Love is universal, yet each individual experiences it differently and expresses love in a unique way. How people are most comfortable expressing love would be their love language. How the language of love is communicated or demonstrated is as unique as the design of a snowflake. It can be as simple as the touch of a hand or as industrious as a symphony. The language of love could be in the lines of a poem or in the brushstrokes of a work of art. We all have a love language—some of us speak more than one; some are fluent—and others, not so much. This may be the first time you’ve thought about it, but I’d wager the people in your life could tell you all about your unique love language.
For some, love is demonstrated by gestures meant to make people feel cared for. You must have met someone who good-naturedly fusses over everyone. This is the person (let’s call her Nona), who insists on feeding every single person who crosses her threshold. Upon entering, any guest would be declared too skinny and pushed into sharing a meal, where all gather around a table. Make no mistake—this isn’t about food. This feeding everyone is a demonstration of what Nona considers comfort. A full belly is a comfort, and making a comfortable home filled with ample food is an expression of love. This behavior also isn’t about nutrition. This isn’t take-out. Welcoming people into the fold and sharing food around a table invites conversation and gazing into happy faces. The meal is just a practical bonus.
Some people express their love through words—spoken, sung or written. This expression of love lies in the desire to convey how they feel, and in that effort, crumpled balls of paper and empty packages of guitar strings will stack up as this person strives to be understood. This person writes songs or searches for the perfect piece of poetry that best expresses his feelings. This love language is demonstrated not only in the finished product, but in the effort. If a man brings a book of poetry to a picnic, words are his love language. If a woman makes a playlist of songs that remind her of her love, words are her love language.
The love language of some lies in their touch. Holding hands, hugging, back massages, foot rubs, cuddles—it matters not whether it is part of a romance or between friends or between a child and parent—these people’s touch is their love language. Studies even show that the endorphin level of a dog matches its owner when it is being petted, which speaks to happiness and bonding. My youngest used to say that I was addicted to touching because all she had to do was sit next to me and flop onto my lap, and I’d rub her back, tickle her skin or pet her hair. Can’t say she was wrong.
Some people speak their love language softly or in a dialect that is misunderstood. For instance, I once had a conversation with a young woman who was disappointed by the Valentine’s Day gift from her husband. Part of her complaint was that he had spent two whole days out and about shopping with disappointing results. He told her how he wanted to buy cut flowers but knew she couldn’t bear them dying in the vase, so he didn’t. He thought of fancy chocolates, but knew she was watching her figure, so he passed on that idea too. The tale continued with example after example of what he might have bought, except none of it fit her sensibilities. In the end, he presented her with a flowering potted plant in her favorite color with the idea that she could put it in the ground and enjoy its blossoms for years to come. It was a simple gift, to be sure. What she failed to see was that the gift was actually in the search itself. He searched for two days in the effort to find the perfect offering. The careful consideration of her feelings was the gift. By his actions, he was saying that he sees her and hears her and wants her to be happy—so much so that he would rather come home with something simple than knowingly buy the wrong gift.
Sometimes, the language of love is expressed by including someone. It’s a compliment for the people you love to want your company. It says, ‘I am happiest with you by my side.’ Whether it’s an invitation by your teenager to watch a movie together, or a friend insisting that a gathering wouldn’t be the same without you, it speaks of love. Personally, when my husband wants to hold hands and stroll through a car show or an outdoor expo, I’m there. Likewise, he will accompany me (with a smile) to a bookstore or art gallery. The reality is that his interest in art is about the same as my interest in camouflage, but that is beside the point. It’s the company and feeling wanted and loved that makes it special.
Love is an unavoidable part of the human experience and it is not going anywhere. Despite the mixed messages the world can present, love remains at the core of what is special and pure and good in humanity. It is powerful enough to inspire wars and to heal a broken heart. It can stop you in your tracks, hit like a lightning bolt or sweep you off your feet—sometimes all at once. It is also soft enough to sneak into your heart when you least expect it. Love is found in the face of a sleeping child, the warmth of a puppy, the touch of a hand in yours. Love is in the first blush of finding ‘the one,’ and in every crease found on your spouse’s face from the many years gone by.
Whether your love cup overflows or is a hollow, empty vessel greatly affects your quality of life. It’s simple: The more love in your life, the happier and more fulfilled you will be. So, learn the language of love in all its complexity. Listen for the nuanced ways the language is spoken or demonstrated and look for the compliment in being included. You may stumble. You may struggle, but ultimately, if you become fluent in the language of love, you win. You win big.