It’s been a while since The Love Languages was published (40 years!). Have you ever read it? I wanted to take a fresh look at the love languages and try to interpret them through the lens of mindfulness.
It seems like the basis of the love languages is mindfulness. Choosing to think of our loved one’s preferences consciously requires us to get out of our heads long enough to see and support our partner, child, friend, etc., in a way that works for them.
Feeling love for others and knowing how to love them are two different things. So learning more about your loved ones and how to help them to feel loved – is vital (and something I’m learning right alongside you – I’m still in the trenches here, trying to figure it out!).
Okay, first, let’s take a look at some key ideas from The Love Languages, and then let’s investigate ways to bring mindfulness into them.
1. Words of affirmation – many ways to express them.
- “Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words.”
This interpretation of words of affirmation surprised me! I tend to think of words of affirmation as expressions like, “I appreciate you,” or “I’m so proud of you.”
In the example above saying, “I’m so impressed by how hard you’re working on your college applications,” or “You’re such a talented chef. I’m amazed at how well everything turns out when you’re in the kitchen,” are examples of how words of affirmation can make a difference to a loved one.
Behaving in this way also requires seeing your loved one where he is, stopping to pay attention, and tapping in with the right words.
- “I felt disappointed and hurt that you didn’t offer to help me this evening,” said with gentle directness, which can be an expression of love.
Having the ability to communicate thoughtfully in this way, to me, is very high level. Being able to separate from the reactionary response and instead choose to speak honestly and with kindness is key. Practicing this requires mindfulness mastery.
It’s much easier to get caught up in frustration or drama and to lose your center of groundedness. By speaking kindly and directly you are communicating with love.
- “When your spouse is angry and upset and lashing out words of heat, if you choose to be loving, you will not reciprocate with additional heat but with a soft voice.”
Ummm… this one is hard! But, I have to say that I can see how this is so true. This shift requires a step up – you’re able to see your loved ones and recognize that they are in a state of duress. And, you’re choosing not to take their behavior personally. Instead, you mindfully shift into a loving place and respond accordingly.
- “We can choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment.”
Mindfully choosing to forgive is an act of love. We all make mistakes. It’s easier to forgive than we sometimes think. It’s a choice.
KEY TAKEAWAYS: The ability to stay present – and provide comforting words without reacting is key.
Also, we can see our loved ones sometimes feeling unsure about themselves and in need of affirmation. We recognize that our words can act as a salve, moving our partners to a different place within themselves where they feel validated, understood, and loved.
2. Quality time – the most common love language.
- “Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each has the same hours in a day. ”
Am I making time for the people I care about? In that regard, this one is easy. First, I need to be aware of how I’m spending my time.
Often, in our crazy overbooked lives, the day can fly by without any meaningful time spent with a loved one. If someone in your life has “quality time” as their main love language, scheduling time with them matters.
“It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person. The activity in which we are both engaged is incidental. The important thing emotionally is that we are spending focused time with each other. The activity is a vehicle that creates the sense of togetherness.”
I love this one, and yet it can be easy to fall into the trap of distraction.
It’s not about spending time together, it’s about being present while we’re together doing an activity. We’ve all been there- spending the day with someone, yet realizing the entire time one of us was on our phones. If that happens, we didn’t connect at all.
Our loved one is actually looking for our attention. They want to connect.
One of my friends, a sage woman who has three daughters, once told me how each daughter enjoys doing very different things. Although she prefers some activities to others, she makes it a point to connect with each girl in the way she needs. She removes distractions and chooses to be mindfully present.
Key Takeaways: Trying to be flexible and going on that bike ride or working out together is important. Remember that it’s about spending time fully engaged with your loved one. Your loved one wants your attention because to her your attention equals love.
3. Gifts as a love language.
A gift given with thoughtful care and attention can touch someone’s heart.
- A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.”
It implies, “I thought of you when I saw this flower, and I picked it for you. You were on my mind.” Or, “This feather I found on my walk this morning reminded me of you. I wanted you to have it.”
- “Gifts may be purchased, found, or made.”
How true this is – especially when thinking of small children. Who doesn’t cherish those handmade birthday and mother’s day cards from your four-year-old? Maybe that’s why cards mean so much. The card itself is a gift, and my loved one took the time to make it for me.
- “They require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. But, if done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”
Giving a thoughtful gift tells your loved one, “I really know you. I know what you love and what would bring you joy. And I’ve taken the time to put this together for you. That’s how much I love you.”
Key Takeaways: The act of selecting that perfect gift or creating that homemade card can be an extension of your love – and the gift carries the energy you feel. Bringing loving energy into the process of gifting takes it to a higher level.
4. Acts of Service – a love language that shows you understand your partner.
- “By acts of service, I mean doing things you know your spouse would like you to do.”
What are the things your partner appreciates? What makes them feel loved? Doing these things requires that you really know your partner and do whatever it takes to bring them joy.
Well done acts of service convey the message: “I’m thinking of you, and know how much you value this – so I’m going to do this for you.”
- “The answer lies in the fact that they were speaking different dialects.”
Acts of service vary for different people. Some consider, for example, vacuuming that living room an act of service, while others think baking their favorite cake is a loving act of service. It’s easy to project our views on what acts of service we love, but we will miss the mark if we do that.
Taking the time to understand your partner’s view of what acts of service bring him joy is key to successfully speaking this love language.
Key Takeaway: We may perform acts of service throughout the day for our loved ones, but only specific actions resonate with them. Mindfully taking time to understand our loved one’s particular needs and preferences is key.
5. Physical touch – a meaningful love language.
- “A tender hug communicates love to any child, but it shouts love to the child whose primary love language is physical touch. The same is true of adults.”
In some ways, physical touch is the easiest to communicate with loved ones. We only have to know what they prefer. Does your child need a lot of hugs throughout the day? Or does he like a foot rub on a Sunday afternoon?
Some partners feel loved by holding hands while watching a movie or snuggling in bed at night. Tuning in and provided the physical touch they need is the key.
What are ways you can be sure to provide loving physical touch? Ask your partner to find out.
Key Takeaway: Understanding your loved one’s needs in terms of physical touch is important.
The most important lesson I learned from studying love languages is recognizing that each person is wired differently, and actively loving them requires stepping back, seeing them as they are, and loving them in a way that resonates.
Communicating love to our intimate loved ones requires us to be in a centered heart space. Of course, this is easier said than done. Daily life and its challenges have us pulled in many directions. To best be able to effectively communicate love we need to be in a state of alignment. When in this state, we’re able to love freely.
Takeaway: We need to recognize our own love language, particularly our self-love language, and keep our tank full so that we can love from a place of abundance and generosity. Knowing and loving ourselves is foundational to loving others – in whatever way they need.
Love languages may change over time. We are complicated multidimensional beings that are constantly evolving and changing. Loving others requires having awareness: like shining a soft light upon them that communicates: I see you. I’m here for you. I love you. And I’m going to show you how much I care in a way that you can feel my love. I will communicate with you through your love language.
Does it get any better than that?
Do you have any thoughts on love languages? Please share below! Also, please share with a friend who might enjoy this piece.