When Your Love Language Seems To Be All Four Letter Words

On days like today, I think back to about fifteen years ago when those Love Language books were all the rage for married couples and parents. I remember how we just ate those books up, all desperate to learn the unspoken cry of our loved ones heart, and unravel the mystery of why we all act the way we do, when all we really want is love. According to the author of the Love Language books, there are five love languages – words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts and acts of service – and each one of these is a conduit through which we “feel” the love of others, and prefer to give it in return. Learning our loved one’s love language is apparently a bit like turning the key of their heart, leading us toward closer and more fulfilling relationships.

Now, I’m a very pragmatic kind of person. I always had a bit of trouble remembering the five love languages in the first place, let alone applying them, especially under pressure – and when you have four kids and you are crazy enough to homeschool, you often find yourself under pressure. I always seemed to forget that I was supposed to spend quality time with this one, buy that one a sweet and thoughtful gift, and always mind that I said something kind and affirming to the other one.  I tended to forget, not because I was indifferent to my kids needs, but because my own love language was total and ultimate control of everything. Just give me your complete and unbending compliance, cried the unspoken voice of my heart, and everything around here will be just fine.

Problem is, kids will have their love languages whether we their parents heed them or not. And because I did remember from time to time my children actually owed me nothing – including their mindless obedience – over time, my love language lost quite a few phrases from its vocabulary. “Or else” was one. “Because I said so.” was another. “Would you like me to pull this car over and give you a spanking?” went away round about the time I realised being spanked didn’t fit into any of Mr. Chapmans real love languages, and wasn’t actually working for me or our kids anyway.

Anyway, days like today make me think about those five love languages, how sometimes the things we do don’t really fit into any of those categories, and how someone needs to tell that to the teenage person living here and make her get with the program. Otherwise I may have to bring back some of my lost vocabulary, especially the part about the spanking.

I’ve decided that when it comes to the mysterious ways of teenagers, five love languages aren’t nearly enough. Because the things they do can be just so incredibly baffling at times I think there definitely needs to be a few new ones, and I’ve had a stab – not a word I feel comfortable toying with today, after the morning I’ve had with my teen – at creating a few categories of my own.

  • What’s mine is mine – what’s yours is mine. This morning, as I prepared to drive my teen to work, I detected a familiar scent wafting through the car. It was my expensive perfume – a gift from my husband. I, however, wasn’t the one wearing it. “Have you run out of perfume?” I asked, puzzled, as last I looked this individual had two bottles of scent on her own dressing table. “No.” And that was the only explanation offered. Later, the same teen walked past my bedroom door announcing “I’m going for ride.” Interesting. She doesn’t own a bike. “A ride?” I asked? A head appeared in my doorway, wearing my bike helmet. “Yes.” This particular love language expressed once in a day? I could perhaps graciously relent. Twice in a twenty four hour period? Both grace and surrender are abandoned. Lucky she was wearing a helmet.
  • Don’t speak to me,  just take me where I need to go. Teens reserve the right to maintain objectionable silence whilst consecutively enjoying the benefit of being transported wherever they wish to go, often at a moments notice, and without the offer of contribution, financial or otherwise. But that’s okay, really. Because they didn’t ask to be born, and being alive and seventeen is so hard. No, really it is – I remember.
  • I am beautiful, I am hideous. I hate this one the most, because it is sheer torture for the darling individual who must endure it, and for the loving family who must witness it.
  • You don’t understand me, please listen to me. I know she thinks I don’t get it, and I know I think I do. I also know there’s nothing I want more in this world than the pure trust she gives me when she finally lets me in.


  • I abhor crass materialism in all its forms, so will you buy it for me instead? Teens cannot abide attempts by parents to buy their affections with things, and similarly, many have denounced consumer culture and commercialism outright. But that doesn’t apply to things they need, like mobile phones and festival tickets. In this case, spending a lot of money is perfectly okay. I have noticed that a teenagers income is theirs to spend as they please, and their parents income is theirs to spend as they please too. Forget about Occupy Wall Street – to hear them tell it, teenagers are the 99%. And sometimes, as a parent, it certainly feels that way.
Five love languages are not enough. Ten are not enough. How many ways can a family give and receive love between them? There are not enough words, gestures, sacrifices or actions that can adequately express the deep complexities of relationship. Five? Try a hundred and twenty five. And all those love languages will not always be civil, or even comprehensible.  Sometimes a love language can feel like it’s all four letter words. Sometimes a love language will be more a question than an answer, more a longing than a fulfilment, more a defining than a uniting. But that is the essence of relationship – not the answer or the conclusion that you come to about one another, but the process of discovery, discerning and of understanding traversed while coming to appreciate that they are not you, and nor would you have them be, no matter how much you want to keep them safe and close and happy.
And, for the record, I just want to say there was nothing about all this in the manual.
Sometimes, I don’t understand you, but sweetheart, please know that I always, always love you.


2 thoughts on “When Your Love Language Seems To Be All Four Letter Words

  1. Love it. All ringing true, though we are out the other end and enjoying good times with twenty somethings. There is a parenting book which covers the ground called ‘Get out of my life, but first can you drive me and Cheryl to the mall’. Ha ha!

You've heard my thoughts, now throw me yours...