Dr Gary Chapman’s concept of ‘The 5 Love Languages’ provides a wonderful framework to top up our emotional bank accounts. Which of the five is your primary way of receiving? Knowing could make all the difference because it could be different from your primary way of giving. Let me explain through these examples in my own life.
(See also: How Mastering Three Languages Will Help Secure Your Preschooler’s Future Success)
1. Quality Time
Quality time is my dominant language — I am intentional about whom I spend my time with. I give my scarcest resource generously to those I care about the most, maybe because my parents did not spend much time with me when I was young.
Regardless, I treasure one-on-one time together. Activities can include catching up over a meal, shopping, exercising, listening to music and dancing, watching a show with discussions after…. Anything that involves meaningfully connecting fills my cup.
2. Receiving Gifts
However, my youngest delights in gifts! He asks for gifts so often, our house is cluttered with his toys! Gifts need not be expensive, because he is as happy receiving stickers as he is to give them. Reject his stickers and you detect a frown. I soon learnt that accepting his stickers joyfully means a lot to him, which felt ironic because I innately don’t like ‘things’.
Receiving gifts is the least important of the five love languages to me. Yes, receiving a physical gift may momentarily delight me. But because they do little to top me up emotionally, they often end up rehomed or tucked away and forgotten.
Yet it is the most common language many speak during celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, and yes, Mother’s Day. We scour shopping malls and e-commerce sites, searching for interesting gifts we hope will delight our recipient.
So, I am learning how to master this love language. Instead of feeling obligated to buy gifts, celebrations are now a welcome opportunity to show others how important they are to me. Their gift may be a product, a service, or an experience. What lights them up in this season of their life?
(See also: 25 Mother’s Day Gifts for Your Family’s MVP (Most Valuable Player))
3. Words of Affirmation
The third language may be your primary language, as it is for my eldest. She smiles when I encourage her, beams with confidence when I acknowledge her efforts, and lights up when I praise her in front of her siblings. Words really matter to her.
Knowing they mean so much to her, I make the effort to use them positively and avoid the negatives. Because a person’s love language is a double-edged sword that swings both ways. Harsh words and scolding her in public hurt her more than they would someone else whose first language is different.
She is sensitive to words, just like I am conscious of how I spend my time and my son is perceptive of gifts. A primary language is one that we are so good at that we easily pick up nuances that others miss. We may also assume it is the natural way others receive, because that is our instinct.
For example, insisting my daughter spend time with me without considering her primary language could result in misunderstandings because while that is how I receive, it may not be how she receives. Loving her — her way — means communicating a lot more kind, genuine, positive words.
(See also: 4 Ways you can Empower Your Daughters)
Armed with this insight, I was inspired to take time to learn the other love languages. While it seems ‘ma fan’ (troublesome in Mandarin), speaking an individual’s language means joyful communication! Do you know what each of your family members’ primary love language is?
4. Acts of Service
It blew me away the first time I finally learnt my mum’s primary love language. When I did, I cried. I wept for all the decades I spent resenting her. Through my growing-up years, I never felt she cared because she was rarely present for me. We were on completely different frequencies — I spoke ‘quality time’ and she spoke ‘acts of service’.
She would be upstairs in her room while I ate the meal she cooked, alone. I would bring back trophies and she would not seem proud of me. She would spend time teaching my brothers while I played Cinderella. My reluctant acts of service were dutiful, yet dour. Over time, we stopped communicating because neither understood the other’s language.
Her quiet actions shouted volumes I unfortunately could not hear. She spent two hours preparing a meal that I gobbled up in 10 minutes. She said I did not appreciate her cooking; I called her a miser because I would rather spend the two hours dining together outside. I was screaming for her physical presence — “Spend time with me!” my heart cried.
Yet she was giving through even more actions — washing my clothes, cleaning the house, sewing my torn jeans, preparing yet another uneaten breakfast — because that’s the way she expresses her love. Till today, she hasn’t changed. I’ve just learnt to understand ‘acts of service’.
(See also: House call Services in Singapore that Every Mum should know)
5. Physical Touch
Then there’s my middle child. I never understood her loud outbursts when someone accidentally bumped into her, or why she cuddled next to me on the couch. I reprimanded her for overreacting and told her I needed my space. Upon reflection, and the realisation of her love language, everything made sense!
Hugs, loving caresses, high fives, massages, and holding hands all point to someone who appreciates ‘physical touch’. She would link arms at the mall, ask for hand massages while watching a show, and is the only one of my five children who volunteers to give me regular massages too.
My inability to communicate in her primary love language meant I did not understand her sensitivity to touch. It meant I hurt her more than intended when I previously hit her palm with a ruler when she misbehaved. A child who speaks ‘physical touch’ hurts much deeper because of the outright violation of her love expression.
(See also: Bond with Baby Early by Communicating with Your Bump!)
Expand Your Vocabulary
Ignorance is not bliss.
Just like when learning new languages from Korean to French, theoretical knowledge of the five love languages will not change communications. Practice will! Here are a few ideas to help expand your vocabulary and embrace each of the five love languages. Remember, empathy is one of the foundations of Emotional Intelligence.
So, if your family member’s primary language is:
Physical Touch – Get comfortable with being intimate physically even if your initial instinct is to withdraw.
Acts of Service – Give them a break from their routine and ask them to be on the receiving end for once. Or join them in what they are doing!
Words of Affirmation – Write a list of affirming statements that we can refer to when we want to shout out something negative.
Receiving Gifts – Be generous with our expenditure around them, and express observable gratitude when receiving their gifts.
Quality Time – Set aside time regularly to do an activity they enjoy, whether one-on-one or in a group.
This coming Mother’s Day, listen to the love languages of the special mums in your life and gift them something that speaks to it. Of course, spending quality time together is always precious, especially if that’s her primary love language! So instead of (or along with) a meal or physical gift, why not give yourself or another mum a memorable and experiential Mother’s Day celebration?
(See also: 25 Mother’s Day Brunches, Afternoon Teas & Set Dinners to Treat Mum to in 2023)
Register for Roblox Time with Mum Space this Mother’s Day!
What better way to connect than to play the very games that hook our children? But instead of the digital version, the hottest Roblox games will be taking the form of physical stations for mothers and children to bond over. Choose to be in the same team, or pit yourselves against each other!
Mums also receive a goodie bag worth more than $200, containing The Naked Parent book, Holistic Way DHA Lutein and Glucosamine, PURE Fitness trial classes, and more. There are limited slots available, so do register your interest today!