Your Primary Emotional Touchpoint
Out of the six ways of communicating love, one is your primary touchpoint for receiving the message of love. One of those modes of expression connects with you personally more than the other five. Your primary emotional language is the one you most enjoy receiving, and the one you tend to communicate to other people. However, learning how to appropriately say, “I love you,” means learning and choosing to speak all six languages. Here are some scenarios to help demonstrate why.
Bill and Sally had a good marriage, but they sometimes felt frustrated in the way they communicated their love to each other. Bill’s primary touch point of love was physical touch and closeness. He connected with this expression and most often expressed it to others. The emotional language that meant the least to him came through words of encouragement. In contrast, receiving/giving words of encouragement was Sally’s primary language, and the last on her list was physical touch and closeness.
In this example, the couple loved each other but did not know how to communicate their love in an understanding way. Bill would say, “How about a hug?” Sally would respond with, “Write me a letter.” She wanted words of encouragement, while he wanted physical touch and closeness. Sally would spend time in the front yard, hoping that when Bill walked through the door he would say, “The rose garden looks beautiful. Thank you for making the front of the house so visually pleasing.” Often he would walk by the garden and appreciate her work but would rarely communicate his pleasure in her primary language, words of encouragement.
Bill and Sally came to realize that purposeful love is intentional love. Choosing to love each other by focusing on the other’s primary love language made all the difference in the world for their marriage. Bill now says, “I love you,” with words of encouragement. He leaves notes around the house or calls his wife during the day; he chooses to communicate love verbally. Sally now speaks his language of physical touch and closeness. She initiates holding hands, giving hugs, and standing close during social gatherings. As a result of both of them choosing to love in accordance with each other’s primary language, the fullness of love has returned to their marriage.
For 25 years, Maggy complained whenever her husband Mike brought her home a gift. “It’s frivolous,” she said “and something I don’t need.” When Maggy understood the dynamics of communicating love, she wept. She realized for the first time that she was rejecting her husband’s expressions of love to her. What compounded her sorrow was learning that gift-giving was on the bottom of her list of love languages and realizing that she rarely spoke that language to him, except at holidays. How discouraging it is to say, “I love you,” only to have it rejected time and time again!
We must not only learn to speak the primary love language of our spouse, but also learn how to graciously receive any expressions of love that comes our way.
In this illustration, gift-giving was last on the list for both Mom and Dad, but ranked first for their oldest son. They noticed on each trip to the store, he consistently asked for money to buy something. For years they interpreted his requests as abnormal materialism, and worked extra hard to break him of that trait.
Once they realized that their son’s primary emotional language was gift-giving, they were better able to work with him. They started to provide little gifts, like a pack of gum, or some accessories to his Legos—nothing expensive, just a little something to say, “I love you.” That practice virtually eliminated his asking in the store. Mom and Dad learned to say, “I love you,” in a language their son could readily understand. When parents strive to understand their children at such a level, they pave the way for understanding and communication in the teen years.
Children’s Emotional Touchpoints
It is important for parents to learn each of their children’s primary emotional touchpoints. For example, gift-giving is the primary touchpoint our younger daughter related to. Many times, we entered our home to hear Jennifer say, “I have a surprise for you.” Whether she baked a cake, or picked a bouquet of wild flowers, she was saying, “I love you,” through gift-giving. In this case, she did not give us something she had purchased, but a gift she had made as an act of love. We would do the same for her. It would not be a big gift. We could buy a clip for her hair, and her face would light up because that little gesture confirmed our love in her heart.
Focused attention with quality time is our eldest daughter’s primary emotional language. Once we realized that, one of us would take Amy out for a leisurely lunch. By our actions, she knew we were saying, “I love you,” in an emotional language she could easily relate to—quality time. Moments of quality time came throughout the week, but when we sat down at lunch and gave her undivided attention, love was confirmed in her heart. In contrast, our younger daughter found lunchtime a fun time, but it did not have the same emotional impact as it did for her sister.
Bad Attitude or a Wrong Language?
Without understanding a child’s primary emotional language, parents can easily misdiagnose a child’s behavior or misjudge their motives, resulting in frustrated parents and confused children. For example, when coming home from a weekend trip, we would often bring a little something for our children. One such time it was teddy bears. When we gave one to Jennifer, she said with exuberance, “Mom, Dad, thank you. This is wonderful. I love this teddy bear!” As she hugged and kissed us, we responded, “This girl has such a thankful and grateful heart.” Then we gave Amy her gift. She replied, “This is nice. Can I talk to you?” “Come on Amy,” we pled. “Don’t you want to play with your new teddy bear?” After attempting to convince her how wonderful the gift was, Anne Marie and I turned to one another and concluded that Amy was not as thankful as Jennifer.
That was the wrong diagnosis! Amy was as thankful as her sister, but because of our lack of understanding of the role emotional languages play in the life of children, we misinterpreted her actions. They meant something different than what we thought. Not understanding the dynamics of communicating love can be costly to a relationship. That is why knowing a child’s language of love is critical to the developmental process.
This post is an excerpt from our book series Parenting from The Tree of Life.