What is health? It’s more than just a state of high functioning within your body, it’s also a state of high functioning in your mental, emotional, and social realms. Unless all of those aspects are doing well, you have decreased health. That’s why I so enjoy talking to people about their relationships, because human beings are incredibly varied and complex, and there’s always something new to learn about how we get along with others.
One of the systems of self-knowledge that has made a big impact on my life, and my understanding of myself, is Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. He originally wrote a book oriented towards married people, but he’s written many follow ups, including 5 Love Languages of Singles, of Teenagers, of Kids, and even 5 Love Languages of God (the author tends to cite examples from his life as a priest, although the distinctions are not religious in any way, so the ideas are appropriate for atheists and agnostics as well).
What Gary explains is that all of us express and receive love in 5 different ways, and each of us has a preference. There are generally one or two that are our top Love Languages. When we experience demonstrations of love in that or those arenas, we feel loved. If someone demonstrates love for us in a love language that’s unimportant to us, we won’t feel loved. This can be a source of conflict or suffering in our lives, whether it’s a relationship with a spouse, family member, friend, or coworker.
The 5 love languages are:
- Physical Touch
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
By learning my top 2 love languages, I’ve been able to notice how I generally want to offer certain loving acts. If I push myself out of my “comfort zone” and demonstrate my care with acts that aren’t instinctual for me, I can more effectively relate to people like my wife, my employees, and even my patients. Also, by learning about all the love languages, I’ve been able to notice when someone is telling me about a frustrating experience they’ve had and I can often see how they are missing the love that someone is trying to give them.
I therefore highly recommend taking Gary Chapman’s quiz and learning more about these distinctions.