Written by Evi Idoghor, Creator of Letstalknationblog.com
This article is about love, its diverse expressions, and why we should be open to receiving love the way others give it. Many of us must have heard about Gary Chapman’s five love languages. Out of the list of love languages, he gives us (which are in no particular order)—Words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, and quality time, I identify mostly with two which are words of affirmation and acts of service. These are the ways I feel loved; when people encourage me with words and when they do things for me, it blows my mind away (dear future husband, hint hint).
Although in a previous article which I wrote two years ago on this topic, I had mentioned physical touch as my second love language, however, living in Nigeria for over three years, I have now come to appreciate acts of service because there are certain things that come up with just living in Lagos, that I didn’t necessarily have to deal with while I lived in Lafayette. So, in a sense, we can say that our environment has an effect on the way we feel loved.
When it comes to expressing my love for others I speak a totally different language. I love giving gifts to people and spending some quality time with them. My cousins can testify to this—I am always recruiting them to either go to the movies or spend the weekend with me. So, the way I receive love isn’t the same way I give it.
The Five Love Languages
From loads of teachings, I have heard about the five love languages (especially for married couples) people are often told to learn how others want to be loved, and love them that way because if they spend time doing the opposite, the recipient might not even acknowledge what they are spending their time doing for them.
I’ve often heard some women say this about their spouse—“I feel loved when he helps around the house (or more specifically) takes out the trash.” Their husband might be risking their lives every day to make ends meet, but if that trash isn’t out of the house, then the other partner might feel unloved. But it shouldn’t be so. The pressure put on individuals to learn people’s love languages —especially their partner's, should be the same amount of pressure put on people to receive love the way others give it.
What Influences the way People Express Love in Relationships?
Different backgrounds and our environments, usually influence the way people express their love in dating relationships and marriage. Until I moved to Nigeria, acts of service wasn't a big deal for me because I prided myself in being this "independent" woman. Of course, that is an easy label to place on yourself when you enjoy 24-hours electricity, great roads, and even awesome weather.
In Nigeria, I have to purchase fuel for my generator and fill the tank myself. I have to wash my car ever so often because the weather and dusty roads don't allow you to do so once in two weeks. Not to mention the countless trips to the mechanic, who wants to deal with that anyway?
So, all of these caused me to become appreciative of acts of service. Our background is also a huge factor that influences our expressions of love. The way we were brought up, how we were loved, our relationship with God (or the lack thereof), and where we come from are contributing factors to this thing called love.
People perceive and give love differently than the person right next to them. It could be that they went through life experiences that taught them to speak a love language that differs from others. Sometimes, those who even grow up in the same home still express love differently. So, when two people decide to come together, both parties should be willing to embrace the uniqueness each individual brings to the table.
I have a brother and a cousin who grew up with us, which makes him more like a brother to me. I tend to ask them to do a lot of things like buying fuel for the generator, washing my car after I have driven it around Lagos bad roads, putting the fuel in the generator, driving me to run my errands (because I hate driving) calling artisans to fix things around the house, exterminating rats from the house, and so on. My requests are oftentimes endless.
Now, my cousin is willing to do all these things for me. In fact, he is literally at my beck and call. He drives me around when I don’t feel like driving and even comes to keep me company when I need someone to stay with me. In all he does for me, I can tell that he loves me, it’s pretty obvious and I receive that love well.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t catch my brother doing all the things that my cousin does. He wouldn’t wash my car, but rather pay someone to do it for me. If I call him saying that I need this and that done around the house, he wouldn’t bat an eyelid. In his words—call your concierge (referencing my cousin). In the beginning, I would get upset, stating that if it were my cousin he would do it for me. But one day I had to pause and reflect, thinking about how my brother expresses his love for me.
The expression of love from my brother is giving me money when I am broke or rushing down to the pharmacy to be with me when I called saying I was not feeling too good. Love from my brother is screaming at my cousin who jumped on my hospital bed disregarding the fact that I just had surgery. It is in him racing down Lekki-Epe Expressway, to see the man who threatened to beat me up. It is also in him purchasing nose masks for me because he knows if I am left to my devices, I wouldn't get them. It is in calling me to make sure I have stocked up my house with food that would last me during a lockdown.
I had to learn to accept the way he loves me and be satisfied with the fact that he is a completely different person from who my cousin is but still loves me regardless. He loves me, yes but differently. The world is enormously diverse, filled with unique people. Just because your friend’s husband or boyfriend does xyz for her, doesn't mean that you should not appreciate your husband’s zyx even if you might prefer an xyz —it is just as beautiful.
We can also learn to fill in the gaps where others fall short.
If it’s that your partner doesn’t take out the trash or do the dishes, and you don’t like to do those either, then staff your weaknesses and focus on other things. Now, this article isn’t a call for people not to try and make their partners feel loved or accepted, rather it is a call to accept people’s languages of love, even when we don’t understand it. Let us accept others for who they are and make accommodations for their unique expressions of love, after all, is what makes the world a beautiful place.
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