With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is a lot of talk of love.

A few years ago, I became interested in the idea of the five love languages proposed by Dr. Gary Chapman. His premise is that “We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”

There are entire books on the subject, but the following are examples from my family.

  • First love language: words of affirmation. I recently heard a family story of my uncle that failed to tell his nephew “thank you” after a long day ofwork and that nephew refused to help him again. In fact, they rarely spoke to each other after that day. I get it. If I do something special or work hard to help someone, I want to be appreciated. I long for recognition as simple as “good job” or “I appreciate all you do.” It makes me want to work harder. Words of kindness, appreciation, gratitude are important to me.
  • Second love language: quality time. This one is both of my children’s love language. I have noticed when things are really busy and crazy at work and the farm, I neglect time with my family. Luke will let me know that he needs my attention even if it is to sit down together and watch a movie, read a book or play with Legos. Elyse likes to go out to eat and talk. She is always dreaming up day trips or short vacations that the family could take. Chapman suggested the following elements for spending quality time: maintain eye contact when the person is speaking; don’t listen and do something else at the same time; listen for feelings; observe body language; and refuse to interrupt.
  • Third love language: receiving gifts. “Gifts need not be expensive, nor must they be given weekly. But for some individuals, their worth has nothing to do with monetary value and everything to do with love,” Chapman wrote. It could be a small gift that says “I was thinking about you” or “I thought you would enjoy this.” It could be the gift of self or time, too. I think this was my dad’s love language, and probably my mom’s, too. Dad was always finding something at garage sales or an auction that he thought I could use or would like. He filled my mom’s shelves with “pretties” and trinkets. She did the same for her grandchildren.
  • Fourth love language: acts of service. There are a lot of jokes about women who have “honey-do lists” and men who try to avoid them, but I’m willing to bet that behind most every list is a woman who has a love language of “acts of service.” I don’t have lists, but I have plenty of chores at the farm that my husband doesn’t necessarily enjoy, but because he loves me, he helps me with the cattle.
  • Fifth love language: physical touch. We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have come to the conclusion that babies who are held, hugged and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact. Dave is a hugger. In addition to telling each other “I love you” or “I appreciate you” every day, we embrace regularly.

We all need to feel loved and valued. Do you know the “love language” of those closest to you? Do you know your own and have you communicated it?