Don’t worry, “Gifts” people. We love you.
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. And they mean different things.
i.e., the right (and best) love language.
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: people with their values in the right place — i.e., people who understand the true pricelessness and value of time and attention. They also have to 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 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.
At their worst: they abstract themselves from intimacy through acts. May dodge displays of love directed at them, thereby keeping themselves — and lovers — “safely” distanced from it. “Acts of service” is the most arm’s-length 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.
Who prefers gifts: first of all, we love you. So let’s just be honest here: y’all are 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. And it’s okay! Because:
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 true holiday dreams. I’ll take it.
These folks tend to be straightforward and conventional in their relationships. They probably fight the fact that experiences make us happier than possessions, but we’re happy to go along with that. Because they’re so easy!
At their worst: they are the most expensive to “love on,” so might become money-pits. Also, possible goods-hoarders. Not, like, hoarder hoarders (not always, anyway), but people who like stuff. And keeping stuff around. Both my sister and mother love to surround themselves with stuff they call “sentimental,” which I heartlessly see as “shit.”
Words of Affirmation
Who prefers words of affirmation: givers. but v. fragile ones.
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…
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.
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. And this is really hard for others to love. Because while they say (and want to believe) that “a simple thank you will do!”, it can sometimes feel as though each word of reassurance is too quickly depleted.