Love Languages Lost

I am a fan of Gary Chapman’s concept of 5 Love Languages.  His theory is that each person perceives and expresses love in one or more of five ways.  And they are:

-Words of affirmation

-Acts of service

-Receiving (or, I would add, giving) gifts

-Quality time

-Physical touch.

These are all equally weighted.  How it works is:  if I am a “Words of Affirmation,” person and you tell me I’m the love of your life, you’ve just hit one out of the park.

But if I’m a “Receiving gifts,” and all I get is an “I love you,” I’m gonna be thinking yeah, right, ya cheapskate, put yer money where yer mouth is.

Let me give you a personal example.  I am an “Acts of Service” person.  If you mow my lawn before I get home from what you know has been a hellish day at work, I will fall at your feet in worship  and drag us both into a much-needed shower, and what happens after that, happens.  The main thing is that you threw me into a typhoon of passion by mowing my lawn.  Got it?  OK.

Let’s hope the mower of the lawn is a “Physical Touch” type, and also a “Words of Affirmation” type, because if so, he would be so, SO rewarded and feel all warm and gooshy and happy down to the tips of his yummy toes that helped him mow my lawn.

If he’s a “Receiving Gifts” type, then after you get done in the shower and the bed you’d better hop it down to the mall and buy him a Rolex.  That will not only make him very happy, but it will be incentive for next time.  On second thought, maybe not the Rolex this time, because what will you give him next time he does something heroic for you?  The Queen Mary?  Some of us don’t have that kind of income.  So just take the dude to the mall, see what twinkles at him (bad choice of words), take him out to dinner and while he is absorbed in snaking pieces of crab meat out  with a teeny tiny fork, you slip out and buy the prezzie, and surprise him when you get back home.  (N.B. hope you bought enough lube.)

Dandy.  I learned about these love languages too late, after everything with the love of my life had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

We loved each other.  I mean, not just love.  We adored each other.  The sun and moon only went round and round because of our love.  We were stupidly, ridiculously, take off your clothes and dance naked in the kitchen crazy in love with each other.  And we were both in our fifties, fer cryin’ out loud.  That’s not supposed to happen.  But it did  And that’s, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, past tense.

It was the breakdown in Love Languages that tore us apart.

He loved verbal affirmations of love.  He would read me the Song of Solomon, eyes dripping with worship.  I have to say that although I was touched, I was slightly embarrassed by the sheer effusiveness of the whole affair.  I am a bit on the taciturn side, so I couldn’t help but conjure images of Don Quixote (reading) and Dulcinea (waiting for it to be over so we could go back to bed.)

I’m sure I hurt him by not showering him with similar paeans to all his wonderful attributes.  But I’m just not that kinda girl.

I soon figured out that what you’re supposed to do is figure out what your partner’s “love language” is and the GROW yourself so that you can give them what they need.  Fine and dandy.  But that takes time.  And in the meantime our relationship started looking like–you remember that Simpsons episode where it was Marge’s birthday and Homer gave her this super-extra-special-fine custom-made bowling ball, saying that he wanted her to come bowling with him every night so he gave her her very own ball?  And Marge is all like, “Homeeeeey, you didn’t have to…you’re so sweet…smoooooooch…..and then she sticks her fingers in the holes and realizes that they don’t fit her!!!  “Homey,” she says a little testily, “this ball doesn’t fit my hand.”

“Oooooh,” says Homer, “Let me see if it fits mine.”  And of course it does, because he really bought it for himself, not her.

At this point we want to pound Homer into a grease spot on the bowling alley floor, but really, these things happen all the time.  Homer was a Receiving Gifts type.  The gift he wanted to receive was a new bowling ball.  So since there was a gift-giving opportunity at hand, he capitalized on it to accomplish his purpose:  He both gave and got the ball on the same day!  Brilliant!

Yes, A. and I had just that kind of mis-matched Love Languages relationship.  I am an Acts of Service, as I’ve said before, and he is a Receiving Gifts.  I’m also Quality Time.  Big time.

Unfortunately, he had a divorced family that had extensive grounds with acres of lawn, shrubs, flower beds, whatnot; and he was unable to separate from his former marital task of groundskeeping even though he was divorced and on the cusp of being married to me.  While his former wife owned ten acres of groomed landscape that any country yay-hoo could have climbed on the lawn tractor and taken care of, oooooh no, it had to be my A.  And that meant that by the time he got home from his physically demanding job plus grooming the ancestral lands, there was no energy left over for helping me rip, hack, chop, poison, and tear out by the roots 7 acres of Muliflora Rose that had overgrown the old apple orchard I had recently purchased.  So every evening my Andy would come in and flop himself on the couch, and I stood there feeling like someone else had had my orgasm.  Here I was, cheated out of my Acts of Service and Quality Time.  Drat it all!

On the other side of the fence, I had to be constantly on my guard for small boxes.  This time it was his grandfather’s pocket watch, which he had had all cleaned up and engraved to me.  Another time it was an estate platinum engagement ring with a ridiculously beautiful diamond in it.  I only found out later that he was financing this and several other extravagant purchases by selling off his nest-egg of small land holdings.  He was a Receiving Gifts, and since gifts have never meant the sun and the moon to me, I would never have thought of buying him extravagant baubles.  So he did it himself, and gave them to me; and I’m certain that no matter how hard I tried to be overcome with, uh, whatever you get overwhelmed with when somebody gives you a very significant and expensive gift you didn’t ask for, I’m sure it wasn’t the response that would have filled that particular hole in his heart.

I realize that this was a reversal of the Homer-bowling ball-Marge transaction.  What was really going on was that A. was saying to me, “With my last dollar I am giving you these things of beauty and value.”  But what he really wanted was for me to give him things of beauty and value.

So I gave him a horse.  Doh.


Leave a comment


  1. I know this is not funny – but I oh so get what you are saying. I wish I had learned about the 5 Languages of Love when I was in my 20’s. It certainly would have saved me several decades of pain. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  September 20, 2013

    Very interesting concept. I think my hubby and I are the same w/words and quality time. Which is why I think we’re a good fit

  3. That is a really good book. My wife and I both read it at the same time, but I think we were too late. The spark between us was never rekindled.

  4. My mum told be about that book years ago and it is so true. Sorry you missed it when you needed it 😦

    • Thanks….maybe I needed to learn that lesson in that way….besides, it takes two….and he had a hard time buying that. Everything came out the way it was supposed to! How great that your mum turned you on to it! Hope it serves you well.

  5. Interesting reflection on the love languages. I like them too. They go at least some way towards simplifying a very complex and organic matter – relationships!

  6. Whoa, Nelly – a horse? Well, that is an expensive and beautiful thing.

    My hubby and I took that quiz awhile back – independently – and found that we have nearly identical preferences for expressions of love. We scored the same for gifts and service – not that important to us, but service more than gifts. We scored almost the same – pretty high – for physical touch and quality time. He wants affirmations a little more than I do, but we’re forever telling each other how much we care, so I think that base gets covered.

    It’s just one piece of what makes us great together. The fact that we natively want the same kinds of attention made it easy for us to make one another happy from day one.

  7. DeeDee, that’s lovely. May you live together in peace and harmony, with only GOOD surprises, for many many years. About the horse: it’s amazing what the hypomanic mind can cook up :-/

  8. Laura. This was a transformative post for me. I never knew any of this and it makes so much sense. I now understand my son’s constant need for gifts. Your examples were hilarious (I love Homer) and so poignant. Thank you so much for sharing this. You have given me a lot to think about.

    • Wow, thank you! I’m ecstatic that this helps you. It turned on the lights for me too, and now I try to put it into use whenever I see a pattern sticking out. Like, I just returned from an extended visit to Jerusalem, and I spent a lot of time considering what to bring back for the different members of my family. All gifts, yes, but one person loves jewelry because she just likes expensive gifts, especially things to wear; another person loves things he can use in his work as a musician performer; my son the chef only wants exotic spices to cook with; and what could I get my ailing aged father? Israeli chocolate. So it’s like, none of them are alike in their language of gifts that represent love to them. Hmm.

      • How wonderful that you put this to constructive use! I asked my husband what his love language was and he looked at me like I was crazy. So I read him your post, and he said, “Ahh, Garin, yes I see that.” No answer on my question to him, I don’t think he knows…LOL. Mine is definitely service and auditory. KNOW THYSELF….


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