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According to Mark Banschick, MD, “Love is an action verb. It requires sweat equity. There is no such thing as passive love.”

With Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day around the bend and before we know it, many of us are thinking of ways to show our important someone that we value them. Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote the famous and bestselling book, “The 5 Love Languages,” lists the different ways one might want to be shown sentiment and appreciation:

  1. Gifts/Tokens of Affection.
  2. Quality Time Together:  Offering to take the person to an event, shopping or dinner can mean more than a tangible gift.
  3. Physical Touch: Sometimes people just need a hug or pat on the back to feel loved.
  4. Words of Affirmation: A heartfelt, handwritten card can be kept and reread.
  5. Acts of Service:  Baking a favorite goodie or helping with errands or a chore can be a real treat.

According to Dr. Chapman, the most common mistake we make is that we usually try to show love in the way that we value, but not necessarily in the way that is important to the other person. For example, while you may not be a person who needs to receive gifts in order to feel loved, you may enjoy giving gifts to others to show that you care. However, this may not necessarily be their love language, but it is how you show love. Once you know the love language of someone else, you can tailor your actions/words to ensure that you are communicating to them that you care.  Your loved ones may enjoy getting gifts or they may appreciate having something done for them or a card with words of affirmation.

If you are considering gifting someone special on these coming holidays, it indicates you have an interactive relationship with them. Stop and consider when you have seen them smile and express the most delight. Perhaps you have noticed they usually enjoy a certain genre of music or art. Maybe you have heard them say how they wish they could go to the symphony, theater or ballet more often, or you have heard them say how difficult yard work or housecleaning is becoming for them. Be observant and listen.

A person’s favored expression of sentiment may change over time and will need to be reassessed. When you want to show love to a child, consider that some kids thrive on physical touch when young, but that kind of touch is likely to change when they become teens. Some children rely on quality time with one or both parents, while others want more time alone but still need to hear lots of affirmations. And, of course, we know that kids of all ages love to open gifts! If you are considering giving tickets or accompanying them to some place special, wrap up the “gift card” in a box with a bow. Let them unwrap your offer of love and appreciation.

Many people feel the stress of, “what do I give the person who has everything?” Think in terms of how you might give the gift of yourself and your time. Dr. Chapman’s principles of the “5 Love Languages” can easily be applied to any relationship, including platonic or non-romantic relationships and in everyday interactions with people. Taking a moment to think about what’s important to the other person can lead to a thoughtful gift that expresses how you feel and gives them something they appreciate and value. Love is more than a feeling, it is best expressed through behaviors. 

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