Written by Evi Idoghor
Do you think it is somewhat selfish to place an enormous expectation on others to love you just the way you want to be loved? 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.
Although in a previous article which I wrote three years ago on this topic, I had mentioned physical touch as my second love language, however, living in Nigeria for four 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 did not 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 the 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 something totally different, the recipient might not even understand that their partner loves them.
I’ve often heard some women say this about their spouse—I feel loved when he helps around the house, or more specifically: when he 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. However, 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 learn to receive love the way others give it.
What Influences the Way People Express Love in Relationships?
Different backgrounds and environments often influence the way people express love in dating relationships and marriage. Until I moved to Nigeria, acts of service was not 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, which is always a tussle. I also 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, because of the breakdown of vehicles, due to the poor roads and other factors like bad petrol; who wants to deal with that anyway?
As such, all of these caused me to become appreciative of acts of service. A person's background is also a huge factor that influences their expressions of love. The way we were brought up, how they were loved, their relationship with God (or the lack thereof), and where they 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 my family, which makes him more like a brother to me. I tend to ask my brothers to do a lot of things like buying fuel for the generator and filling the tank up, washing my car after I have driven it around Lagos, driving me to run my errands (because I don't enjoy driving), calling artisans to fix things around the house, exterminating rats from the house, and so on. My requests are oftentimes endless—am I asking for too much? I think not (haha).
Now, my cousin is willing to do all these things for me. In fact, he is literally at my beck and call —well not anymore since he started dating. But prior to the shift in his relationship status, in all that he spent his time doing for me, I could quickly tell that he had enormous love for me, and I received 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, not taking into consideration that I just had surgery. It is in him purchasing plantain chips for me in traffic when I muttered—I am hungry, and asking his wife to quickly hand it over to me.
It is also in him racing down Lekki-Epe Expressway, to see the man who threatened to beat me up, because I stepped on my break too soon and didn't notice him in my blind spot—that day, everyone involved knew Lagos was replete with my family members, as they showed up in droves, and the man escaping sheepishly in response.
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, laced 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 or simply don't have the time to do so, 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, rather it is a call to accept people’s languages of love, even when we don’t understand it. By satisfying the need to accept others for who they are and making accommodations for their unique expressions of love, I believe relationships will thrive better.