Generally speaking, each person has one primary love language, one way that really lets you know that people value you and love you and care about you. In addition to your primary language, there is often a secondary language. How close in your first and second languages are in "fluency" varies from person to person. Typically, this is also the way that you show love to the people around you, and that is where the challenge lies. James' primary language could be words of affirmation, but if Mary Margaret's is acts of service, compliments and positive reinforcement and encouraging words will be nice, but they won't mean as much as if James were to voluntarily clean the house for her. Learning the love languages cannot only help us communicate what we need to feel loved and fulfilled but can also help us to learn how to best love the people around us.
That being said, let's take a brief moment to look at each of them, shall we?
My sister #1's primary love language is quality time. To feel loved, she enjoys having people spend time with her and do things together. There doesn't have to be any talking involved, though that is nice too. Simply taking the time to spend some one on one time is enough. For someone who speaks the language of Quality Time, it is essential that one on one time really does mean one on one. Going out together and still texting friends doesn't cut it. Cuddling while watching a movie, but then checking Facebook or your e-mail on the phone, won't fulfill the Quality Time need either. Spend time with that person, give them your undivided attention, and they will feel loved.
Physical touch is definitely my youngest brother's primary love language. I don't think the kid goes more than ten minutes without running up to my mom, myself or one of my other siblings and giving them a hug or a kiss on the cheek. When he's talking to you, he usually has to be touching your arm. Of course, he absolutely loves it when he gets a hug, or you cuddle with him. Speaking Physical Touch doesn't mean you have to be constantly hugged, but it does mean that any touch speaks volumes. Just a simple touch on the shoulder as you walk by, a light kiss on the cheek, touching or rubbing the back while you are talking can go a long way. And of course, deeper expressions of physical touch will go even further.
Words of Affirmation
Sister #2 speaks the love language of Words of Affirmation. For a while we didn't realize this, because she can tend to be one of the more sharp tongued people in the family. Once she told us that though, and we read more about the love languages, it made sense that she would lash out verbally when she didn't feel enough love. It's not that she wasn't getting any, but generally speaking verbal affirmation just isn't a big thing with us, and that is the language she responds to the most strongly. To make a Words of Affirmation feel that they are loved, try to get into the habit of praising them. Share compliments on their appearance, their talents, their accomplishments. Encourage them in a positive way. Want bonus points? Affirm them in front of their friends or co-workers or anyone else.
Acts of Service
This is the language that my mom speaks, and we found that out the hard way because... as far as we've figured out she is the only one in our family who speaks that language. When someone you love speaks a different primary language than you, it is so important to try and learn to speak that language as well. The key to Acts of Service is that they have to be completely voluntary. If someone who speaks Acts of Service asks you to please wash the dishes, and you cheerfully respond "Of course honey!" and go do it, yes that will mean a lot to them. Yet it will mean even more if you were to see that the dishes needed to be washed, it's time for the dinner to start getting prepared and you do those things without having to be asked. Voluntarily doing a chore for that person will make them feel loved as well. Actions speak louder than words.
My primary love language is Gift Giving. Nothing is more sure to bring a smile to my face than an unexpected gift, or tangible token of affection. With this language, it can be easy to feel like you are materialistic. The gift has to be something you can touch, that you can hold and keep, and feeling guilt over my love language is something that I have struggled with. Gift Giving as your primary love language is nothing to be ashamed of though. A gift can be so many different things.... to show love to a Gift Giver, a surprise little "hey, I saw this and knew you would love it so I just had to get it for you", or a handmade object created during a craft session can mean worlds. A gift can also be something like a handwritten letter, picking a flower off of a bush, an extra copy of a book that you had that you thought they might like. The possibilities are endless... because it's not the actual gift, it's the fact that you took the time to buy or create something, and you thought of the Gift Giver when you did that will make a Gift Giver feel love.
I am by no means an expert on the love languages (though I did read The Five Love Languages, The Five Love Languages for Children, The Five Love Languages for Teens and The Five Love Languages for Singles). I find them absolutely fascinating, and I've found that they really help in my own relationships. If I've piqued your interest and you want to learn more... well, as you can see there are four books you can read. Possibly even a fifth, but I can't remember what demographic that love language book was for. In the mean time while you are getting your hands on a book, the 5 Love Languages website does give you a little quest to help you figure out what language you speak.
I hope this post was of interest and some help to anyone who has been struggling to come up with the perfect idea for a Valentine's Day gift for their sweetheart. Now go out there and share the love!