By: Olivia Hans
November 24th, 2023
Your dad shovels the driveway. Your roommate buys you a Starbucks coffee on a cold, snowy day. Your significant other hugs you when you feel down. There are many ways that people make others feel loved — and it’s the season of giving.
It’s in your mind, in commercials, in your home — the pathos is everywhere. The Hershey’s commercials sound their bells, and children tell Santa which Barbie to get them for Christmas. Maybe gifting a Barbie is within a specific child’s love language, but what about everyone else?
The five love languages, which are Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Receiving Gifts, are important for understanding the love you receive and give to others. This holiday season, it’s important to realize that each person gives and receives love differently.
Knowing and learning these helps strengthen people personally and relationally. “Learning to speak your partner’s love language can help your relationship grow, your love deepen, and your communication improve,” according to Health.com. For each love language, there are gift ideas unique to each person:
Quality Time focuses on spending undivided, uninterrupted time with a person or having goal-oriented, quality conversations. If anyone you love receives love best this way, look for activities that are unique to you and that other person this season — look at Christmas lights, have a “no phones” dinner date, or get concert tickets together to the person’s favorite band, as suggested by Lovepop.com.
Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation revolve around actively supporting, praising, or appreciating your partner’s efforts and goals. This is typically done through auditory compliments, letter writing, or pointing out things the person does well in their day-to-day life. Gifts for this type of language could be sending voice notes out of the blue, putting Post-It notes on their bathroom mirror, or sending poetry and quotes that made you think of them. Or, more focused on the season, giving your partner a book of quotes that made you think of them and reading them aloud.
Physical touch is the most common display of affection or at least seen most consistently in our society. This type of love language involves holding hands, kisses on cheeks and hugs when one is feeling sad. If your partner or the person you love has this love language, try to speak about mutually comfortable ways to care for them, especially if it isn’t your love language. Gifts could include a blanket or long-distance touch bracelets, as suggested by Lovepop.com.
Receiving gifts and gift-giving is commonly mistaken in society for being “materialistic” or other such terms — but receiving gifts does not mean that the person is so. On the contrary, gifts don’t have to be expensive to be worthwhile: stopping to get a roommate’s favorite snack on the way home, picking lavender for your aunt and grabbing a small bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s are all significant, selfless gifts. Keeping an eye out for trinkets or small things that have significance in a person’s life is the point of gift-giving — and sometimes, the littlest gift can mean the most.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service refers to individuals who feel best loved when someone does something for them, such as taking the trash out, making dinner or altogether relieving them from responsibility. The key, as stated by Health.com, is “to do things with a positive attitude.” A few ways that this can be done are to unload the dishwasher without being asked, clean the house, make a homemade meal for your caregiver or drive a grandparent to a place they need to go.
Now that the love languages are explained, one can begin to see the appeal of noticing and knowing not only others’ love languages, but their own.
Michigan State professor Bill Chopik has thoroughly studied the effects of the love languages — but he has a different take.
“One thing that we found is that we measure your preferences for giving and receiving different types of love, and we find that they are really highly correlated,” Chopik said. “If you want to be told you’re loved by your partner, you’re usually open to receiving gifts from them.”
“One thing we’ve tried to dispel is the fact that there are separate love languages at all,” Chopik said. “We’ve done some analyses to show that … all of these things are stuff that nice people do for their partners or friends. If you do one of these things, it’s likely that you’ll do another.”
In the lens of the study, the love languages are not a “be-all, end-all” proposition — they merely help those around you (and yourself) be a more aware and loving human being.
The love languages promote emotional intelligence, selfless behavior, meaningful interaction and more. And they may help someone learn more about themselves, too. Having that factor in relationships with family, friends, co-workers or partners allows people to deepen and enrich their lives. But take these ideas as a mere direction of how people prefer to be loved, even though they may like to receive every love language.
Keep in mind, as we head into the holiday season — it may be considered “the season of giving,” but one should remember to give love every day, not just in a particular season.
Here’s to the season of giving – meaningful giving.
Olivia Hans is a senior majoring in English and Professional and Public Writing, aspiring to develop, create, and organize ideas and concepts in specific settings. In her free time, she enjoys photography and watching Gilmore Girls. You can usually find her drinking coffee.