What Kind Of Love Do You Need?

What love languages speak most fluently to your heart and body?

Whether you're single or partnered, "wanting love" is a pretty broad theme, no?  We want to give love in the ways that it nourishes us to give, and we want to receive in the deep, heart-touching ways that speak to us most. 

To deepen the love and good feeling in a relationship, getting more accurate in hitting that mark is an important skill to build for both partners.  And as we start new relationships, our chances of happiness are so much higher when we know what flavors of love we need to give and receive.

Why do you need what you need?

Your needs come from your childhood:

What did your family model that was beautiful?  What did you yearn for that you never got? 

Your needs come from your own gifts:

 You're brilliant with words.  You craft heartfelt gifts in your studio or kitchen or sewing room.  Your hands have healing powers.  You're an amazing, thoughtful shopper who finds profoundly perfect gifts, large and small.  My own proclivity for language and love of metaphor and imagery means that your words are swift arrows to pierce my heart with love.

Your needs come from roles:

What does your work, your parenting, your chapter in life take OUT of you that you need replenished each day by those who love you?  What do you need from friends, vs. from your family, vs. from your lover?  I need a ton more "being taken care of" now that I'm a mom and do so much taking care of other people.

Your needs come from your own fullness:

You need what you haven't been getting.  It's often easier to receive what you have in abundance already.  And it's hard to let in what you don't feel worthy of or what you judge yourself for desiring or what you haven't ever had enough of in this life.  I've worked hard to open my receiving muscles so I can let in sexual ravishment, generous gifts, profound service, and direct words.  It's gotten easier.

Attending to these languages has huge and delicious power.  I'm in a wonderful women's circle with Hannah Marcotti right now and we're sharing our love languages with one another:  the better to love you, my dear.

Here's some shorthand for understanding and sharing your favorite flavors of love:

Gary Chapman identifies 5 love languages:

Gary Chapman The 5 Love Languages

giving or making me thoughtful little gifts

spending time with me

touching me and receiving my touch

helping me, taking care of me, and doing things for me

saying encouraging/or and appreciative words to me

There's a questionnaire here you can take to rank how these 5 live for you; many of the women I've talked to about it find the questions irritating.  Chapman did a great job of boiling this concept "different expressions of love land differently for different people" into something very widely palatable and actionable.  There's much more to it, but his work is a great starting place.  Think of the questionnaire as ONE door-opening tool in your explorations.

Other key love languages - aspects I can see of how people can and need to express and receive love:  

These ones are the basics, past "don't hit me" and "let's talk, sometimes, hey?"

I think we all need these and they sound like just nice things.

But I know I've fallen down on giving all four of these.  And I've lived in love without them, too, and it's pretty parched.  

You, too, might read this and go "Of course!  THAT is what is missing, at the most basic level."  Which is why I include these here.  If your response is more like, "Duh, Michele," you know I wrote this part for someone else, or for you in another chapter of life.  Here are the basics:

reliable kindness: preserving a safe and peaceful atmosphere, physically and emotionally

forgiveness: grace for human failings, small and large

vitality:  taking care of yourself, for now and for the future, in terms of body, mind, and soul

financial fidelity: spending within your means, earning what your family needs for now and for a secure future, placing your and your partner's careers in the context of your overall life and happiness

Then there are the more nuanced, not-sure-that-everyone-needs-them-but-I-sure-do flavors of love:

aspiration:  encouragement and challenge to continue to grow

courage:  encouragement to take time, space, resources to investigate our own questions, even when that seems threatening to the relationship

transparency:  letting your partner know what's going on with you

thoughtfulness: keeping your partner in mind, communicating thoroughly, knowing his or her preferences and tailoring words, gifts, and actions to push their happy buttons

really seeing:  knowing your partner's qualities, both light and dark, reflecting back to them what is most true, real, and good in them and what's possible for them

interest:  being curious about your partner's passions, even if you don't share them; taking interest and pride in their joys or accomplishments in those areas as well as the ones you relate to more

sexuality: exploring your own and your partner's energy, self-expression, emotions, and yearnings through sexual interaction

These may be in your relationship in spades.  Thank your lucky stars for each one.  

Or you may see one and think, "Yeah!  That's what I yearn for!"

Or "Yipes.  I totally don't give my partner that, and I can see they need it!"  

All three responses are good.  We're digging into the particulars of loving well, here.  

Be kind to yourself and be kind to your partner as you look at these flavors and look to bring them into your life more.  

It's just like when you discovered coconut oil, right?  You didn't wig out that it wasn't in your diet already and you didn't know how you were ever going to use it.  You just started trying your favorite pancake recipe with it (Yum. Good!), putting it in salad dressing (Oops!  Hard as a rock in the fridge!), and playing around. Do this the same way.

And let me know how it goes, okay? 

Love love,


Photo via Sara Jane Camacho

P.S.:  In case it helps with your own insights...

Here's what I'm exploring with my own love languages: 

I'm grateful to have long had tons of words of affirmation in my world, owing to the work I do as a coach and the clients and colleagues that are drawn into that work.   Used to be, I was starving for sexual energy exchange.  I worked long and hard to ask for it, then asked (long and hard!) and we worked together to bring what I was hungry for (he was too - just didn't realize it.) into our lives. 

I can see that for me, THOUGHTFULNESS is huge… Meaning.  Insight.  If a text message or a handwritten note or a gift from far away are meaningful, it's because someone was THINKING of me or was really deliberate in taking time out of their day to connect with their love for me.

Far beyond sex, my body needs to be held, seen, grounded, and caressed.  So touch is definitely tops with my husband, but also still at the top with my kids and my friends.  Finding one another in physical space is such a potent way to exchange energy.

And I've asked for and Kurt's delivered so much more care-giving and thoughtfulness to help me refill the tanks that motherhood depletes.

With friends, quality time is the biggie… just the space to do things - or better yet, nothing - together.  Deep talk, laughing our asses off, catching up. I love to feel seen and heard, and to deeply see and hear those I love.  The unfurling of different parts of ourselves takes time, sometimes, and sometimes it can happen in an instant.

With acts of service, time, and even gifts and words of affirmation… the deep root is feeling seen, heard, known, and held.

Do you know how I like my tea, and care enough to make it just right?  

Do you listen while I think out loud, then speak an observation or a question or an affirmation that just nails it?  

Do you know the just-right thing that I will cherish forever?  Or the thing I'd crave but would never buy for myself?  

Can you see in the shortest sentence or look from me, the depth of my heart and mind, and speak or write it back to me?  

THAT is what will make me feel loved.