❤️how many ways can you say "i love you"? ❤️
the secret is: there are a LOT of ways, and many of them don’t involve words. you can communicate love, i.e. say “i love you”, in dozens of ways and for dozens of reasons.
whether we are communicating romantic love, family love, friendship love, professional admiration/love (i.e. you love working with somebody), even just love for life and humankind in general — we often don’t realize how many ways we can say it.
sometimes we say “i love you” over and over the same way, not realizing that the other person can’t hear us that way.
example: failing to communicate love
if my “love language” is words and i am texting and calling you to say that you’re great, you are doing good in life, i appreciate and enjoy you, etc… but if you don’t communicate love through words, you might see me as being obnoxious or clingy. “why is he calling me so much? i need space”
maybe your love language is gifts and you sent me some postcards and i thought it was cute but didn’t think much about it. then you think: “why hasn’t he sent me any gifts? i sent him those postcards, he could send me something back…”
i’m focused on words, you on gifts, and we never see each other saying “i love you”!
the 5 love languages
it turns out there are 5 main love languages according to one of the experts in this field, Gary Chapman:
(1) Words of Affirmation
(3) Acts of Service (fixing the car, cleaning the dishes, etc)
(4) Quality Time (focused one-on-one time where the other person has your full attention)
we all have a primary language, the one we use all the time, and then varying levels of comfort with the other four.
for example — some people touch everybody all the time. they put their hand on your shoulder to say hello, or they hug goodbye, or they’ll give you a literal pat on the back when they’re happy with you. as long as its appropriate, this is a very common way to communicate comfort and appreciation - if someone is ok touching you, and you’re ok / consenting to that mode of communication, it shows a level of safety and security that communicates love.
me though, i’m not a toucher. my family talks. we tell each other when we’re happy or pissed. we don’t yell, we just talk shit through. it’s a positive verbal environment. we don’t really touch each other that much.
so for me — something as simple as putting my hand on a friend’s shoulder while they talk about having a bad day, that is really unnatural. the love language of touch is one i don’t speak very well.
gifts are another one — i’m super minimalistic and non-materialistic by nature. i rarely think about receiving or giving things, i’ll ask people to donate to charity in my name for example if they want to give me a gift. but now i understand that some people mainly communicate love through small gifts — making some food for a friend, or sending a postcard, or buying a small object that the other person will appreciate like a guitar pick or a good book.
my story: learning to communicate love in new languages
in the last few days, i have done a lot of “i love you” talk through my other four languages:
(1) i cleaned up a mess that wasn’t mine at the house, just to be of service to my roommates
(2) i’ve used a little more touching in my communication - a hand on the shoulder while saying hi or bye.
(3) for quality time, i’ve had a few moments where i sat around with a friend for an extra half hour, “doing nothing,” even though i could’ve left earlier. just practicing giving more time to a friend as a form of saying i love them.
(4) gifts are fun! i drew a picture for one of my best friends this morning, just to try doing something nice.
with each of these examples, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. what’s cool is that i feel more love towards people as i do these things. that part alone makes it worth it. the bonus is that other people do seem to notice me, they can "hear" the love.
love languages in professional settings: an example
for example: my boss at work doesn’t seem to hear "words of affirmation". i can express admiration for his leadership all day by talking, but he wont notice.
it makes sense — his whole job is talk to dozens of people all day. he’s overloaded on words.
instead, i am focusing on acts of service — being a little more willing to cover shifts, or stay an extra hour, or just doing the annoying shit at work that technically isn’t my job.
if i can say “i love you” — or in a more chill way, “i appreciate you” — by taking out a heavy garbage bin that isn’t my responsibility, that’s cool. it’s an act of service.
this way of thinking turns some of those challenging personal relationships into of a fun game — how can I learn to communicate love with this person?
sidenote: i wish i didn’t have to say this, but i should be clear: not every relationship is salvageable. in the case of physical or emotional abuse, you should always try to get away from the situation ASAP.
if you have trouble communicating with others or feel a little isolated, a bit more of a “loner” than you want to be — please read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman! There are several editions depending on your life situation — singles, married, men, military, and teens. Grab whatever seems most relevant. I read the singles edition, personally.
out of these five options, what do you think your primary love language is?
(1) Words of Affirmation (2) Gifts (3) Acts of Service (4) Quality Time (5) Touch