It was Maria Montessori who first described how different children have different learning styles. For example, a kinaesthetic learner will learn best through motion and touching and (theoretically) schools can utilise this to aid learning. It all sounds very plausible and certainly explains why little boys are better at counting while they stack building blocks than when they are told to sit still and count with their classmates.
However I recently watched a series of lectures on education in which the professor explained there is no conclusive evidence to show pupils learn significantly better if they’re taught in their natural learning style. In fact he said that being taught in other learning styles will stretch pupils and make them use their brains in a way that helps them progress more in the long term. So the kinaesthetic little boys may learn a lot from having to sit still and count with their classmates after all (even if they prefer to stack building blocks).
I believe the same principle applies to Love Languages. I think anyone can teach themselves to receive and show love in a language that isn’t their primary, native language. And I think it’s essential to do this if your nearest and dearest has a different Love Language to yourself. I also believe that being flexible and using other Love Languages will help you improve your relationships.
Imagine a marriage where the wife is a gifts gal – if her husband gives her a present (even if it’s just a paper heart) she feels sure he loves her. But sadly, she’s married to a practical, acts of service guy. He washes the car, tidies the garage and helps dry the dishes but doesn’t ever, ever, ever buy her flowers.
What can she do?
Well she can explain nicely that her Love Language is gifts, and it would mean a lot if she were given gifts occasionally. However, not every husband is going to play ball and in this circumstance it is probably best to accept the man you’ve married at face value and learn to communicate in his Love Language.
With some effort she can see the washed car is a gift, the tidy garage is as good as an “I love you” note, and the dry cutlery is akin to a parcel through the post.
At the same time she can stop giving her acts of service man gifts he doesn’t want or appreciate, and can start loving him in the way he understands best. Ironing his shirts, picking his socks off the floor and putting them in the laundry, cooking his favourite meal and cleaning the bathtub are now acts of love akin to sticking paper hearts on the bathroom mirror.
And finally, to make sure her emotional bank balance doesn’t run dry as she gives and receives in a ‘foreign’ language, she can fulfil her own needs. This may mean buying her own flowers or perfume, knowing that by doing so she is improving her mood and her marriage.
Understanding Love Languages means we can make them work for us, even if we aren’t married to text-book-perfect-men who do exactly what we’d like.