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Do People Love Differently?

The Love Language Series by Kayla McCullough

It is time to change the meaning of the word “love.” The word is mostly used according to the first definition given in the dictionary: “An intense feeling of deep affection.” In other words, love is what one feels. After years spent speaking with my parents, family, and friends struggling with their relationships, I am convinced of the partiality of the definition. Love should be seen not as a feeling but as an enacted emotion. To love is to feel and act lovingly.

Too many women have told me, bruises visible on their faces, hearts heavy in their hands, that the husbands who struck them love them. Since they see love as a feeling, the word hides the truth, which is that you do not love someone whom you repeatedly beat and abuse. You may have very strong feelings about them, you may even believe you cannot live without them, but you do not love them.

Between human beings, love is a relational word. Yes, you can love things that do not love you back—the sky or a mountain or a painting or the game of chess. But the love of other people is directional. There is a lover and a beloved—you don’t just love, but you love at someone. And real love is not only about the feelings of the lover; it is not egotism. It is when one person believes in another person and shows it.

After many years of experiencing the loss of relationships and providing advice to those in need, I am convinced that Gary Chapman’s theory, which suggests there are five basic love languages—five ways to express love emotionally, rings true. According to Chapman, each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved.

Through my years of failed relationships, I have learned one thing: Communicate your needs to your partner. As much as we think our partner should know us well enough to figure out what we want, they don't. Your partner is not a mind-reader.

As I’ve aged and wound my way through many failed relationships, I have come to understand that not everyone speaks the same language when it comes to love. According to "The Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate" by Gary Chapman, the five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

What this means is that how we display our love to our partner and how we receive their displays of love to us might be different. So different that it can create tension. As someone who was in a relationship with a person who spoke a different love language, I know how difficult it can be.

At the end of the day, as much as I tried to fight it, my disappointment seemed to always settle in the pit of my stomach. Was the guy I was dating that clueless, or was I not providing enough insight into what I needed? Much to my surprise, God provided me my answer when my 21st birthday came and went with no hint of appreciation.

No gift, no card, only a verbal 'happy birthday' and a Facebook wall post. I needed more. I needed symbols, signs. Call me materialistic, but I learned something about myself in counseling a year and a half later: my love language is my own, and not everyone else shares my viewpoint.

In childhood, my family showed love by gift-giving, and I carried this viewpoint into my dating life. My ex came from a different background. As the youngest of five kids, there wasn't enough money to go around for extravagant gifts. So, he learned from his mother that love was quality time spent together doing the things you both enjoy. Take those two different languages and toss them into a relationship uninformed, and you have a problem. I had all but forgotten about that lesson until my birthday rolled around, and I found myself once again speaking a different love language than my partner.

By speaking a different love language than my partner, I—in some ways—set us both up for failure. Through these lessons, I have found that I am not as verbally communicative as he would like, and he's not as much into the doing for, gift-gifting, and being together as I would like. So, what do you do when you and your partner are speaking different love languages?

The answer is simple: communicate to your significant other what you need to feel loved. While we can learn to speak the same love language, it doesn’t change the fact that our love language is what it is. With that in mind, you need to be cognizant of what it takes for both you and your significant other to feel love and adoration.


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