By Dr. Paula Bloom
My husband’s 97-year-old grandmother passed away last week. We flew up to the funeral for the day. I’m so glad we decided to bring our kids. Funerals are difficult and sad but, honestly, what better first funeral for a 7- and 9-year-old to attend? Their great-grandmother lived a long, healthy life. She had diabetes for many years but managed it very well. She was sharp as a tack. We last saw her in July; it was wonderful for them to see that aging does not have to mean suffering.
My husband’s grandmother was a relatively quiet woman. She was a behind the scenes type person. During the funeral, her nieces and nephews shared about how her home was the place that everyone felt at home. She was a wonderful cook. If you needed a new dress, she would take you to the fabric store, pick a pattern, and, by the end of the day, you’d have your dress. She was more about actions than words.
As I sat and listened to stories of her life, I was struck by all the different ways that people show love. A wonderful book on the subject is The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The 5 “languages” he identifies (taken from http://www.5lovelanguages.com) are:
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
As you can see people are different in how they want to have love shown to them and how they might tend to show love. You can see how difficulties can arise when couples don’t realize that one person’s emptying the dishwasher is just as much a sign of love as someone else’s speaking of the words “I love you.”
I’m grateful that I got to know Hilda. She was a quiet woman who showed her love throughActs of Service. As someone who is more of a Words of Affirmation I dedicate this blog post to Hilda. Rest in Peace.