As we head towards Valentine’s Day I am hearing about “love languages” more often than usual. For anyone who may not have heard about Dr. Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” here is a quick summary.
All people have ways in which they most deeply experience love. Per his research, these types fall into five categories:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Gift Giving
- Physical Touch
Most people have a top one or two that are most satisfying for them. The genius of Dr. Chapman’s findings is that a great many couples are “mismatched” in their languages and thus, “misfiring” as they try to care for one another in languages that do not make sense to their spouse. At the risk of repeating something you already know or grossly mischaracterizing his research I will stop there, but if you aren’t familiar with the concept or want to know more about your own love language you can find those resources and surveys here: Discover Your Love Language.
When my coach and I first started dating we were mismatched in some pretty extreme ways. I was heavily words of affirmation and he was most certainly acts of service. I remember sending him e-mails filled to the brim with affirmations and my husband to be, ever the efficient communicator, would quickly reply, “Thank you.” Likewise, he would ask me for help with something (i.e. could you take my car to get washed) which I informed him he was perfectly capable of doing himself.
I was crushed. He was annoyed. We were a mess.
Needless to say, we had more than a few misfires of similar fashion until we learned about the concept of love languages. Since then we have worked hard to gain fluency in the other person’s language and work extra hard at “hitting the mark” when stressors are at a high.
I share all this as an encouragement to take the concept of love languages and consider it specifically for the coaching lifestyle.
Love languages can be particularly effective when they are spoken into areas of stress and conflict, and boy do we have those in the world of sports.
For example, my husband is not in great need of my kind words about a game, but if I can set myself up in the locker room and mind-numbingly count knee pads for his inventory he feels love down to the bottom of his turf-pellet-filled Nikes.
Likewise, I’ve got the house pretty well taken care of in-season, but you can bet that I am going to have little cherubs with arrows above my head if he comes home and tells me how much he appreciates the job I am doing taking care of our family while he is away.
It is so different for every coaching couple to manage this life in a way that lines up with who you are and what you value.
Quality time folks have to get creative about the when and the where the togetherness can happen.
Acts of service people sometimes have to engage in activities that seem meaningless to them but speak volumes to their spouse.
Words of affirmation people need reminders of their value and their contribution even if you have already told them before.
Gift givers need intentionality, not necessarily expense.
And physical touch people need your hand on their leg, a neck rub or a longer than two second hug even if the kids have been touching you all day.
Speaking your spouse’s love language may not mean a whole lot to you but it may mean the world to them. As the quote reads, “Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” ~ Lemony Snicket
And so I am hoping that this Valentine’s Day you and your coach can brainstorm what it means to speak each other’s languages more clearly, especially in relation to the dynamics of the coaching lifestyle. When we are better for each other we are better for our families, our children, and the athletes and communities we serve. It’s a pretty good investment that can pump out an exponential return. All the best as you learn a new language and happy lovin’ y’all!
Author's note: Dr. Chapman‘s love languages crew just put out an app for couples to use to better understand and invest in one another using this concept. To check it out, go to https://www.5lovelanguages.com/lovenudge/