Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2016/ Love Languages

Love Languages

My latest mundane epiphany occurred a few days ago, while I was washing dishes. All of a sudden, I understood that I express and receive affection through acts of service.

Some context is in order. A fellow named Gary Chapman came up the idea of five "love languages", which describe how people show love to each other, and what the interpret as loving gestures in return. He wrote some books on the subject, which I have not read. However, the Internet attributes the following five love languages to him:

I had heard the term "Five Love Languages" before, but I had not paid them much attention. Then Ferrett Steinmetz wrote an essay about love languages, and how relating to other people whose primary love language differs from your own feels scripted. That blog post stuck in my subconsious, and while I was doing dishes it sprang to the front of my mind.

I am finding the concepts and their associated lexical handles valuable. Admittedly, I am uncomfortable with the terminology "love language", since I consider myself largely incapable of giving or receiving love. But occasionally I do feel appreciation and gratitude for others, and the concepts apply in those situations too.

I am astonished at how well the lens of "acts of service" explains my behaviour and emotions:

Of course, acts of service are not an ideal way of expressing affection. I rarely express my wishes for others directly, and then I expect them to surprise me by doing exactly the things I was hoping for. This requires other people to read my mind, and is thus irrational. Sometimes others will do things that I wanted to do myself; then I get grumpy. Sometimes I do things for others and irritate them instead of pleasing them. Sometimes other people feel embarrassed when I help them. The distinction between "acts of service" and "receiving gifts" seems treacherously fuzzy. I am pretty sure that I want my acts of service acknowledged, which means I am less interested in doing things to help others than I am in receiving praise.

Even presuming that acts of service are my primary love language, most of the others also apply to me. I feel abandoned when people promise me their presence and stand me up, or when they are in my physical presence but ignore me in favour of their phones. As documented earlier, I crave physical touch, but this is strong and dangerous magic. I feel embarrassed and anxious when people praise me openly, but I appreciate acknowledgement of my effort. About the only love language that feels alien to me is "receiving gifts"; my brain has been poisoned with anti-consumerist sentiment, and I react poorly to being given stuff I neither need nor want.

The more I consider love languages the more I suspect that they are incomplete. I find friendly intellectual stimulation invigorating, but that does not seem to map to the existing love languages well. Similarly, I value comedy: witty banter, improvisation, even gentle ribbing (until such ribbing touches sore spots and people get hurt). How about expressing oneself openly and completely? I tend to open myself more to people I admire and trust, and feel appreciation when others open themselves to me. These things seem like love languages too, but I do not see how they fit into the framework.

Maybe my next mundane epiphany will be to understand that not everybody speaks the same love languages I do. This was the whole point of Ferrett's essay, but that lesson has not sunk in yet.