Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Language Are You Speaking to Yourself?

I love enlightenment. That's pretty obvious from the theme of many of my blog posts, which discuss growth and self love. So, imagine my glee when I "discovered" Dr. Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages" book. I tongue-in-cheek say "discovered" as it had been sitting on my bookshelf for God knows how long. But after a close friend referenced some of its principles over dinner one evening, I made a mental note to pick it up, although I was sure I'd seen it somewhere before. Yep, on that bookshelf. So, with a trip to Barnes & Noble averted, I settled into bed one night with a cup of tea and began to read. And just as the plethora of critics over the many years of its existence have lauded it, the book was indeed, well, enlightening. And it definitely wasn't "rocket science," as the entire concept of the book could be summed up in another very simple principle: mirroring.

In other words, what I do for you, I want you to do for me, for the book makes it very clear that the love language we "hear" most clearly is the one we already "speak." Dr. Chapman categorizes those languages into five categories: Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; Gifts; Acts of Service; and Physical Touch. I'll spare you the breakdown of each and how to determine which language you speak (you can read the book for yourself or take the quiz here to find out). However, of the many concepts discussed, the notion of having our "love tanks depleted" when our language is not spoken back to us, in particular, was most interesting. So, when Dr. Chapman was featured on a recent episode of Oprah's Lifeclass, I eagerly tuned in.

Dr. Chapman gave a brief overview of his philosophy; even got Oprah to take the quiz (if you're curious, her love language is Words of Affirmation); then got to the business of giving couples in the audience (both live and Skype'd in) an opportunity to ask their questions. Most of the couples seemed genuinely in love yet simply lost in how to better demonstrate love to each other, while other couples seemed exasperated just talking about their challenges. It seemed the latter couples had simply hit a wall they just didn't know how to get around or climb over and the "wear and tear" was definitely showing. That got me to thinking deeper about the possibility of why both sets of couples seemed so different and that's when I had my own "a ha" moment: perhaps the success of the love languages is dependent on both partners already being whole as individuals when they enter into union as opposed to relying on the other to complete them, i.e., each person has to learn to speak those five languages to themselves first before requiring that someone else does.

In other words, have you learned to be your own biggest cheerleader and speak loving, encouraging words to yourself? (Words of Affirmation); Have you learned to enjoy your own company and spending time with yourself? (Quality Time); Do you spoil yourself with the things you want (not just the things you need) or treat yourself to your guilty pleasures often? (Gifts); Do you keep your commitments with yourself and show up in your life how you need to? (Acts of Service); Do you treat your body lovingly (massages, manicures/pedicures, etc.) or even give hugs or pats on the back to those in need (Physical Touch)?

Now don't get me wrong: there is nothing more enjoyable than having someone you love execute these things for you, but if you are relying on your mate solely or primarily to give you these, you will deplete their "love tank" faster than air out of a punctured balloon. No one can ever give you what you don't already have, even if just a tiny semblance of it. When you show up whole in a relationship, being able to speak and listen to--and thus, execute--love languages is probably a lot easier. And perhaps that was the difference in the two couples and the hope for change that one set seemed to have in comparison to the other. Where partners in one couple were just looking for the "utensils" needed to make eating their "meals" easier, other partners were looking to have their entire meals provided for. Big difference. Let's not over-tax our loved ones with giving us something we haven't learned to give ourselves first. That's too tall--and unfair--of an order for anyone to fill.

As I am truly blessed by what Dr. Chapman has shared with the world, I honestly can't wait until I can "test drive" these principles with someone special in hopes of creating something beautiful and lasting. But I'm also aware that until that time comes, the best way to prepare for that and ultimately, a healthy, happy marriage, is to practice these love languages with myself and pray that somewhere my intended mate is doing the same in preparation for me. Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. I 100% agree and have always said such to anyone who'll listen. There are many things that go into a successful relationship as I've observed over the years, but one of the most critical things of them all is being able to love and accept and understand yourself first before you'll ever be able to get someone else to be able to do those things with you/to you/for you.

    Well put Miss Kennedy!

    1. Thank you, Amir! And your observation is dead on! It's so important for people to learn this early. Otherwise, they're wasting their time as well as the other person's, jumping from relationship to relationship looking for something they should first learn to give themselves.

  2. Your discussion on how to treat yourself was SPOT ON!! It was so clear and concise, and I think you really summed up what self-love really means. And I would venture to say that self-love also extends to how we carry ourselves in front of others. We should think enough of ourselves to show others we love ourselves by protecting our own image.

    1. Another good nugget of truth! Thanks so much for adding that to the list, Nik. We teach others how to treat us (or not treat us) by the way we treat ourselves!