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The Paths to the Heart

By Ron Cook

Our next holiday this year will be the love-celebration we call Valentine’s Day. Originally a Roman fertility celebration, the Catholic Church converted it around 270 A.D. to a saint’s feast day. One of the Saint Valentines, who was martyred, was said to have sent encouraging notes from prison to friends. The celebration of love, affection, romance, support or relationship might be the reasoning behind Valentine’s Day, yet the true value of this holiday might be in what we can learn about maintaining fully functioning, rewarding relationships.

What keeps friendships and relationships alive and growing? What helps us stay cherished and loved by others? What do we do that tells others that we care for them and are able to show them concern? There is an interesting theory about all this that makes sense to me. Gary Chapman, a counselor for many years, wrote a book called “The Five Languages of Love” that has some good ideas about relationships. His theory is that we all seem to have a favorite mode by which we prefer to be shown love or care. Let’s take a look at these five modes and see if it makes sense to us during this Valentine season.

The first mode is through verbal affirmation (words). Some people like to hear words that are kind, supportive or affectionate. This might be in a simple “thank-you,” or a verbal reaction to something you have done or said. Language is a uniquely human ability. This type of person truly appreciates the creative, frequent use of words to show gratitude, support, or affection. Learning new ways to say kind things is a bonus for this person.

Others may prefer the second “love language” of gifts. Here is where candy, flowers or things are important. Small gifts given on a routine basis are really nice for this person. Spreading it out is great. Some may think this is a largely female trait, but there are many men who really appreciate those little thoughtful gifts their spouse or friend may give them. For these people, Christmas is very special, yet should not be a once a year event. Some men insure that their wives, or lady friends, always have some sort of fresh flowers: lilies at Easter, Poinsettias for Christmas, Daisies in the summer, and Roses anytime (be sure you know what the various rose colors mean :-). Knowing what gifts people like is important here. Big gifts are not as important as the thoughtful, occasional small gift for most people in this category.

Acts of service are the third type of love language many people enjoy/prefer. Doing chores without being asked, asking how you could help out, cooking a special meal, opening a car door, etc., all are little acts of service that this love language appreciates. Food is a large part of this language. The celebration of food is an area understood and loved in Louisiana. Men as well as women appreciate this language, and enjoy the preparation, as well as eating, of this kind of love.

Quality time is the fourth type of love language. This usually includes eye contact, conversation, proximity and frequency. Full undivided attention seems to be a basic requirement for these persons. Spending time with your friend, spouse, or even family member who enjoys this language is essential for that person. Cooking together, doing projects, sitting together and just talking, and taking a walk together are all examples of quality time.

The last form of the expressing love language is physical touch. Holding hands, hugs, a touch on the shoulder are all parts of physical intimacy that has a wide range of expression. There are four stages in most relationships that include: attraction, infatuation, intimacy and commitment. Taken together, we can see how it involves a range of interaction to make a complete relationship. One or two parts will never do in the long run.

And so it is with love language preferences. Most people enjoy each of these shows of affection, yet prefer one over the others. Relationships can be remarkably enhanced by figuring out what makes our friends, spouses and family tick … what is their language of love? Perhaps we can start by finding out which language we prefer. You can do that by Googling www.5lovelanguages.com. Take an inventory and learn about your own language. Let people you care about know what makes you feel loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day! We all can do better with those we care about … best wishes this year.

Ronald Cook

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