To know them is to love them

Have you ever had an unexpressed need or desire, maybe even one you didn’t realize you had until someone satisfied it for you?

I’m convinced we all do.

My sister recently gave me a present for no particular reason, something she had seen in a gift shop that instantly reminded her of me: a small gift book that “celebrated” me. Each page had a darling illustration and sentence that supposedly described me (or whoever was given the book).

Though my sister thought she was simply giving me a happy little book of encouragement, she was actually gifting me with something far greater: she met this innate need of mine to be seen and known, and loved and appreciated despite my imperfections.

For less than $10, she refueled my tank with hi-octane.

We all have the capacity to do this for those we care about, but how often do we follow through? Without thoughtful intention, it won’t happen.

Within the context of family and close friendships, eventually, I’m afraid it’s all too easy for us to take one another for granted. Early in marriage and when our children are young, it’s natural to nurture and encourage.  But over time, while familiarity among your family members doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, it can breed a wearisomeness or insensitivity which, left unchecked, can lead to complacency about “tank filling”.

What speaks love to those closest to you?

It’s important to remember not everyone expresses and receives love the same way you do.  One tool that has helped me tremendously in marriage, parenting, and friendship is identifying each person’s love language and doing my best to “speak” in their native tongue.

I was introduced to Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages early in marriage and it has served me well to remember them ever since.

FiveLoveLanguages.jpg

My husband and three children each have a different love language; if I only expressed love the way I best receive it, three out of four of them would be left wanting. It would be like filling a gas tank with water–it might be full but it wouldn’t do a thing for that car. In fact, it might damage it.

People want to be noticed and appreciated. Though we shouldn’t live for the approval of others, we should be generous with our affirmation of the people we care about.

It is life-giving to my husband and children when I speak praise and acknowledgment so they can hear it.

Certainly we can all do this with our words, but if service is your child’s love language, it adds an important dimension to do something for him. If quality time is your spouse’s language, hiking a trail might be the way to accomplish it.

When our loved ones detect how well we’re paying attention, it fuels their tank. When we demonstrate love by speaking their native tongue, it’s oxygen.

It might look like a little gift book to me but it might be a bear hug for you.

Tell me about a gift you’ve received that expressed the giver’s depth in knowing, accepting and/or loving you. Or, can you think of a time when someone tried to speak love to you in their primary love language, but it left you running on empty?

17 Comments

  1. Ann

    So much take away from the post. How nice it is to think of people when they aren’t here. How nice it is to be remembered. How little things can have such an impact. How everyone has their own love language and how important it is to know what that is.

    I’ve been feeling a need to connect more and this was just a great reminder. Thank you!

    • Robin Dance

      Ann,

      Ahh, that’s so good to hear. I hope it fans your flame into fire!!

  2. Kelly

    The day after my father passed my dearest friend came in and helped me clean my house top to bottom. We washed walls, scrubbed baseboards, mopped and dusted. It felt like a double blessing- not just that she cleaned my house but that she did it with me, to keep me busy. She knew exactly what I needed and I felt so well cared for. That feeling of being known still brings me to tears.

    • Robin Dance

      Kelly,

      That’s exactly what I’m talking about. What a precious, wise friend. Rare, indeed.

  3. kelly summers

    I can’t think of a particular time off the top of my head, but sometime in the last few years, gifts has climbed up to the top of my Love Language list. I think gifts mean more to me now because it means that person was thinking of you without you being in front of them, and thinking well of you. I also love that feeling of giving someone a gift and seeing that on their face or hearing it in their words.

    • Robin Dance

      Kelly,

      Gifts isn’t my primary language, but it’s bumped up my list, too, in recent years. So I suppose there can be “shift” in how we speak and receive love. 🙂

  4. Alissa

    My husband and I recognized a funny dynamic early in our marriage. We are both “quality time” but the way we each define that is quite different. He receives/perceives quality time by simply being together. I perceive quality time as engaging in an activity, particularly when we can talk and interact. So, watching a movie on the couch TOGETHER is a winner for him, but feels like a waste of time to me (because we could be doing something interactive with that time). It’s an important dynamic for us to recognize.

    And, I think that perhaps it’s worthwhile to re-examine our love languages as children come into the picture and change our family dynamic. Thanks for the reminder – we could use to do the assessment again.

    • Robin Dance

      Alissa,

      Oh my–NOT to recognize that distinction in marriage could’ve been…painful :). Y’all are doing well to see it.

      With kids it takes a while to understand what buoys their hearts…when they’re little, they kinda need it all :).

  5. Tia

    And I think it is important to recognize other people trying to share love in these ways even if it isn’t your type that fills you up– you can look past it to the gesture— and get a little filled up along the way even if it isn’t “perfect” My mom always gives me weird presents that I don’t need. But over the years I see any gift as a form of love and (try to) take it as that. My husband also gives acts of service and I have to remember that those are his ways of showing love. Though I am more of a physical receiver

    • Robin Dance

      Tia,

      GREAT point! We certainly can’t change others, so it’s to everyone’s benefit to accept the way they DO love us.

  6. Linda Sand

    When I cut my finger my husband quietly reached for my can of soda pop and opened it for me. Such a little thing but it felt very loving.

    • Robin Dance

      That made me grin, Linda. Big :).

  7. BeckyE

    I love this. Thanks for the reminder. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and for at least 7 of them we would argue every now and then about the stupidest stuff and really hurt each other. It was only when we finally figured out what each other’s love languages are and implemented working on loving each other with that knowledge that we really started “getting” eah other. I need to do more with it with my kids, other family, and friends though.

  8. Katie Harding

    I personally love little surprises, aka gifts. My mom is the most thoughtful person I know and constantly sends me little surprises, just because, or a card that totally connects with me, I strive to be more thoughtful and be more considerate like she is. I think no matter what your love language is, it’s always nice to know that someone is thinking of you and trying to do something nice just to make your day.

  9. Natalie

    Thank you for this reminder! It’s so easy to fall into the habit of speaking the love language to others what we wish they spoke or that we personally speak instead of their own love language.

  10. Andrew Burgon

    The gift of words. A friend of mine told me how much he appreciated my help when he first came to Taiwan. He said it in a way that really touched me. Then he blew me away when he repeated it in front of his friends on another occasion. That is a special memory indeed that I will always cherish.

  11. Karen J Moseley

    A rock! Hand painted and from the grave of a precious 2 year old girl. When a Blogger Friend chose Life for her unborn daughter, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 13, after being told the baby was “incompatible with life, my life was changed! Following the journey of this sweet family and their darling girl, taught me about things I needed in my own life. Sweet Nora Rose passed away in June and her Mommy sent be that beautiful rock for my birthday last week. I will treasure the Gift of Life and be more aware of how very fragile we All are!

Get our weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where we share new stuff from the blog and podcast—that way you’ll never miss a thing. Tsh also shares other goodness from around the web... It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.

(You’ll also get her quick list of her 10 favorite essays and podcast episodes from around here, helping you wade through a decade of content.)