by Nicole VanZuidam, MA, LMFT
“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving. That kind of love requires effort and discipline. It is the choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person, knowing that if his or her life is enriched by your effort, you too will find a sense of satisfaction—the satisfaction of having genuinely loved another.” - Chapman, G. D. (2010). The five love languages.
Our eyes and ears have likely been inundated in the past week or two with hearts, candy, flowers, and everything society associates with romantic love. There are differing views on Valentine’s Day of course, from joy, excitement, and a day to express love, to the opposite being an over-commercialized, made-up holiday to make money because who needs a holiday to tell someone they love them.
Whatever your view might be on the holiday about love, most all can agree that love is not something we simply desire, but that it exists as a need and a part of our design as humans as we were created for relationship.
Even though we all have this emotional need, we have been created in unique ways to feel and express love differently. In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman breaks down the expression of love into 5 different categories. He describes the way we express love as a language and emphasizes the importance of having an awareness of what our own language is, as well as those we love. If we aren’t speaking the same language, our efforts to both express and receive love can be futile. Chapman’s categories include quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts.
When we think about different ways to express love, our focus typically goes to that which exists in romantic, adult relationships, but all of the same concepts can be applied to children, friends, parents, or any relationship.
“That kind of love requires effort and discipline.” If you have children, you are aware of the variety of efforts it requires to raise a child, and although the love comes quite naturally, it might take effort to speak to them in their language instead of our own. How much time have you dedicated to learning the language of each of your children or grandchildren?
Applying the idea of effort and discipline could feel a little more difficult to swallow when applying that to our adult relationships. We are all aware that not every day in a relationship is a walk in the park, in fact, many days we must choose to love, choose to develop understanding, choose to put forth an effort, choose to discipline ourselves to learn a language that is different than our own. We are easily caught up in our day to day lives and become lackadaisical with our attempts to express love.
We are created with both physical and emotional needs. Just as our physical needs are not one-and-done, our emotional needs, our need to feel loved, must be met over and over again. By taking time to learn your needs as well as your own love language, you can share this information in your intimate relationships, letting those who care about you know how to better care for you.
No matter your view on the holiday of love, take the opportunity to consider how you experience love and examine the efforts you are making towards the labor of love. Would those you love and care about say they feel loved well by you?
If you have never taken the love languages quiz, it is available for free online. There is also a kid-version. Check them out: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
If you feel you are struggling in your relationships, you can take time to explore and work towards improvement. At River Counseling we are here to meet you where you are, offering hope. You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office or with one of the therapists from our other locations, Sioux Falls Psychological services or Stronghold Counseling. To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696. Please note that River Counseling’s phone number has changed to 605-274-2716 and the 337-3444 phone number is no longer in service.