Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Love Languages

Perhaps you've heard about the concept of Love Languages. My basic understanding is that there are 5 types of love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Acts of Service
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch

The theory is that we all have a dominant (if not two) love language that we speak, but that it may be a different language than the one that our loved ones speak. Example: Say that a husband's main love language is "Words of Affirmation" and he tells his wife over and over again how much he appreciates her and why. He thinks he's showing her love on a daily basis. Meanwhile, say the wife's love language is "Acts of Service" and she goes out of her way to do things like the dishes or the laundry. Conclusion: Misunderstanding and both people feeling unloved. She is showing him she loves him, but he hasn't heard the words. Meanwhile, he's telling her he loves her but she hasn't seen any action.

To be honest I haven't put much emphasis on the concept of Love Languages within a marriage. My marriage with Michael has always just been EASY and whenever I try to put labels to the way we express our love, I come up short. I can think of a couple examples that fit into various categories, but certainly not one generalization. To be quite honest, whenever I try to apply the concept to my relationship with Michael, I end up going in circles and nearly come to the conclusion that it's all BS. However, I have some friends who feel strongly that this concept has helped their marriages, and I can see the potential in applying the theory.

And maybe it's for that reason that the thought has been on my mind when observing our children. I struggle with coming up with the magic solution to sibling rivalry - finding that balance between treating them like they're different people (because they are) and yet treating them equally (because they are capable of doing anything that the other does). Perhaps the best way to distinguish between siblings is to be certain their Love Languages have been met? So I've been in observation mode for a few months, trying to figure out which language each girl speaks.

To the best of my ability here are my conclusions...

From my understanding, everyone experiences love and expresses love in all 5 languages, so I want to point out that this is true for Ellie too. Sometimes when Ellie is the most upset, it's a good snuggle that seems to help her recover (Physical Touch). If someone else is feeling down or blue, she immediately starts thinking of kind things she can do for the person (Acts of Service). She certainly looks forward to our monthly date weekends as they have become the highlight of our life together as a family (Quality Time). It's tough to pick the top two, when these other examples still exist, but after giving it some serious thought, I believe that Ellie's top two Love Languages are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Receiving Gifts

Words of Affirmation - Whenever I give her a compliment, tell her I appreciated something that she did or even ask her for her opinion on something important, she beams with pride. She gets this shy smile on her face and it's very apparent that she appreciates what she heard. She often gives people little notes expressing her love for them and has no problem coming up with examples and explanations of why she appreciates those around her.

Receiving Gifts - Even at a young age, she has brought Daddy and me gifts from any means within her reach. Whether it be a rock from the playground or a picture she drew, she has always given gifts abundantly. She still does. She's always giving little letters of appreciation to her friends and to Addie. She's a hoarder too. She keeps EVERYTHING because it's all "very special to me." When a gift I gave her broke, she was nearly inconsolable about it, until I promised that I would replace it.

Like Ellie, Addie experiences and expresses love in all 5 Love Languages as well. She appreciates kind gestures when she's down, and she is always excited to be as helpful as possible (Acts of Service). If she is given a gift, she'll love it and squeeze it and give a little happy dance. If you're lucky, she might even say something along the lines of "It's the best ______ ever!" (Receiving Gifts). If you give Addie a compliment or verbalize appreciation, she'll do her little skippy dance and give a hug in return for the kind words (Words of Affirmation). That being said, I think it was easier to pick the top two for Addie after observing her INITIAL reaction to things. As such, I believe Addie's top two Love Languages are:
1. Quality Time
2. Physical Touch

Quality Time - There is nothing she appreciates more than when I spend a few minutes (or an hour) playing with her in her room. Whether it be a tea party, fairies, animals or even with her stuffies, it doesn't matter. What is very apparent to me is that if she gets this one-on-one play time, she's happy. If she doesn't then her bucket runs dry much quicker. She also appreciates her one-on-one dates with Mommy and Daddy, but does so in a different way than Ellie. She seems to understand that it's not about super cool, super exciting activities. She's just as happy staying home and playing, or even having afternoon tea at a restaurant, as she is having a date at a more exciting location like an amusement park.

Physical Touch - Even at a young age, she has prided herself in the big squeezes she gives. She is never able to leave her school without giving her friends a hug and if she can't do that, then she breaks down in tears. Her initial solution to many tense situations or confrontation is to give a wordless hug. And you know what? Sometimes that's exactly what is needed. Her initial reaction is to SHOW that she's sorry through her touch. EXPRESSING she's sorry with words is almost always secondary.

My hope in doing this exercise is not to put labels on our children, though the further along in parenting I get, the more I feel that's simply impossible to avoid. My hope is that knowing what speaks to their hearts the most will help us avoid typical sibling rivalry issues. I've been very fortunate to have them get along as well as they do, and I believe that we do a pretty good job of making them BOTH feel loved, but this gives me a guideline to how I can start treating them DIFFERENTLY but in a way that is still FAIR.

I would love to hear your thoughts...

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