How do I Love You? - 5 Ways to Show Love

If someone were to ask you, "Do you love your family?" I doubt many of us would hesitate before saying "Yes! Yes! I love my family."

Look at our lives. We give everything to our families. We give up sleep. We give up privacy. Some of us give up careers. We share everything: our food, our bed, our name. We are breaking into pieces, bending over backwards, in the name of loving our families. Yet, in the midst of all this giving, sharing and doing. too often we miss the mark. Leaving those closest to us asking, "Do you love me?"

It hurts to realize that you haven't been loving those around you in a way that translates to them feeling loved. It is frustrating to think that we need to do yet another thing to perform the basic function of loving our family members. Those are two reasons why Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages (and all of its spin offs) have become so popular. It teaches practical ways to speak love into people lives in a way that they can hear it and feel it.

Last year. Marie Nelson presented the topic Celebrating Your Child's Love Language. She went into great depth about each of the five love languages and how to speak them to your child(ren). The recap is definitely worth a re-read (click here). However, if you just want the Cliff Notes version, keep reading.

The Theory of Love

The theory behind the five love languages is that each of us primarily "hears" and expresses feelings of love through one of five ways:
  • Word of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Giving/Receiving of Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
Problems arises when we are in a relationship with someone who speaks a different love language than we do. 

For example. I primarily speak Quality Time. My husband mainly speaks Physical Touch. If each of us only showed love the way we preferred to receive love, we would not successfully communicate our affections for each other. 

To successfully communicate our love to each other we need to speak the same language: Quality Time to Quality Time, Physical Touch to Physical Touch. Neither of us needs to change our primary language we just need to recognize that we speak love differently and learn each others language.

What Language are You Speaking?

Now that we know we are talking different languages, we need to figure out what each of our family members speak. You can take a test to discover your love language and get clues on your child's here. It is encouraged that each adult, and teenagers, take their own test so that their true love language is discovered, not the perceived love language. 

Also, regarding our younger children (0-8): it is also important to note that like most things in their world, their love languages are in a state of flux, meaning it might change. It is important to keep checking back with them to make sure you are still speaking their preferred language.

Foreign Language Primer

Below is a brief description of each of the five love languages and some examples of how love is spoken in each language.

Words of Affirmation

People who speak this language feel loved through words, spoken or written. Kind words, in words and tone, are very important.  Ways to speak love to them include:

  • Writing them a love note.
  • Saying 'I Love You!" often.
  • Complimenting them to their face and bragging about them to others.

Quality Time

The love language of quality time is all about undivided attention. It is the gift of true and full presence. It looks like:
  • Getting down on your child's level and looking them in the eyes while talking and playing.
  • One-on-one dates/activities.
  • Sitting on the couch and talking without distraction.

Giving/Receiving Gifts

For people who speak the language of gifts, its not so much about the extravagance of the item but the fact that someone loved them enough to invest thought and maybe a little money in them. These people also appreciate the tangle reminder of affection. Gift giving love looks like:
  • A small token gift picked up for you when the two of you are apart.
  • A dandelion bouquet.
  • A special treat or present made by you.

Acts of Service

People who speak Acts of Service are firm believers in the phrase "actions speak louder than words." They show love and see love through services such as:
  • Helping with a chore, especially an undesirable one.
  • Making a special meal.
  • Putting socks in the laundry basket or dishes in the dishwasher.

Physical Touch

Appropriate physical connection is the way to this person's heart. What that looks like will depend on the exact relationship, but it can include:
  • Snuggling on the couch.
  • Holding hands.
  • A back rub.

Bound by Love

Eva Burrows, General of the Salvation Army from 1986-1993, said:
In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony. 
My hope for you, is that as you learn to speak each of your family members love languages frictions will ease, ties will bind, your family will find its unique rhythm and no one will have to ask or even think, "Do you love me?" again.

Kristen is a wife and mother who likes to pretend that she can cook, write and create. She is a little compulsive when it comes to cleaning and organizing and has an ever growing love of dark chocolate, tea and Jane Austen. But mostly, she is a woman trying to figure out how to live a life she can be proud of.