The Language of Love


Or perhaps more specifically, The Five Love Languages.

“At the heart of mankind’s existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another.”

Gary Chapman

Apparently research suggests that the feeling of being “in love” lasts for an average of two years. Most of you know the feeling, euphoria, single focus, obsessiveness… Then the work begins. The title of a wonderful book I read many years ago captures this perfectly “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.”

Maybe the work begins sooner than you think.

One of the fundamentals of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), irrespective of the primary focus of this post is Rapport. Except by coercive, manipulative means, the only way we can truly influence another is by being in rapport with them. Being in rapport with someone requires you to pay attention to how the other person communicates. Like everything in life, some people do this effortlessly and don’t require courses or textbooks. However it is almost certain they do this by having had exceptional role models, whether parents, siblings or teachers. Simply because we live in a world that emphasises difference, competition and these days, through the truly appalling identity politics nonsense, rapport has taken a backseat.

Politically we are probably miles apart, but I do admire Douglas Murray. I watched a video of him and Andrew Doyle in conversation about the contemporary plague of Wokeness. There was so much to admire, but the thing that truly resonated with me, and with the audience they were speaking to, was his comment about forgiveness. Social justice warriors, woke zealots and the misguided set off to destroy the careers of anyone guilty of even a “micro-aggression.”Aren’t we all capable of saying something which offends someone else? If we do that in a deliberate, hurtful and unacceptable way then bring on the condemnation. However the targets of the zealots don’t get away so easily. What Murray was saying is we are all capable of speaking “isms” unintentionally and if so can we not ever be forgiven? A voice of compassion and sanity.

It must be obvious therefore that waiting, poised for someone to “speak out of turn” is the antithesis of rapport. Back to the post.

Chapman’s book, which I would strongly recommend, is the result of his 20 years of experience as a marriage guidance counsellor. It is not a book just focused on marriage as I’ve already said; it is about relationships and ultimately how we get along with each other in this beautiful but testing world.

Chapman talks about the “love tank.” Our (emotional) love tank is filled by an intimate, but it may also be filled by our parents, our friends, companion animals and even audiences. It surely doesn’t need much of an explanation. If our parents love us and are able to show it our childhood will be mostly experienced with a full tank. We will also learn how to communicate with other people and probably be intuitively aware of Chapman’s five languages. When in a conscious relationship, each party will be served by the other filling their love tank. Again it doesn’t take a genius to realise when one or both of the parties have a low or empty love tank too often the relationship may be in peril. Of course again it may be obvious that we are not naturally aware (given the caveat previously referred to) of how our partner “speaks”. For the rest of the article I’m going to refer to intimate relationships but you can apply these principles to any kind of relationship, especially parenting.

It shouldn’t need saying but it surely does. Love is both a choice and an action. Before, during and after the euphoria even simple things like buying your partner flowers is a choice. Being unaware of their emotional needs is a choice. Persisting with your approach when it clearly isn’t working is also a choice.

If I had one reason for writing this post apart from wishing to promote a very useful and effective set of ideas, it is that for people to get on with each other. The introduction of insights and intelligence is often all it needs. Many of us, especially men, think we are all good drivers, good lovers and good conversationalists by default. There is not a single person on the planet, no-one, who is “naturally” good at everything. And to repeat those who do excel have often, mostly in fact, access to brilliant role models. Reflect on your own role models and avoid any condemnation as they were doing their best. I’ll steer clear of the temptation of doing a hit piece on the truly unimaginably appalling contemporary role models of popular culture. You know who I mean. You can’t escape them.

And again, before you roll your eyes in exasperation, all of us do make “wrong” choices. By applying the lessons from this post guarantees nothing except improved communications with others. However if you have a reasonable degree of compatibility and love each other enough, this is for you.

You will all know what it feels like to have a “full tank.” Or even a nearly full one. Cue the song The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Speaking personally, if I have that, I feel I could conquer the world. As I reflect on what is emerging in this piece a stark realisation has just popped up. How many people in this world are running on empty? If love is the greatest (healing) force in the universe, is the global epidemic of chronic illness any surprise? We human beings are incredibly resilient. We can run on empty for years, “topping ourselves up” with hyperactivity, distractions and maybe worst of all rationalisations that lives of quiet desperation (not mine guv) are OK. And maybe it is another reason why we may become desperate for someone to merely partly fill our love tank because that is all we deserve. Or we may just give up.

Chapman’s five languages:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

The first one, words of affirmation goes beyond saying “I love you.” It is about complimenting and acknowledging your partner for who they are (self-worth) and what they do (self-esteem). Value them verbally for their being in the world and being your partner. Value them for what they do.

Quality time should be obvious, and again it is more than a trip to the cinema. Included in the quality time must be quality conversations, quality communication and all kinds of intimacy.

Receiving gifts? Yes it includes the obvious, flowers, presents of all kinds, weekends away et cetera. The thoughtful amongst you will realise the gifts needn’t be expensive. And do I need to say it? Yes you do need to be grateful and graceful if your partner enjoys giving you gifts.

For some people, even the simplest act like washing dishes, hanging out washing or changing a nappy are welcome acts of service. And isn’t it easy to ignore or play down these apparently mundane tasks when it comes to the language of love?

I’m sure the last one, physical touch, requires the least comment. The only caveat here is that sexual intimacy may not be as significant or influential as hugs, holding hands or caressing.

If you want to go any deeper than I am doing here buy the book. We all have a primary love language and a secondary one. And many of us will “speak” our own preferences to our partners. In other words if we favour words of affirmation, that is the most likely way in which we will “speak” to our partner. Isn’t it obvious if our partner’s preference is for physical touch or any of the other three (quality time, receiving gifts or acts of service) then the chances are we will not be filling their love tank.

How do you discover your primary language? Reflect, consider how you respond or have responded to other people or- God forbid- ask them.

So, probably the third statement of the bl****** obvious, find out which love language (s) your partner favours and use it/them. And if they don’t know yours, the same applies.

The world needs rapport. You need to be in rapport with yourself, in rapport with others and in rapport with all positive unseen forces which operate on you.

One of the most significant things I have learned over many years is that there is far more we share with others than that which divides us. Oneness. And I have learned that behaviours in others which are mostly trivial but can be irritating or annoying are a million miles away from forgiveness and unconditional love.

It has been said 1000 times but it can never be said enough, love is all you need, and as my current exemplar is the poet Rumi, let him close this post:

“Love so needs to love that it will endure almost anything, even abuse, just to flicker for a moment. But the sky’s mouth is kind, its song will never hurt you, for I sing those words.”

Thank you David Miskimin for this recommendation. You walk your talk. Namaste. Jack Stewart, Monday, 20 January 2020. No music here, sing your own song!

P.S. Why the book picture above which isn’t Chapman’s? The late, lamented Stephen Levine is a master of this genre.

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