Through his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman brought an important idea to the forefront of popular culture — people express and receive love in different ways. Whether it’s words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, or quality time, most people have one or two dominant “love languages” they use to communicate affection.
If you don’t already know your love language, I’d recommend taking the quiz to find out. Knowing your own love language, as well as the love language of your partner, your children, and your other close companions, can be enormously helpful to form deeper, stronger relationships.
That being said, some love languages are easier to use than others during the current pandemic. This is especially frustrating because what we need more than ever is to feel love and connection. To address this gap, I have put together this humble list of suggestions.
This is the most difficult primary love language to have right now, so I want to give a long, warm virtual hug to these folks right now. Physical touch is one of my love languages, and as someone who lives alone, this has been an exceptionally difficult time. Like at one point, I ordered Indian food and when the delivery driver was especially nice over text, I thought to myself, “Maybe we will fall in love now!” We didn’t.
It’s a lonely time for physical touch folks, and nothing will replace the life-giving hugs you will exchange after social distancing guidelines end. In the meantime, here are some ideas for how you can support your touch-loving friends.
- Send them something warm and fuzzy that smells like you. It will almost feel like being held by you.
- Gift them things that are pleasurable to touch — silk scarves or one of those incredibly soft microfiber blankets, for example.
- Send them things they can use for a spa day, like bath bombs, a massager, or a face mask. Pampering releases oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.”
- Make eye contact with them. This one might seem weird, but hear me out. Eye contact is physically intimate without requiring physical touch. If you can’t be in the same place, try looking directly at the camera over video chat so it feels like they’re looking into your eyes. To be honest, I have no idea if this will work, but it’s worth a shot!
- Try virtual touch. For someone you’re sexually intimate with, there is obviously sexting (VERY IMPORTANT: consent is ALWAYS mandatory, even virtually, so don’t send explicit messages or photos out of the blue. I will yeet you into the sun if I find out you did this). But even in a platonic relationship, you could say, “I am sending you a virtual hug!” or “I would love to play with your hair right now!” Will it feel weird? Maybe! But if there is any moment to try something new and weird, it’s now.
Words of Affirmation
Unable to see their loved ones in person, many people are learning for the first time how to verbally express affection, and it’s beautiful to see. This is my secondary love language so this is at least a small comfort for me. I am naturally effusive when it comes to people I love, and it has been nice to have more of that energy directed back towards me.
That being said, there are only so many times you can say “I love you” and truly placate your words of affirmations friends. Tell me WHY, and don’t leave out any details! Here are some things to try to switch it up.
- Send them a card or letter expressing how much you value them. This will be treasured for a literal lifetime.
- Record a voice memo listing all of your favorite of their qualities. Hearing your voice lends a more personal touch to your loving words.
- Text them something you miss about them every day to give them a daily dose of love.
- Give them a pep talk. In these uncertain times, there is a lot of anxiety and self-doubt blooming, so your loved one may benefit most from a solid boost.
- Shout them out on social media. There’s nothing like a virtual public display of affection to make someone feel important.
Acts of Service
When it comes to love, these people want to be shown, not told. We have all heard that actions speak louder than words, and people whose love language is acts of service have taken this to heart (literally). The classic example of an act of service is doing your partner’s least favorite chore for them. This, of course, is a lot trickier if you’re not currently quarantined with your loved one. Fortunately, there are plenty of actions you can take to communicate your love.
- Pick up groceries for them and drop them at their front door. Right now, shopping is a harrowing experience, so this would be a significant act of love for many.
- Take one logistic off their plate. We’re all dealing with lifestyle changes that may be overwhelming. See if there is some kind of logistical problem you can help them with, such as planning a virtual happy hour or finding where they can buy more face masks for their children.
- Send them a meal. We’re all sick of cooking now, right? Sending their favorite takeout to their door is a great way to show that you care.
- Make them a playlist of podcasts to listen to. You could also give them a playlist of songs, a list of movies to watch, or a list of books to read. All of these would take away some of the burden of decision fatigue.
- Look for ways you can make their day easier. If you’re not sure what you can do for your loved one, pay attention to the struggles that they are facing. If they’re unemployed and looking for a job, for example, you might offer to edit their resume or send them job listings. What is the biggest difficulty they are currently facing? Is there anything you can do about it? Even if you can’t think of anything yourself, you can simply ask them, “How can I make your life easier today?”
While it may seem like giving gifts is the easiest love language on this list during the pandemic, this love language is arguably the most misunderstood. Often considered “materialistic,” I have found that many people shy away from identifying with this love language for fear of being considered greedy. In reality, people who equate gifts with love care more about the intention behind the gift than the money spent. Gifts serve as a reminder of how much they are loved, regardless of price tag.
Gifts are both easy and hard right now. They’re easy because we are able to send things to one another’s doors. They’re hard because whether you are struggling financially or they are, money can be a sensitive topic. Here are some ideas that don’t necessarily require you to spend a lot of money that can still have an impact.
- Use your creative gifts. If you’re a crafter, make them a picture frame for a picture of you together. If you’re a musician, try writing them a song. These types of gifts are often the most well-loved because of the time and attention required to put them together.
- Pay for them to take a class in a skill they have always wanted to master. There are tons of discounted online classes right now (check out Udemy), and this type of gift empowers them to work on their own development.
- Send them a book you think they’ll like. Choose something from your collection that you enjoy talking about.
- Gift them their favorite treat. It was recently my birthday, and my friends were kind enough to fill my kitchen with delicious sweet things. Speaking from this experience, these made me feel very loved and gave me something to look forward to.
People whose love language is quality time feel most important and special to someone when their loved one simply wants to be with them. It doesn’t matter how this manifests — the emphasis here is truly on quality rather than time. A half-hour conversation with your full attention is more impactful than a two-hour hang where you’re staring at your phone most of the time.
Quality time is tough during social distancing. Video chatting simply isn’t the same as sitting in the same room. Fortunately, though it isn’t ideal, technology has enabled us to make due for now.
- Watch your favorite show together. This works great for shows on live TV because it gives you a special time every week to set aside for each other.
- Play games. You can play your favorite video game online together, or download an app like Houseparty.
- Do a virtual book club. Pick a book and a few of your favorite pals and read together.
- Do a challenge together. There are a ton of challenges that you can do together, such as doing yoga every day for 30 days.
- Share a remote meal together. Order food from the same place and eat at the same time to almost feel like you’re out to dinner.
I hope these help you communicate your love to the people who matter the most to you during this time. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay connected.