapes, sizes, and yes - price tags! If money is tight or if you're a saver like me, think about gifts as an investment. You're investing in your relationship. If you still don't have much to invest than give small, home made gifts; a love note, a rock from a hike, a bottle of wine, anything your person loves. Remember that visual symbols are more important to some than others so we have to give what we can. You can always give the gift of yourself. "Your body becomes the symbol of your love." Sometimes your physical presence is what's needed. Especially during hard times.
The most important thing is to find out what your person needs in order for their love tank to be filled. What is a meaningful gift to them? This reminds me of birthday cards. It's something so typical for North American's to give and usually it's one of the gifts that I think, "Please! Don't kill another tree to make a card that will just end up in the trash if you're just going to sign your name." People, I'm not heartless OK - cards that are handwritten with a personal note, those are the cards I keep. I will, however, cut the handwritten part out and recycle the rest. A standard card is not something I find meaning or value in. Other's do and I get it. Which is why it's SO IMPORTANT to understand the love language of those around you!
Acts of Service
"No one likes to be forced to do anything. In fact, love is always freely given. Love cannot be demanded. We can request things of each other, but we must never demand anything. Requests give direction to love, but demands stop the flow of love."
This love language speaks to me a lot and I know it's my main love language. When I think of "gifts" that someone could give me, an act of service would be one of the best gifts I could be given. I remember when I thought the most romantic thing someone could do for me would be to surprise me by scraping my car window covered in frost and piled with snow on a random winter morning. Chivalry is not dead.
But just because it's my main love language doesn't mean I speak it fluently...
Not understanding this love language well has also led me to some unwelcome feelings. I've felt unloved simply because someone wouldn't do something for me. I asked a relative once if they would be able to give me a ride. When they said "no" I was seriously offended and felt like they didn't love me or didn't care about me. This seems to happen most in my family relationships and I honestly never made the connection (until this very moment) between some of the hurt I've felt and the lack of proper communication in this particular language. When someone is unwilling to do something for me, it makes me feel unloved.
This is also the way I tend to show my love with my boyfriend and I'm now realizing this isn't his language. When I do the laundry, clean the room or make supper, it's my way of showing my love. And when the love I give isn't received as love (aka: the thought that I washed the clothes because they needed to be washed not because I love Francisco) then I feel hurt and underappreciated in return. It's not true. It's just how I tend to perceive it. I have this tendency to hang onto thoughts in my mind and not let them go until I speak them aloud. Dr. Chapman suggests that we should have open communication with our person and request the things we need from them. So I started explaining to Francisco how I felt and he said "But every time I thank you for doing the laundry it's just going to be because you want me to... not that I necessarily mean it." I said, "Yes. That's exactly the point. We have to do things that make each other feel loved. If I give you a gift on your birthday, it is so that you feel loved. It's not for me. Of course, I feel joy in return. It's the same thing." The way I understand it is that you recognize what the other person needs or "speaks" and you do your be