- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

As Thanksgiving 2009 comes into view, we the people, hard-wired to connect, are beginning to gather together out of love and friendship and gratitude for God’s blessings.

As if on cue, we also will begin to speak in what author Gary Chapman has identified as “the five love languages.”

These love languages refer to distinct ways people express heartfelt commitment to each other, says the syndicated radio host and marriage counselor.

Although the “love languages” idea is most often presented as a way for spouses to improve their communication, it works in all kinds of relationships, including parents, children, friends and family.

“I’m always asked how I discovered the five love languages. They actually grew out of my counseling office,” Mr. Chapman says on his Web site at www.fivelovelanguages.com.

Couples often complained in his office that they were sincerely trying to show love to each other, but somehow, it just wasn’t registering, he said.

After distilling 12 years of counseling experiences, Mr. Chapman realized people had essentially five ways to express love.

If couples spoke the same “primary love language,” it was great — they could connect fairly easily, he said. But even if they didn’t initially speak the same language, they could learn it and speak it intentionally — and get the same happy results.

As we go through Thanksgiving, it should be easy to observe the five love languages, which are:

• Words of affirmation. People who respond to this love language will enjoy being told that they did a great job in their shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating and carving. As Mark Twain put it, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

• Quality time. People with this love language drink in the undivided attention they receive, so they feel loved if someone will sit with them and get them to talk about their lives. Quality time isn’t just sharing the same space, Mr. Chapman says, it’s about focusing your attention on the other person.

• Receiving gifts. This love language is perhaps the easiest one to speak, as someone who treasures a gift as a sign of love and devotion is likely to be pleased with anything thoughtful. Thanksgiving brings many opportunities for gift-giving, both to children, hosts and beloved family members, and others in need.

• Acts of service. Everyone loves a hero who saves the day, but people who speak this love language melt when someone steps up to do the simple acts in life - taking out the trash, running that last errand or vacuuming the car so it’s clean for Grandpa and Grandma’s arrival at the airport. Serving cheerfully means the deed is an act of love.

• Physical touch. Back massages are instant pick-me-ups for many a husband or wife who speak this language and, of course, there’s the obvious connection to sexual relations in marriage. But touch also means giving a hug or lightly caressing someone’s arm to let them know “I care about you.” To those who see physical touch as a love language, one sincere hug from a friend or family member can say more than an hour’s worth of advice.

I know one family of seven who took Mr. Chapman’s test to identify their primary love languages. They laughed at the results, and posted them on the refrigerator as a reminder of who liked what.

It was a lark in the beginning, but over time, they said — and as I, too, have discovered in my family — it actually enhanced their relationships.

After all, figuring out who to serve, who to hug, who to praise, who to bring a gift to, and who to sit and talk with means we can connect on the deepest of human levels. And that is something worth giving thanks for.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at


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