This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The 5 Love Languages


Gary Chapman has written:
The Five Love Languages:  How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
The Five Love Languages of Children,
The Five Love Languages of Teenagers,
The Five Love Languages for Singles.
The Five Love Languages Men's Edition:  The Secret to Love that Lasts
The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People
and many more

The 5 Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Everyone has a primary love language. This is how you know/ feel that people love you.

You could tell someone that you love them until you are blue in the face, but if their love language is physical touch and you rarely touch them - they will not believe you love them!!

In my opinion, in all relationships, knowing that person's love language (and your own) keeps you from getting frustrated and relationships from being miserable. Unfortunately,  it's not always totally obvious what someone's love language is, and some people are "bilingual." (although usually with a preference for one over the other).

Don't forget that just because something is not spoken in a person's primary love language does not mean it is not appreciated!  
For example, even if Gifts is not your primary love language (in fact it is the last love language on both Hubby and my list!), that doesn't mean we don't LIKE gifts - they tell us that someone is thinking about us and making an effort to make us happy!

The Love Languages in Daily Living
I use the love languages daily.  Not just to help me understand my husband and family and express my love to them, but with every person with whom I come into contact.  With my employees, it helped to know how to best motivate and reward their achievements.  With friends, I can figure out how best to express my appreciation or provide support.

One more area knowing my love language helps me with?  ME!  It may sound selfish.  It kind of feels selfish, but that old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, ” is true!

When my love tank is drained I have nothing left to give, not to my family, my friends, or my church. I become depressed and shut down.  When I have better insight into myself and find ways to fill my love tank, I am able to be a generous person.  I am also able to give my time, energy and affection to people who aren’t able to give it back (like my attachment-challenged children).

There are ways to explore and discover others', and your own, love language.

Discovering Your Love Language
( and reading the book(s) really helps, but even then, it can still be hard to tell what people's love languages are (especially if their love tank is drained and has been for a long time).

Some languages are obvious, like Bear's (Quality Time), because they demand it. Others not so much.

Sometimes how a person expresses their love to others is a good clue, but this may be altered by life experiences.

For example, my mom speaks Acts of Service all the time, but her love language is actually Words of Affirmation. I don't know if she was trained to do Acts of Service, it’s definitely a generational thing, or, more likely, she learned that if she does things for others they are more likely to praise her and give her the Words of Affirmation that she needs. Because I was raised by someone who speaks Acts of Service, this tends to be my go to as well when I'm trying to express my love.
Another example is trauma. A child raised without hearing their love language or learn that their love language causes pain (Imagine having the language Physical Touch as a physically abused child or Words of Affirmation as a verbally abused or neglected child)

Using the Love Languages to Understand Each Other
The Five Love Languages is often a required book for engaged couples getting premarital counseling {a really good idea by the way!}. I highly recommend the book to help couples better understand each other's expectations, before they get frustrated and resentful that their partner is not or is no longer meeting their needs.

People in the "courting" stage of a relationship tend to go out of the way to speak many love languages -- bringing little gifts like flowers or candy (Gifts), doing things for the other - like bringing him brownies or washing her car (Acts of Service), sending love notes and paying compliments (Words of Affirmation), going out of his/ her way to spend time together (Quality Time), hugging and kissing (Physical Touch)....
After marriage,  people tend to drop a lot of these little things and stick to their primary language never realizing that their partner feels deceived that they misrepresented their love.

Young Children and Love Languages
Young children (under age 8) need ALL FIVE languages and most do not have a recognizable primary love language until they are early elementary age.

Note - Many kids of trauma are developmentally (emotionally/ socially) a lot younger than their chronological age so not having a well defined love language can include them, even if they are physically teenagers. (Therapeutic Parenting Based on Developmental Age)
Also, trauma can cloud or mask a child's love language - especially when their love tank is empty.

 Young children needing all 5 languages makes a lot of sense if you think about it --babies and toddlers especially need ALL of these things done for them (holding and cuddling (Physical Touch), doing things for them - like feeding them and changing diapers (Acts of Service), giving them what they need like clothing and developmentally appropriate toys (Gifts), cooing and talking to them in a loving way (Words of Affirmation), being with them all the time (Quality Time).

Determining Your Child's Love Language:
  • Try completely removing one of the love languages and seeing if it makes a difference (like not touch the child for a few days). 
  • Try flooding the child with one language one and see if the kid blooms (this would be my preference - especially while we're still trying to get some of our kids to attach!). My kids would love treats and presents for a week! (Gifts)
  • Listen to what they complain about. Do they say you never spend time with them? (Quality Time) Say you're always criticizing them? (Words of Affirmation?) 

Teens and Love Languages
There is a 5 love languages book for teens as well.  It has some practical advice on how to love your teens without embarrassing them (too much).  My adopted teens are better served by the version of the book for children because developmentally they are much younger than their chronological years.

Why Are Love Languages Important?
Finding out someone's love language is essential! It affects peoples' self-esteem if they feel no one loves them (and if you're not speaking their language then they usually feel you "don't love them!"). Post about what happens when you're not speaking someone's love language.

If your "love tank" is empty then you are unable to give love or really even function well. You need love!

It’s not fair to expect one person, even a partner,  to be the only one to fill your love tank!
 I try to remember it’s not fair to expect my spouse to be the only one to fill my love tank – especially because we don't have the same love language.

It's important for me to remember that because many of my kids are attachment disordered, they are not able to fill my love tank. In fact, dealing with them drains it.

Dealing with children with special needs (and in my opinion, being a teenager counts as special needs!) is draining for both you and your partner usually requiring even more love tank filling. That's a lot to expect from another person or persons whose emotional reserves are equally drained.

What Happens When Your Love Love Language Is Not Spoken

No one in my family speaks my language (Words of Affirmation).

For many years I was a resentful, bitter person, unable to emotionally support or provide for anyone, not even my emotionally healthy, neurotypical biokids because this is a tough, draining life and I was getting no emotional support. My love tank was empty - I had no emotional reserves.

Hubby was equally drained and yet somehow I expected my husband to telepathically know what I needed and magically be able to give it to me.

Hubby is an introvert who grew up in a family that didn’t talk much, especially not compliments. They are also not a physically affectionate family.  His love language is Quality Time, and poor him, I have serious abandonment issues that cause me to be naturally distant (plus insomnia keeps me from going to bed at the same time as he does).

By learning each other’s love languages, not only do we get more of what we need, but we also have a better understanding of why the other person isn’t giving us what we need, and appreciate even more their efforts to do so.

Using Your Love Language to Find Rewarding Work
Knowing my love language helps me in choosing how I want to help others.  If I find ways to contribute that also help me get what I need (Words of Affirmation) then everyone benefits.

My husband is an introvert with a love language of Quality Time – having him organize a group of volunteers would be a bad match for him, but put him in the back of a pumpkin truck (for the annual church Pumpkin Patch) and let him and Ponito shift pumpkins for 8 hours and he’s happy as a clam.

I’m an extroverted Words of Affirmation with a STRONG secondary language of Physical Touch.  I’ve loved working at Vacation Bible School, usually in Recreation!  I choose to regularly attend an adult Sunday school class rather than church because I get a chance to develop personal relationships and give and receive hugs.  For me, a formal church service doesn’t provide me with what I need.

Using Love Languages with Friends, Coworkers, and Others
Knowing a person's love language helps me figure out how best to express my appreciation, offer encouragement, and/ or provide support. I've generally learned the languages pretty well and recognize most people's language. I try to praise them/ motivate them specifically based on that language. 

If I have no clue (which is often the case with people I don't know personally, like those I meet/ work with online), then I try to remember to vary how I motivate. Or at least try to remember to say thank you a lot (I've found that people I know through social media, like Facebook, tend to be more focused on words - Words of Affirmation). Ironically, even though Words of Affirmation is my own love language, I still forget to do it.

I find Love Languages especially useful when trying to motivate people (including myself). It makes my efforts quicker and more efficient/ effective. 

The owner of a company I worked for used money and years of service pins (Gifts) as the sole motivator for staff. I tried to show her that some staff were more motivated by, and responded better to, a public "Attaboy" or certificate/ award they could post in their workspace (Words of Affirmation), a literal pat on the back or fist bump (Physical Touch), having someone personally make them a cake or clean up their workspace for them (Acts of Service)... although bonuses were always appreciated, of course!

 Some ideas:
Words of Affirmation - Saying thank you! Particularly with specific praise for what they did.
Ex. "I really appreciate how much time you took calmly responding to the comment of that irate (crazy) customer/group member."
"Wow! The effort you put into designing that great graphic really paid off."
Gifts - Gift certificates, some small token (I've given out little plastic trophies they can display in their workspace), custom avatars or badges.
Acts of Service - Taking something off their plate (doing some coding for them, cleaning their workspace, offering to pick something up for them when you're making a lunch run).
Physical Touch - pat on the back, high fives, fist bumps. For us girls, hugs (Yes, I know that was sexist!). Taking them rock climbing, ax throwing, paintballing...
Quality Time - just hanging out. Inviting them to lunch or coffee. Staying off your phone when you're with them.

What is your primary love language?  
What makes you feel most loved by your partner?  

Discovering Your Love Language;

1. What does your partner do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply?

     The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language.

2. What have you most often requested of your mate?  (or wished you had the courage to ask for?)

     The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your partner?

     Your method of expressing love may be an indication that would also make you feel loved.
If you are regularly doing Acts of Service for others, this may be your love language. If you are consistently, verbally affirming people, then Words of Affirmation is likely your love language.

4.  What do you complain about most often?

     When you say to your spouse, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I did not initiate it,” you may be revealing that Physical Touch is your love language. 
When your spouse goes on a business trip and you say, “You didn’t bring me anything?” you are indicating that receiving Gifts is your language. 
The statement, “We don’t ever spend time together,” indicates the love language of Quality Time

Your complaints reveal your inner desires. (If you have difficulty remembering what you complain about most often, I suggest that you ask your spouse. Chances are they will know.)

5.  What do you request most often?

     If you are saying “Will you give me a back rub?” you are asking for Physical Touch. “
Do you think we could get a weekend away this month?” is a request for Quality Time. “
Would it be possible for you to mow the grass this afternoon?” expresses your desire for Acts of Service.


Important to Remember:
You may have scored certain ones of the love languages more highly than others, but do not dismiss those other languages as insignificant. Your spouse may express love in those ways, and it will be helpful to you to understand this about him/her.

In the same way, it will benefit your partner to know your love language and express his/her affection for you in ways that you interpret as love. Every time you or your significant other speak each other's language, you score emotional points with one another. Of course, this isn't a game with a scorecard! The payoff of speaking each other's love language is a greater sense of connection. This translates into better communication, increased understanding, and, ultimately, improved romance.

If your husband has not already done so, encourage him to take The Love Languages Profile for Husbands. Discuss your respective love languages, and use this insight to improve your marriage!

The First Love Language:  Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation - This is being told you are doing a good job at something, hearing "I love you," validation and praise, little love notes, even wolf whistles...

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 and negative comments can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.

Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love.  They are best expressed as straightforward statements of affirmation.  The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love.  But when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate.

Encouraging words means “to inspire courage.”  All of us have areas in which we feel insecure.  We often lack courage, and that lack of courage can hinder us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do.  The latent potential within your partner in his or her areas of insecurity await your encouraging words.  Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your mate’s perspective.  We must first learn what is important to our partner.  Only then can we give encouragement.

Kind words. If we are to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words.  Sometimes our voices are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another.  Your partner will usually interpret your message based on tone of voice, not the words you use.

Words of forgiveness. Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs.  Love doesn’t bring up past failures.  None of us is perfect.  In a relationship, we do not always do the best or right thing.  We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our partner.  We cannot erase the past.  We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong.  We can ask forgiveness and try to act differently in the future.  If you have been wronged by your
partner and they have confessed and requested forgiveness, then you have a choice. You can extend justice or forgiveness.  If you choose forgiveness, intimacy can be restored.  Forgiveness is the way of love.  We can choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday.  Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment.  It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender.

Humble words. Love makes requests, not demands.  While dating or in marriage, you and your mate are equal adult partners.  We are not perfect to be sure.  If we are to develop an intimate relationship, we need to know each other’s desires.  The way we express those desires, however, is all-important.  If they come across as demands, we have erased the possibility of intimacy and will drive our partner away.  If, however, we make known our needs and desires as requests, we are giving guidance, not ultimatums.  When you make a request of your partner, you are affirming his or her worth and abilities.  A request introduces the element of choice.  Your mate may choose to respond to your request or to deny it because love is always a choice.  Your partner may comply with a demand, but it is not an expression of love.  A request creates the
possibility for an expression of love, whereas a demand suffocates that possibility.

Some tips: 

  • Give indirect words of affirmation about your partner to others when s/he is not present.  
  • Affirm your mate in front of others.  
  • Consider an experiment - write out a list of positive traits behaviors of your partner.  For one week suspend all criticisms.  Instead, give daily verbal appreciation of their positive traits and behaviors.

Words of Affirmation
• Let me express myself without agreeing or punishing
• Let me know about your day
• Tell me about when you feel proud of me and why
• Tell me how you feel, your intimate thoughts
• Tell me when you like the way I look.
• Talk directly to me about your feelings – don’t clam up
• Compliment me in front of others
• Tell me I’m doing a good job.
• Tell me something you appreciate about me.
• Say you’re sorry.
• Picture something positive about our future together.

Getting Your Own Needs Met
Because I am the only Words of Affirmation speaker in the house, it is not easy for me to get the words of love that I need to function. My family has no emotional reserves to share. I have learned to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank.

  • They Can Be Taught! - I have learned to encourage my family and others to speak in my language (although sometimes this backfires when my kids decide to deliberately not speak my language).
  • With Hubby, I used the "This is Where You Say" Technique. I started with a striking a pose and saying, "This is where you say, 'Wow! Sweetheart, you look so hot in that outfit! Rrowrr! Did I ever tell you how lucky I am to be your husband?!'" Then I asked for him to repeat what I said.
  • After a while, I didn't have to tell him what to say. Sometimes I'd prod with, "This is where you say...", and pause. I don't fill in the blank. Eventually I just give them a "Mom look," and they know what I expect. (Of course they don't always comply!)
  • With my husband, I now just walk up to him and strike a pose, and he gives me a compliment. At first, it hurt my feelings that he didn't just automatically meet my need for Words of Affirmation, and it felt like it didn't mean as much because I had to prompt him. I finally realized that wasn't fair. Just like our kids, he needed to be taught how to speak my language.
  • Volunteer Work - Choosing volunteer work that meets my love language is another vital way to help fill my bucket. For those of us who speak Words of Affirmation, volunteer work is usually great, because those organizing the volunteers tend to give lots of positive affirmation - it's a great way to keep volunteers coming back!
  • Positive Work Environment - A positive work environment makes a big difference in filling your bucket instead of draining it. check out the Fish! Philosophy. I highly recommend it.
  • Sharing Things You're Good At - This is one reason I blog and admin a Facebook group!! I love hearing from others that I'm doing a good job and helping others.
  • Ask!
    Seen posted on a friend's Facebook wall -
    "If you're reading this, even if we barely talk, comment a *positive* memory of me. (After, you may want to make this your status because you'd be surprised the memories people hold of you.)"
  • Compliments File - Document the great things people say about you to read later.
  • Avoiding Toxic People and Environments - For a Words of Affirmation person, criticism feels like you're being stabbed. One harsh critique from a troll on my blog can upset me for days. If at all possible, I avoid people and situations that don't make me feel good about myself. 

The Second Love Language:  Quality Time

Quality Time - this is spending time together. {This is Bear big time! If you are not spending time with him, listening to him talk, then you do not love him!} You don't even have to talk, this can be just hanging out, going places together, looking into each other's eyes...

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this 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. Quality time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.

Togetherness. Togetherness has to do with focus, giving your mate your undivided attention (not sitting on the couch watching TV together).  It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person.  The activity in which we are both engaged is incidental, it is simply a vehicle that creates a sense of togetherness.

Quality Conversation.  Sympathetic dialogue involves shared experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context.  Quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing - drawing out your partner’s thoughts, listening sympathetically, asking questions (who, what, how, where, gentle why) with a genuine desire to understand.

  • Maintain eye contact when your mate is talking.
  • Don’t listen to your partner and do something else at the same time.
  • Listen for feelings (glad, mad, sad, bad or afraid).
  • Observe your partner’s body language.
  • Refuse to interrupt.

Learning to Talk.  Self-revelation does not come easy for some of us.  Awareness and expression of our emotions (glad, mad, sad, bad or afraid) are essential for a healthy relationship.  Emotions are neither good not bad.  They are simply our psychological responses to the events of life.  In each of life’s events, we have emotions, thoughts, desires, and eventually actions.  It is the expression of this process that we call self-expression.

Personality Types. How we communicate has a great deal to do with our personality type and gender.
Are you a “Dead Sea” or a “Babbling Brook?”  Men and women tend to have basic differences in how and what they communicate, and how they problem solve.  Become aware of your own and your partner’s personality style and shape your communication accordingly.

Quality Activities.  These can include anything in which one or both of you have an interest.  The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it.  The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling “My partner cares for me.  S/he was willing to do something with me that I enjoy, and did it with a positive attitude.”  The essential ingredients in a quality activity are: at least one of you
wants to do it, the other is willing to do it, both of you know why you are doing it - to express love by being together.

Does having quality activities mean careful planning?  Yes.  Does it mean we have to give up some individual activities?  Perhaps.  Does it mean we have to do some things we don’t particularly enjoy?  Certainly.  Is it worth it?  Without a doubt.

Some Tips.  

  • Get your “Daily Minimum Requirement” - establish a daily sharing time in which each of you talks about three things that happened that day and how you feel about them.  
  • Consider taking a personality test (Myers-Briggs, 16 PF, Taylor-Johnson) and then discussing the implications of your personality types in your relationship.  Read “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” together and discuss each chapter.

Quality Time
  • Come home for dinner together
  • Plan time to be alone with me
  • Focus on what I’m saying – rather than being distracted when I talk
  • Read a relationship book with me
  • Make weekend plans with me
  • Be protective of our time together
Getting Your Own Needs Met
My family has little to no emotional reserves to share, so I have learned it is necessary to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank.
  • They Can Be Taught! - It is possible to train family and others to speak your language (although sometimes this can backfire if (like my kids) your kids decide to deliberately not speak your language).
  • Plan date nights (with your significant other, with one child at a time, with the guys...), invite others to do things together  that you and/ or they enjoy, set aside time so that you can focus your full attention, I bought a loveseat (instead of a couch or individual recliners) so that when Hubby and I are watching TV, we're close to each other.
  • Volunteer Work - Choosing volunteer work that meets your love language is another vital way to help fill your bucket. If your love language is Quality Time, look for volunteer work that allows you to work one on one or in small groups, instead of something like stuffing envelopes.  Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Stephens Ministry, Meals on Wheels...
  • Avoid distractions - Quality time means just that, quality time. Distractions like mobile devices can make you feel like you're talking to a brick wall. Put your phone away when with others and encourage others to do the same. {Personally, I don't allow cell phones at the dinner table.}
  • Avoid Toxic People and Environments - Whenever possible, avoid people and situations that drain your emotional reserves and make you feel distanced/ isolated from others. 

The Third Love Language:  Receiving Gifts

Gifts - this is the love language that Hubby and I do not have at all! It is, however, my dad’s love language. Not that everyone doesn't like getting gifts, but this person has a special place in their heart for the gift. It is a symbol of that person's love for them. They can tell you where they got it, who gave it to them and under what circumstances. They usually keep it in a special place and take great care of it. Think “The Last Doll” in The Little Princess movie/book.

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. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

Gift giving.  Gift giving is a universal part of the love relationship, it is a fundamental expression of love that transcends cultural barriers.  You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift, and the gift itself is a symbol of that thought.  It doesn’t matter whether it costs money, gifts may be purchased, found, or made.

It's the Thought That Counts.  What is important is that you thought of your partner.  And it is not just the thought implanted in the mind that counts, but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as an expression of love.

The Gift of Self.  The gift of self (or presence) is an intangible gift that can speak more loudly than a gift that can be held in one’s hand.  Being there when your partner needs you is a priceless gift, your body becomes the symbol of your love.

Some Tips.

  • Make a list of all the gifts your partner has expressed excitement about receiving through the years (given by you or others).  
  • Recruit the help of family members who know your mate.  
  • Don’t wait for a special occasion.  
  • If you are a “penny-pincher” you may resist spending money on gifts.  Remember you don’t have to spend a lot and the money you do spend is well invested.

Giving / Receiving Gifts
  • Flowers
  • Small surprise gifts
  • Buy me my favorite magazine
Getting Your Own Needs Met
My family has little to no emotional reserves to share, so I have learned it is necessary to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank.

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of suggestions for filling your tank if your love language is Gifts.  For both Hubby and I, Gifts is always at the bottom of the list for us. We like getting gifts, but it doesn't really fill our buckets. So if you have any ideas for this section, please leave it in the comments!

  • They Can Be Taught! - It is possible to train family and others to speak your language (although sometimes this can backfire if kids decide to deliberately not speak your language). Let them know how much you appreciate little gifts. 
  • Let others know what kinds of things you like. Christmas lists are super helpful for friends and family, who usually want you to feel loved, but aren't sure what you will like. Yes, it's the thought that counts, but for most people it means more if that thought/ gift is pretty close to something they like. 
  • Sometimes leaving little gifts for others can lead by example.  
  • Volunteer Work - Choosing volunteer work that meets your love language is another vital way to help fill your tank. Things like the Trauma Mama Gift Swap can feel very rewarding if your love language is Gifts. Getting to help other trauma mamas by finding the "perfect gift," and knowing they are going out of their way to do the same for you.
  • Splurge a Little - There's no reason you can't buy flowers for yourself or indulge in a rare treat or luxury item. This is a form of Self-Care and entirely necessary to fill your bucket.
  • Avoid Toxic People and Environments - Whenever possible, avoid people and situations that drain your emotional reserves and make you feel guilty for filling your love tank.  

The Fourth Love Language:  Acts of Service

Acts of Service - this is how my Mom expresses love (although it is not her love language). This is doing things for others (making a meal, knitting a sweater, getting up and getting a drink for someone, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, filling their car with gas, taking out the trash...

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. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

 “Serve one another in love.”(Galatians 5:13).  Acts of Service means doing things you know your partner would like you to do.  You seek to please them by serving, which requires thought, planning, time, effort, and energy.  But requests for service cannot be demands, manipulation by guilt or coercion by fear.

There are three principles to keep in mind:

  1. Remember that what we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after marriage. 
  2. Before marriage, we are carried along by the force of the “in-love” obsession.  After marriage, we revert to being the people we were before we “fell in love.” Love is a choice and cannot be coerced.  Each of us must decide daily to love or not to love our partners.  If we choose to love, then expressing it in the way in which our partner requests will make our love most effective emotionally. Your partner’s criticisms about your behavior provide you with the clearest clue to his/her primary love language.  People tend to criticize their mate most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.
  3. Overcoming Stereotypes.  Learning the love language of acts of service will require some to reexamine their stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives.  A willingness to examine and change stereotypes is necessary in order to express love more effectively.  Remember, there are no rewards for maintaining stereotypes.  But there are tremendous benefits to meeting the emotional needs of your partner.

Some Tips.

  • Make a list of three or four things you would like your partner to help with.  Then exchange your lists.  Don’t add any more than 1 request per month.  Remember, your partner can only choose to do what is on the list, it cannot be demanded.  
  • This love language of service has different dialects.  The acts of service that you are willing to do may not be the ones your mate needs most from you.

Acts of Service

  • Groom yourself in preparing for time together
  • Do one of my regular household chores
  • Do tasks around the home
Getting Your Own Needs Met
Because I am the only Words of Affirmation speaker in the house, it is not easy for me to get the words of love that I need to function. My family has no emotional reserves to share. I have learned to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank.

  • They Can Be Taught! - I have learned to encourage my family and others to speak in my language (although sometimes this backfires when my kids decide to deliberately not speak my language).
  • Chore Charts and Honey Do Lists! I may have to bribe and/or threaten my family to do them, but it lessens the Little Red Hen feelings.

  • Co-Op/ Round Robin/ Swap Groups/ Carpooling/ Barter - get into groups that exchange services. It doesn't have to be a formal thing. You and a neighbor could swap watching each other's children so you have a date night or run errands in exchange for you doing the same for them or some other service.
  • Volunteer Work - Choosing volunteer work that meets my love language is another vital way to help fill my bucket. For those who speak Acts of Service, volunteer work is usually great, because doing acts of service for others can be highly fulfilling. Plus, you're often around people with the same love language which can lead to new, satisfying relationships. 
  • Positive Work Environment - A positive work environment makes a big difference in filling your bucket instead of draining it.
  • Hire someone! It would be nice to have someone I love volunteer to do these things for me, but getting things off my to-do list is still satisfying. Plus the added bonus of not being resentful of my loved ones for not doing it!
  • Ask!
    Our Sunday School class helped us out when we were struggling with keeping up with lawn and home maintenance when my mom was sick. 
  • Accept Help - When friends and family say things like, "Let me know if I can do something to help," we rarely take them up on it. Instead, tell them how they can help! Often times, people want to help, but we don't give them the opportunity. 
  • Compliments File - Document the great things people say about you to read later.
  • Avoiding Toxic People and Environments - For a Words of Affirmation person, criticism feels like you're being stabbed. One harsh critique from a troll on my blog can upset me for days. If at all possible, I avoid people and situations that don't make me feel good about myself. 

The Fifth Love Language:  Physical Touch

Physical Touch - a big one with guys.  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. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.

Physical touch is a fundamental expression of love and meets an essential biological need within each of us.  Holding hands, kissing, embracing, back rubs and sexual intimacy are all ways of communicating emotional love to your partner.  Since touch receptors are located throughout the body, lovingly touching your mate just about anywhere can be an expression of love.  But remember your touch does not always
need to be sexual in nature or intent.

Some Tips.

  • Not all touches are created equal.  Some will bring more pleasure to your mate than others.
  • Your best instructor is your partner.  Consider doing a sensate focus exercise.  Caress your partner and try to discover the most sensitive areas of his/her body and the kind of stimulation s/he enjoys most.  They may, for example, prefer a gentler touch, or perhaps a rougher one, than you yourself would enjoy.  Your partner can use a “spectrum rating scale” to describe how positive or negative your touch is on different parts of their body.  “1” up to “10” is for positive touch and  “-1” down to “-10” is for negative touch.  
  • Remember, loving touch does not always need to lead to sexual intimacy.
  • Keep in mind that a time of crisis is a particularly important time to extend the gift of touch to your partner.
  • Embracing, holding hands, a reassuring kiss can be sorely needed encouragement during a loss.
  • If a back massage communicates love to your mate, then the time, money, and energy you spend in learning to be a good masseur or masseuse will be well invested.  If sexual intimacy is your partner’s primary dialect, reading and discussing the art of sexual lovemaking will enhance your expression of love.

Physical Touch

  • Spend more with being affectionate
  • Tell me more about what pleases you sexually
  • Show me affection that doesn’t lead to sex
  • Hold me when I’m upset
  • Give me a back rub
  • Give me a foot massage
  • Comb my hair
Getting Your Own Needs Met
My family has little to no emotional reserves to share, so I have learned it is necessary to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank.
  • They Can Be Taught! - It is possible to train family and others to speak your language (although sometimes this can backfire if (like my kids) your kids decide to deliberately not speak your language).
    • Initiate lots of hugs. We call them Hug Attacks
    • My child whose love language is Physical Touch, but who has trouble with expressing emotions, will poke me as he walks by me. This means he wants to initiate some Physical Touch. We've made a game of it and sometimes I chase him around the house to hug him.
    • Makes my kids crazy, but I tend to pat their heads, or shoulders as I walk past. I also offer to rub their shoulders, braid their hair, sit next to them as they show me something on their phone (which requires closeness since I can't see the screen from far away!).
    • I bought a loveseat (instead of a couch or individual recliners) so that when Hubby and I are watching TV, we're close to each other.
  • Get a Pet! Snuggles from a pet can go a long way toward balancing out the drain of the physical distance of overwhelmed and attachment challenged family members. Grooming and petting an animal is a well-known healing technique used by hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Hugs from Others -  
    • Hugs from children are awesome and I did volunteer work with children for just that reason. 
    • I also joined a Sunday School class and taught a section on Love Languages. I found the other Physical Touch people, and we hug each other a lot. It doesn't have to be an intimate kind of thing. 
    • I tell people I'm a hugger and hug other trauma mamas every time I get a chance.
  • Massages - Get a massage! 
  • Moisturize - Applying lotion to yourself may not be as fun as having someone else do it, but it can still be relaxing. 
  • EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques aka TappingThis simple technique, which literally involves "tapping" on the meridian points of our body while saying certain positive statements, can provide very powerful results. It also works well for children of trauma.


Take the Love Language Challenge:

Here's a silly article that I believe shows some of the different types of love languages and how we forget and stop doing them after marriage vows are spoken.

16 Ways I Blew My Marriage 
(By Dan Pearce)

You know what blows big time?

The other night I was sitting with my family, most of whom are very successfully married. We were going in a circle giving our best marriage advice to my little sister on the eve of her wedding. It’s somewhat of a family tradition.

But that’s not what blows. What really blows is that I realized I don’t have any good marriage advice to give. After all, I’ve never had a successful marriage out of the two marriages I did have.

And so, when it was my turn, I just made a joke about divorce and how you should always remember why you loved your spouse when you first met her so that when times get tough, you can find someone new that is just like she was.

There were a couple courtesy giggles, but overall my humor wasn’t welcome in such a beautifully building ring of profunidity.

They finished round one, and for some reason started into another round. And that’s when I realized. Hey. I don’t have marriage advice to give, but I have plenty of “keep your marriage from ending” advice (two equivocally different things), and that might be almost as good.

It eventually came to me again, and what I said would have been such great advice if I were a tenth as good at saying things as I was at writing them.

And so, that night, I sat down and wrote out my “advice list” for my little sister. You know… things I wish I would have known or done differently so that I didn’t end up divorced (twice). After writing it, I thought maybe I’d share it with all of you, too.

I call it my “Ways I Blew My Marriage” list. Also, for the list’s sake, I am just going to refer to “her” instead of “them” even though they almost all were true in both marriages.


When I first dated the woman I ended up marrying, I always held her hand. In the car. While walking. At meals. At movies. It didn’t matter where. Over time, I stopped. I made up excuses like my hand was too hot or it made me sweat or I wasn’t comfortable with it in public. Truth was, I stopped holding hands because I stopped wanting to put in the effort to be close to my wife. No other reason.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d hold her hand in the car. I’d hold her hand on a star. I’d hold her hand in a box. I’d hold her hand with a fox. And I’d hold her hand everywhere else, too, even when we didn’t particularly like each other for the moment.

BONUS! When you hold hands in the winter, they don’t get cold. True story.


Obviously when I was working to woo her, I would do myself up as attractively as I possibly could every time I saw her. I kept perfectly groomed. I always smelled good. I held in my farts until she wasn’t around. For some reason, marriage made me feel like I could stop doing all that. I would get all properly groomed, smelling good, and dressed up any time we went out somewhere or I went out by myself, but I rarely, if ever, cared about making myself attractive just for her.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d try and put my best foot forward throughout our entire marriage. I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible. I’d make myself desirable so that she would desire me.

BONUS! when you trim your man hair, guess what. She returns the favor.


For some reason, somewhere along the way, I always ended up feeling like it was my place to tell her where she was weak and where she could do better. I sure as heck didn’t do that while we were dating. No, when I dated her I only built her up, only told her how amazing she was, and easily looked past all of her flaws. After we got married though, she sometimes couldn’t even cook eggs without me telling her how she might be able to improve.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I wouldn’t say a damned thing about anything that I thought could use improvement. I’ve learned since my marriage ended that there is more than one right way to do most things, and that the imperfections of others are too beautiful to try and change.

BONUS! when you tell her what she’s doing right, she’ll tell you what you’re doing right. And she’ll also tell her friends. And her family. And the dentist. And even strangers on the street.


I knew how to woo a girl, for sure. And the ticket was usually a night in, cooking a nice meal and having a romantic evening. So why is it then, that I didn’t do that for her after we got married? Sure, I’d throw some canned soup in the microwave or fry up some chimichangas once in a while, but I rarely if ever went out of my way to sweep her off her feet after we were married by steaming crab legs, or making fancy pasta, or setting up a candlelit table.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make it a priority to cook for her, and only her, something awesome at least every month. And I’d remember that meat in a can is never awesome.

BONUS! candlelit dinners often lead to candlelit bow chica bow-wow.


I’m not talking about the angry kind of yelling. I’m talking about the lazy kind of yelling. The kind of yelling you do when you don’t want to get up from your television show or you don’t want to go ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS to ask her if she’s seen your keys. It really doesn’t take that much effort to go find her, and yelling (by nature) sounds demanding and authoritative.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d try to go find her anytime I needed something or wanted to know something, and I’d have both gratitude and manners when I did. I always hated when she would yell to me, so why did I always feel it was okay to yell to her?

BONUS! sometimes you catch her doing something cute that you would have missed otherwise.


I always felt I was the king of not calling names, but I wasn’t. I may not have called her stupid, or idiot, or any of the other names she’d sometimes call me, but I would tell her she was stubborn, or that she was impossible, or that she was so hard to deal with. Names are names, and calling them will drive bigger wedges in communication than just about anything else.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: Any time it got to the point that I wanted to call names, I’d call a time-out and come back to it later. Or better yet, I’d call her names, but they’d be names like “super sexy” or “hotness.


As the main bread earner, I was always so stingy with the money. I’d whine about the cost of her shampoo or that she didn’t order water at restaurants, or that she’d spend so much money on things like pedicures or hair dye jobs. But seriously. I always had just as many if not more things that I spent my money on, and in the end, the money was spent, we were just fine, and the only thing my bitching and moaning did was bring undo stress to our relationship.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d tell her I trusted her to buy whatever she wanted, whenever she felt like she needed it. And then, I’d actually trust her to do it.

BONUS! sometimes she will make bad purchase decisions, which leads to makeup purchase she felt like.  Remember we all make bad decisions, like that new gadget you’ve had your eyes on.


There was never any argument that was so important or pressing that we couldn’t wait to have it until the kids weren’t there. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or super-shrink to know why fighting in front of the kids is a dangerous and selfish way of doing things.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I would never, ever, not even once fight in front of the kids, no matter how big or how small the issue was. I’d maybe make a code word that meant, “not with the kids here.”

BONUS! when you wait to fight, usually you both realize how stupid or unimportant the fight was and the fight never happens.


I don’t know why, but at some point I started thinking it was okay to poop with the bathroom door open, and so did she. First of all, it’s gross. Second of all, it stinks everything up. Third of all, there is literally no way to make pooping attractive, which means that every time she saw me do it, she, at least in some little way, would have thought I was less attractive.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d shut the damn door and poop in private.

BONUS! when she does think of your naked body, she’s not going to be thinking about it in a grunting/squatting position.


It always got to a point when I’d more or less stop kissing her. Usually it was because things were stressful and there was tension in our relationship, and so I’d make it worse by refusing to kiss her. This of course would lead to her feeling rejected. Which would of course lead to arguments about it. Other times I had my own issues with germs and whatnot.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d kiss her in the morning when she looked like people do in the morning. I’d kiss her at night when she’s had a long day. I’d kiss her any time I felt like she secretly wanted a kiss. And, I’d kiss her even when my germ issues kicked in.

BONUS! she feels loved when you kiss her. That’s bonus enough.


Age shouldn’t matter. Physical ability shouldn’t matter. Couples should never stop having fun with each other, and I really wish I wouldn’t have gotten into so many ruts in which we didn’t really go out and do anything. And, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when the fun is missing, and the social part of life is missing, so also goes missing the ability to be fully content with each other.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make a rule with her that we’d never stay home two weekends in a row.

BONUS! awesome stories and awesome memories come from doing awesome things. And so do cherished embarrassing moments.


Pressuring each other about anything is always a recipe for resentment. I always felt so pressured to make more money. I always felt so pressured to not slip in my religion. I always felt so pressured to feel certain ways about things when I felt the opposite. And I usually carried a lot of resentment. Looking back, I can think of just as many times that I pressured her, so I know it was a two-way street.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make it a point to celebrate the different views, opinions, and ways that she had of doing things. I’d find the beauty in differentiation, not the threat.

BONUS! authentic happiness becomes a real possibility. And so do authentic foot rubs.


Sometimes the easiest phrases to say in my marriage started with one of three things. Either, “you should have,” “you aren’t,” or “you didn’t.” Inevitably after each of those seemed to come something negative. And since when have negative labels ever helped anyone? They certainly never helped her. Or me. Instead, they seemed to make the action that sparked the label worsen in big ways.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I would learn to stop myself before saying any of those phrases, and then I’d switch them out for positive labels. Instead of “you should,” I’d say “you are great at.” Instead of saying “you aren’t,” I’d say “you are.” Instead of saying “you didn’t,” I’d say, “you did.” And then I’d follow it up with something positive.

BONUS! the noblest struggles become far more conquerable. And you don’t think or believe that you’re a schmuck, which is always nice.


It was so easy in marriage to veto so many of the things she enjoyed doing. My reasoning, “we can find things we both enjoy.” That’s lame. There will always be things she enjoys that I will never enjoy, and that’s no reason not to support her in them. Sometimes the only thing she needs is to know that I’m there.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d attend many more of the events that she invited me to. I would actively participate and not tell all the reasons why I’d do it differently or how it could be better or more fun or time better spent.

BONUS! go to something she knows you don’t enjoy and the gratitude gets piled on later that night, like whipped cream on a cheesecake.


I never got to experience the power of make-up sex because any time my wife was mean or we got in a fight, I’d completely distance myself from her, usually for several days. Communication would shut down and I’d avoid contact at all cost. This never let things get worked out, and eventually after it had happened enough times I’d explode unnecessarily.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d let myself communicate my emotions and feelings more often, and I’d make sure that she knew I still loved her any time we had an ugly bout. Sure, we’d give each other some distance. But not days of distance.

BONUS! Fantastic make-up sex. Or at least that’s the theory.

I had lots more written out, but the list started getting super long so I’ll stop right there and maybe do a part 2. It’s amazing when you’ve had relationships end, just how much you learn and know you could have done differently, isn’t it?

My sister and her new husband will be amazing. Hopefully she’ll always be giving amazing marriage advice in the future and never have to hand out the “keep your marriage from ending” advice like I get to.


Anonymous said...

Dan Pearce's advice to newly married men was disturbing to say the least. Unless someone was raised in a cave by bears, they should know that "pooping" with the bathroom door open is never okay once one is past the age of, say, three. It's not okay when one is living at home with one's parents. It's not okay when one is living with roommates. It's not okay when one is married. It. Is. Not. Okay. Ever.
And it gets worse. Referring to trimming one's "man hair" is just gross. Maybe he thought he was being funny in a Dave Barry kind of way? If so, he wasn't: it was just revolting and kind of sad, as if he only recently stumbled onto this astonishing personal grooming insight and now feels the need to share it with others.
And yeah, pointing out your wife's "weaknesses" to her as a way of being helpful is a bad idea. So is being a penny-pinching miser who grouses when your wife orders a beverage other than water when dining out. So is referring to having one's hair professionally colored as a "dye job."
So classy.
Is his "advice" really meant to be taken seriously by adults with functioning brains? It's also not a good idea to set your wife's clothes on fire for fun, or to run over her puppy in the driveway to "teach it a lesson" when it won't get out of the way, but most guys don't feel the need to share that information.
It's mind-boggling that he found two actual, living, breathing women who were willing to marry him.
The Love Language advice is fine, but what the heck is up with Pearce?

marythemom said...

Oops! Forgot to put why I included this piece of satire. Thank you for pointing it out. :) I was pretty tired by the time I finally hit publish!

The point of Dan Pearce's advice was to identify different love languages and a reminder that we shouldn't stop doing (some of) these things after marriage.

Leslie said...

Unlike the first commenter, I actually enjoyed and appreciated reading the list of what not to do in a marriage. I would have though pooping with the door open to be unthinkable, but I read an interview with a famous actress a few years ago in which she stated that she is comfortable using the toilet with the door open when her husband is home. I was not surprised to read about a year later that they divorced!!!!!! So, yes, people do poop with the door open. And it's not good for romantic relationships.

My view on "man hair" and "woman hair" is that any form of grooming is completely optional and up to individual preference. Why should I disdain my natural body? Why should I disdain my partner's natural body? I don't!

I have found myself being a penny-pinching miser as well as pointing out my husband's weaknesses. So I identify with the author there.