5 Simple Ways to Express Love in the Present Crises
by Dr. Gary Chapman
Most people agree that the deepest emotional need we have is the need to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. The difficulty in meeting this need is that we have assumed that what makes one person feel loved will also make another person feel loved. That is a false assumption. In my research, I discovered five fundamental ‘love languages,’ and that each of us has a primary love language. If we don’t receive love in our love language, we are not likely to feel loved, even though the person may be speaking some of the other love languages. The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. This simple concept has helped many people connect, or reconnect, emotionally with the significant people in their lives.
However, our world has changed. Many are living with considerable restrictions on their means of relating to others. To be sure, we are not all affected equally. Some couples with children are all living in the same house 24/7. Others find themselves geographically separated from those whom they love. Adult children may not be able to visit their parents, and friends who saw each other daily at work or socially are now confined to separate homes. So, how do we speak the love languages with such social restrictions?
For families who are living together, the problem is not geographical separation, but adapting to new rhythms and responsibilities. The children are home instead of at school. The parents are working from home, or have lost their jobs. They are dealing with stress they had not known before. For these families, understanding and speaking each other’s love language can greatly reduce stress. When family members feel loved, it is much easier to process the challenges of life. For these families, the key is reminding themselves that love heals hurts and restores relationships. A family conference in which we agree that our priority is keeping love alive may be a good starting point. If you don’t know the primary love language of each family member, you may want to take the free profile at 5lovelanguages.com
For those relationships in which the rules of confinement have geographically separated us, the challenge is different. This calls for creativity, if we want to stay emotionally connected. Words of Affirmation is fairly easy to maintain with phone calls, e-mails, texts, and other social media. “I miss you. I love you. I can’t wait until we can be together again,” speak deeply to the words of affirmation person. Affirming them for some personality trait that you appreciate also communicates love strongly. Whether the words are written, spoken, or sung, they speak love when they affirm the other person.
Acts of Service may be a bit more difficult, depending on the situation. I know of adult children who are grocery shopping for their parents, a huge act of service. Or, if you are not close enough to deliver groceries, you can order them and have them delivered. Either way you have communicated love, especially if their love language is Acts of Service. Remembering something that your friend did for you in the past, and thanking them, also speaks love. The person who speaks ‘Acts of Service’ usually feels loved when someone expresses gratitude for their service. “Is there anything I can do for you while we are apart?” This question expresses the desire to serve them. They may indeed have a suggestion, but if not, your offer, speaks of your love to them.
Receiving Gifts might seem more difficult to speak when many stores are closed. However, some local stores may be delivering purchases. Or, if you are in a situation where you can take a nature walk, you might just pick up a bird feather and say to that special someone, “I found a bird feather today and I thought of you. You are the wind beneath my wings.” WOW!! If you are talking on Facetime, you can even show them the feather. “I am going to keep this feather and give it to you when we can get together.” You have given a gift and spoken words of affirmation. If you have an older parent or relative, you might order, and pay for, their medication and have it delivered by the pharmacy.
Quality Time may at first seem impossible, but it is not. You can both watch the same movie and then discuss it on Facetime. It is not the same as actually going to the movie theatre, but the sharing of your thoughts and feelings after the movie is a quality time experience. Or, you can both read an on-line article and then have a time sharing your opinions. The important thing about Quality Time is that you have the undivided attention of the other person. One dating couple agreed to meet for dinner on-line. Each prepared their own meal, placed it on a nicely decorated table, and shared dinner via Zoom. Likely neither of them will ever forget that evening.
Physical touch also might seem impossible, but creativity can do wonders. A military wife said to me, “My husband was deployed. I knew his love language was physical touch. So, I traced my hand on a sheet of paper and mailed it to him with a note that said, ‘Put your hand on my hand, I want to hold your hand.’” Later, when he returned home, he said to me, “Every time I put my hand on that paper, I felt her.” It is not literal touch, but it is emotional touch, and that is what we are talking about. One creative guy said to his girlfriend, “I am going to mail you one of my shirts. When you need a hug, you put it on, and I’ll hug you.” She later said, “Every time I put that shirt on, I felt his arms around me.”
Yes, challenging times call for creativity, but if we love, we can find a way to express it. Staying emotionally connected to those we love is extremely important in times of crises. The five love languages and a little creativity can help you do it.
Gary D. Chapman, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts® and 5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage: When You’re Stuck at Home.
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