Have you heard of love languages? The book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman was written in 1995, and has gained a huge following since. In this blog we’ll take a look at what love languages are. We will also look at how you can identify your own. Do you know your child’s love language? Understanding their love language can be an invaluable step in supporting your child through divorce.
The 5 Love Languages
Before we get into what the five love languages are, it’s important to remember they don’t just apply to romantic relationships. Love languages are really about how we want to feel seen, appreciated and cared for. Those things can apply to our family members, friends and work colleagues, just as much as romantic partners. Understanding which love language your child ‘speaks’ can make all the difference in how you interact with them, and how they feel.
Love Language #1: Words Of Affirmation
Words Of Affirmation are all about how you communicate. Someone who has this love language yearns to hear you tell them how much you love them, believe in them, or are proud of them. Simple phrases like ‘you make me so happy when I’m with you’ can mean the world to someone with this love language.
Love Language #2: Acts of Service
For people with this love language, it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. If your child has this love language they won’t be so bothered about you telling them you love them. But they will appreciate little acts like buying their favourite food for dinner, or putting a note in their lunch box. Something that shows you’ve gone out of your way and thought about them.
Love Language #3: Gifts
People with this love language love receiving gifts that are tailored to them. It’s not about being materialistic The meaning behind those gifts matters. For example, perhaps your child loves drawing, and they come home from school to find you’ve bought a new pack of pens and set up an art station for them. Or perhaps your teen has been having trouble going to sleep, and you buy them a lavender sachet for their pillow. Small gifts like these go a long way to showing your child they are seen and loved.
Love Language #4: Quality Time
If your child has this love language they are after your attention above all else. This can look like all sorts of things: wanting to show you their favourite game or wanting to tell you every detail from school. It can manifest as them getting cross because you’re ‘too busy’. The good news is that a little undivided attention can go a long way. If you can set aside just 15 minutes to spend time with your child, without phones, TV or anything else, they are likely to feel more connected to you.
Love Language #5: Touch
This love language is fairly obvious: it’s about showing affection physically. If you have a child whose primary language is physical touch, they are going to want you to hold and hug them lots. If they have been feeling vulnerable because of the upheaval of your divorce, they may want extra contact for a while. It may feel like they’ve regressed into babyhood: they may want to sleep with you, and cling to you when you’re out and about. This is their way of asking to feel safe and looked after.
Now you’ve read a little about each of the love languages, do you have a sense of what yours and your child’s is? Of course, we are all complex beings, it’s likely we appreciate many of the different love languages! But one or two will usually dominate. If you’d like help working out which are in play for you and your loved ones, you can try this quiz.
Putting it into practice
Once you’ve learned your child’s love language, and your own, it becomes easier to connect with them. It means you can focus on things that are actually likely to resonate with them, rather than feel you’re doing everything to make them happy and nothing’s working.
For example, if your child’s love language is gift-giving, and you’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get them to talk, you can change tack. Leaving a note and a chocolate bar on the kitchen table for when they come back from school is more likely to get through to them, and means you won’t be wasting your energy.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they will instantly open up to you or show signs of happiness. If they have been left feeling insecure and rocked by the divorce process, slow, small, and consistent steps are what’s called for. And if your child continues to struggle, do seek help. Talk to school. The single-parent charity Gingerbread has resources about you and your child’s well-being here.
Don’t forget your own needs
Love languages can be a useful resource to support your child during divorce, but they are also an insight into your own needs. Which of the love languages are most resonant for you? What do you need more of in your life? Remember that love languages aren’t just about romantic relationships. If, for example, you realise that physical touch is important to you, actively seek out hugs from friends.
As always, your most important relationship is with yourself. Find ways to be kind to yourself that are aligned with your love language. Buy yourself that bunch of tulips. Be of service to future-you by taking an extra two minutes now to put the washing away, so it’s not waiting for you at 10pm. Use your journal to remind yourself of all the ways you have shown up for yourself and others recently. Give yourself at least half an hour to do something nourishing.
If you need to be heard and understood as you navigate your divorce, I’m here for you. I offer a range of one-to-one coaching services to get right to the heart of where you are now, and where you want to be. If you want to explore what’s right for you, book in a chat here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com