There’s the right one, the worst one, and the three in between.
Gary Chapman had a good thing going when he introduced us to “love languages” — the way each of us best understands and prefers to receive love from others. But he dropped the ball a bit when he implied that each of the five — acts of service, gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation and quality time — were totally equal. Because they are not.
The right (and best) one:
It’s “Quality Time.” It’s the “right” one because time is the most valuable thing in life — the only thing we can never recreate or get back. As such, it’s also the most valuable thing someone can give you.
Who prefers quality time: intelligent people and/or people with good values. (Good job.)
These people also have to be givers rather than takers and value balanced relationships. Because quality time is pretty much the only “mutual” love language: you have to give it to get it.
At their worst: “quality time” lovers can become (or feel) clingy. But even as someone whose biggest deal-breaker is clinginess, I’ll happily tolerate a tag-along so long as he doesn’t whine or make other demands.
The worst one:
A lot of people think it’s “Gifts.” It’s not.
The worst love language is “Words of Affirmation.”
Who prefers words of affirmation: on the surface, these people seem pretty easy to please: a simple “thank you” will do. A compliment keeps them going for weeks. But that’s not all there is to it…
Reason #1: At the end of the day, people who need affirmation are extrinsically — rather than intrinsically — motivated. They rely on external rather than internal sources of approval, seek markers of reassurance, and probably feel motivated by accolades and/or status.
There’s a problem here with self-love. If they need others’ affirmation, they probably don’t give enough to themselves.
Furthermore, if love = affirmation, then in their mind they have to first do something to “earn” love. And there’s all kinds of fuckery there.
Reason #2: They’re givers — of course. But always with the expectation to get. “I just want a thank you — is that so hard?” No, on the surface, it’s not. What’s hard is that under the surface, everything they do “for us” is really about them, because they’re sitting there waiting for us to pat their back. It’s not pure and straight-forward like the other four, but becomes a tit-for-tat transaction; a gamification of gratification; a multi-layered act of “love” masking a need for keeping score. And that can toe the line of manipulation.
At their worst: they become a slippery slope of insecurity and codependence; a bottomless pit no amount of “words of affirmation” can actually fill. (The most unhealthy of whom really need to get their self-sufficient shit together.)
The other three:
Who prefers gifts: look, we love you, but y’all are, by fucking definition, materialistic. I know we’re not supposed to say that, and you like to go around with that qualifier of “but it doesn’t have to be expensive!” or “not just any gift! It has to be well thought-out!” And, like: fucking duh. But that shit’s still a material good.
On the upside: you guys are so delightfully easy! Both my mom and sister speak “gifts,” and they make Christmas shopping — and Christmas morning — the stuff of holiday dreams. I’ll take it.
These folks tend to be pretty conventional and straightforward in their relationships with others. Deep down, they’re probably a little bit unhappy, given that spending money on experiences make us happier than possessions. Also? They’re often women.
At their worst: obviously bottomless spend-pits. And/or goods-hoarders. Both my sister and mother love to surround themselves with stuff they call “sentimental,” which I heartlessly see as “meaningless shit.”
The easiest and most fun to love, seriously. I adore people who speak physical touch, because it is by far the simplest one to “replenish.” There’s no planning, no money to spend, and no real exertion of effort or time. I mean, shit, this barely requires any thought — you can do it spontaneously waiting in line, saying hello or goodbye, passing each other in the kitchen; they don’t give a fuck! Plus, there are no games, the rules never change, and you never have to scramble to come up with a new idea — a kiss is always a kiss; a hug is always a hug. A touch is a touch is a touch. It’s all so refreshing and easy.
Anybody who complains about their physical touch lover is a narrow-minded monster who doesn’t know how good they have it.
Who prefers physical touch: uncomplicated, straightforward, and consistent-as-fuck people.
At their worst: physically clingy? Maybe sex addicts? I’ve never experienced either. These people are pretty damn solid.
Acts of Service
I’m biased, because this is my secondary language, but here’s the way I see it:
Who prefers acts of service: at their core, utilitarians. These are people who value productivity, efficiency and function over floweriness, form, and romance. They’re probably independent — busy people, who rarely ask for or expect help even when, deep down, they could probably use it. (Because, consider this: if we expected or were accustomed to everyone always helping us out, we wouldn’t value it as deeply as we do. It’s a moment of vulnerability to let someone help and want to see it as love.) At the same time, we love feeling like our partner’s on our team.
There is also something interesting to be said for the fact that “acts of service” is by far the most arm’s-length and abstracted of the love languages, with the act being done not even “to” the lover in question, but often in another time and space altogether— the calling card, perhaps, of the avoidant lover.
At their worst: always expects others to do their bidding. Which just seems disingenuous (because that’s not “love.”) Likewise, may dodge displays of love directed at them, thereby keeping themselves — and lovers — abstracted from it.
I do not crave or need acts of service — they are purely optional; far from non-negotiable and definitely not the expected baseline that quality time is — but they are also the fastest way to get my attention; the biggest ROI and bang for the buck.
Maybe there are a lot of people who feel this way about their own love language — that they can take it or leave it; it’s just the thing they like most.
Or maybe their manifestation is totally different than how I see it, with good reason for it being the best.
Because, disclaimer: I’m not an expert.
And all types are equally of deserving love. Probably. (lol.)