Many moons ago, my husband, Matt, and I took a class on love languages in our church. We were taught that there are basically five love languages--quality time, touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts. Love languages are essentially the way people uniquely prefer to express and receive love. The premise is that if you know your mate's love language, you can better show love to them through that specific language, and fulfill their needs and desires to a higher level of satisfaction.
Matt and I both scored very low on gifts. Neither one of us really express love by gifting or need to feel love by receiving gifts. We don't want our birthdays or other special occasions forgotten, but we don't really care if the gift is some amazing, unique item each time. Nor do we care to be gifted things on a regular, random basis, either (I'm more of the school of thought of, "don't waste the money"). Buying each other things for our anniversary and birthdays is more a function of basic respect (it's not a huge deal). Last Valentine's Day in fact, I told Matt to please not buy me one thing (and I sincerely meant it). We had just paid for our daughter's wedding and the last thing I wanted was more jewelry I didn't need, flowers that were going to die in a week, or chocolate--especially when I was trying to lose a few Christmas cookie pounds.
We both had "quality time" as our #2 love language (which explains why we actually prefer to just be alone together. We've never been one of those couples who can't seem to spend a weekend night alone together or travel together without friends in tow. We actually prefer to "fly duo"). But Matt's highest love language was, "touch" (typical male) and mine was, "words of affirmation" (typical female). Suffice it to say my husband wasn't shocked that "words" were my top love language (no one who knows me would be shocked by that)! Likewise, upon hearing that he had scored the highest possible total for the "touch" category, I said, "Color me surprised." Thank God we at least have the same secondary love language.
It cracks me up how God could put two people together who are so vastly different. I think it is a huge testament to God's faithfulness in marriage because He somehow teaches us how to step outside of ourselves and be giving and selfless, even when we don't always "get" that particular need of our partner. Matt probably speaks at a ratio of 25 to 100 words when compared to my verbosity. Yet he somehow manages to muster up the right words--and that is really all it takes with me. I don't need verbosity in return, just quality words. Likewise, my "touch" total wasn't off the charts. But I know my "touch" score would be much higher today than it was when we took this class 15 years ago (I was teaching full-time then, bringing home tons of work every evening, and we had a 9-year old--not the most conducive season of life for "touchy-feely," if you get my drift). So though Matt prefers action to words and I prefer words, we have since grown to find ourselves more in the middle and we actually appreciate and need the opposing love languages that we've learned to work on for each other. Matt has grown to value and appreciate receiving encouraging and loving words (if I stopped giving them, he'd sure notice! He enjoys being raved upon--who doesn't?)! I've learned that touch is an endorphin-releasing, powerful tool for stress relief, bonding and just overall happiness. I can soften him up immediately and make him feel loved just by giving him a lotion foot massage (and I can pretty much get anything I want when I do this! Not that I use it for manipulative purposes...okay, maybe I have a few times in 25 years)! Much to Matt's chagrin, I've learned his secret that back rubs are where it's at--they'll cure what ails you! It amazes me how God has sort of melded us into learning to almost prefer each other's love languages. When you practice selfless love, you begin to see the benefits of it and realize all five of the love languages are pretty darn great and pretty darn important. If even one is lacking, your mate will notice, and it will become an issue. Might as well get good at all of them just to be safe.
I also like the idea of realizing that everyone around us has a predisposition for a primary and secondary love language--not just our mate. We can probably figure out how our close family and friends would prefer to be loved by the way they tend to show us love. Then we can show them the love they desire and need more easily. When I finally clued-in to the fact that one of my friends was a huge "gift" person, I stepped it up. No more random, so-so gifts. I went for the good stuff, and saw her level of appreciation and the value she realized she had in my life skyrocket. Instead of thinking, "How lame. She needs to get over herself and quit expecting people to buy her unique and pricey things," I thought, "She is one of the best friends of my life, and she loves to give. She is a giver. This is how she loves on me, and I should love on her the same way." This idea is kind of an ironic but equally true twist to, "The Golden Rule"--we do have to treat and love people like we want to be treated and loved, but we also have to love them like they want to be loved.