Several years ago, I remember reading a message board for pregnancy and early childhood (I was likely pregnant with #3 while #2 was still nursing) right around this time of year and seeing a host of moms terribly upset and deeply hurt by the lack of presents on Valentine’s Day. It was so strange to me. This board was a new venture into social media for me — before that my experiences had been with other writers and politics — not really the forums people would take complaining about the lack of gifts from their husbands.
At the time, I thought that these women must have been looking for a reason to be upset with their husbands, because why else would the lack of a box of chocolates hurt you so deeply? And then I read Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.
The gist of it is this: every human being’s “heart” (that is the thing that fills you with love or the way you express love) speaks some dialect of one of five basic love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
After reading this insightful book, it occurred to me that the hurt and anger sprung from a love language of receiving gifts. Since that’s nowhere near my own love language, I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of that oversight.
I also learned a lot of things about my husband and how he feels love. I learned that while I show love through acts of service, he feels love a different way and I could “do” all day long, but until I spoke his language, he didn’t feel loved. This insight truly changed my marriage in incredible ways. But not only that, it kind of opened my eyes to how other people think and feel. It also opened my eyes to the way I parent and taught me to figure out my children’s love languages so that I can speak my love to them in a way that they truly understand it.
Now I go into writing my characters with the “Love Language” concept in mind. Because, if every single one of my characters felt love the way *I* feel love, and the way *I* understand love to be, then eventually all of my love stories would have the same sound and feel to them. So, I make sure that my characters experience different love languages, different from mine, different from each other. Even if my language barriers can’t fully comprehend a “receiving gift” love language, I can guarantee you my character Maxine Bartlett in my book Emerald Fire completely comprehends it. And now, especially in this wide open world of social media, when I see someone expressing hurt or anger at the lack of a Valentine’s gift or a Mother’s Day gift, I suggest they get their significant other The Five Love Languages and encourage them to read it WITH their wives or husbands.
What is your love language? How do you feel loved?
Great advice! While a special gift is nice on Valentine’s Day (and that could be a card or dinner), more important is the everyday support and care I get from him and give back, with both of us using a different love language.
Becky Dempsey says
I never thought about using the love languages in the construction of a character! I agree, it does help to understand other people when you know more about love languages. I think mine is acts of service.
Trixi O. says
My husband & I took this “love language” test some years ago & boy did it ever make a difference!! I don’t even know how we ran into this book by Gary Chapman, but I am sure glad we did. I’ve found my husband & I have opposite ways of showing love. His are: Physical touch, Words of Affirmation & Quality Time; Mine are: Acts of Service (taking care of the house, cooking, laundry, etc), & Quality Time. I’ve not been one to be overly touchy-feely so this was a hard area for me to learn how to show my husband in a language HE could understand. I’ve found just the little things, holding his hand, hugging him, smiling at him from across the room, etc. means more to him then say, making his favorite dinner. He shows his love by helping around the house (he always has though), & running errands when I just don’t feel like it. It’s been a wonderful eye opener & has changed the way we “speak” to each other without words. I think every couple should take this test, it will deepen your marriage & love for your spouse!
I really enjoyed this blog, Hallee! I never thought of doing this for my kids as well. And I also like how you try to incorporate these attributes in the characters in your book. It would make for a great read!
D K Stevens says
A physical touch .. Enjoyed reading this reminder today :)