Since I was little, I've loved giving and getting gifts. Finding the perfect gift was like a little challenge, and an adventure rolled into one. As I got older, my primary love language began getting in the way of my relationships. Loved ones would fail to live up to my expectations by giving gifts late, not writing cards, or plainly forgetting that people celebrate birthdays every year. I've spent hundreds of dollars on single gifts and probably thousands of dollars throughout my lifetime to surprise family members with meaningful presents on significant days. I've spent thousands of hours crafting thoughtful, original gifts for friends and partners. I have multiple notebooks full of drafts meant for birthdays, holidays, and graduations.
I might sound crazy to some, but I take my love language seriously. Gift-giving and receiving gifts are acts of love and should always have a personal touch. Do I expect too much? Apparently, I do, because it's ruining my relationships. Love language miscommunications can spur resentment across the board, for the boyfriend of 8 months who forgot to get me a birthday present or the friend who doesn't write a card (I love cards, OK?).
Your love language doesn't have to get in the way of maintaining healthy relationships. You just have to understand your own and those of your loved ones. Dr. Gary Chapman originated the concept with his 1992 book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chapman asserts there are 5 different ways of expressing love and that people tend to have one primary and one secondary love language. If you don't know your love languages, you can find out here.
If you're someone who needs to spend a lot of quality time with your loved ones in order to feel appreciated, try to assert your needs clearly. Whether you're out in public or in the privacy of your home, make suggestions to those around you, like spending less time on your phones, so you can feel fully heard.
At the same time, it's important not to project your own needs and insecurities onto someone who may need a little more space. Personally, I love spending quality time with my significant other, but we each have times when we want to relax at home alone or to spend a day with our respective friends. Looking back, when we first started dating, I tended to apologize and ask for permission to spend time with other people. There is no reason to feel bad if your partner or friend wants alone time. It's a healthy way to recuperate and prioritize your mental health.
On the same note, think about setting aside time to spend time by yourself. You don't need to be around someone 24/7 to be happy. Getting to know yourself and feeling comfortable being alone can boost your confidence and make you more secure in who you are and what you deserve.
Acts of Service
If your love language falls under "acts of service," then you're someone who appreciates little acts of kindness. It's the effort and intention that counts. There's nothing you appreciate more than someone lending an extra hand or offering to offset your daily burdens by making kind gestures, whether large or small. If you're like this, you may have unspoken expectations of people who are oblivious to your needs.
As with all love languages, it's not that people are self-centered; for some, the easiest way to build reliable connections with others is to help and be helped consistently. Even if it's not always reciprocated, don't keep score! It helps no one.
Oh, here we go. If you're like me and feel the most appreciated when receiving a physical gift, then you might be f*cked. You express your own affection through gift-giving, and even if your bar for reciprocation is low, you tend to expect the same effort in return.
For Valentine's Day this year, I put together the most thoughtful gift basket I could think of for my boyfriend, who, well, bought me a plush owl from Walgreens. In the moment, I was a little disappointed. On special occasions, he always seems to make plans and buy gifts at the last minute. But, today, I still spend almost every night we spend apart cuddling up to that owl. It's not (always) about what the gift is, but who it's from.
Do people call you too touchy sometimes? Do you need to hold hands, hug, and kiss everywhere you go? Physical touch tends to be taken for granted in personal relationships, but there are plenty of people who require close personal boundaries, whether in their platonic or romantic relationships.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, "Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship." But if your partner is someone who doesn't like PDA, talk that through and take things slow. Holding hands can be a good compromise, especially if you're someone who prefers to lovingly maul them in public.
While physical contact is your way of feeling listened to and cared for, physical touch can be distracting to another person. It's useful to understand that others may need space and appreciate your company without physical contact. Always keep a line of open communication to ensure mutual levels of comfort, respect, and trust, no matter the type of relationship.
Words of Affirmation
Ah, words of affirmation. We all need them, and we all love them—it's the reason Instagram exists! (After all, no one posts a selfie for no reason; we want attention in the form of likes and compliments). If you're someone who needs to be reassured of your worth through words, then you may need to use your words to vocalize that. Don't let your insecurities stop you from addressing your needs. It's okay that you love being reminded that you're loved.
That's how you feel the most appreciated and how you express your own affection. Instead of allowing another person's lack of words of affirmation put a damper on your comfort level, it's okay to ask for reassurance. And always embrace how you look, feel, and express yourself. Remember, if you're feeling yourself, other people will, too, even if they don't say it.
All in all, love languages are a valid form of expression. Do not hinder those in favor of someone else, but also do not expect others to know your needs if you don't express them. Communication is an invaluable tool for all the love languages; without it, you'll never feel truly fulfilled or understood. And remember, to quote RuPaul, "You need to love yourself before you can love anybody else!"