Lifestyle Change and the 5 Love Languages

Heart guy on 18th Street pedestrian overpass on Highway 101 in San Francisco. Photo by Alan Bell.

Can a lifestyle change your relationships? Absolutely! Recently Alan expressed some frustration that he no longer knew what special things to do to show me love and affection since going zero waste. Why is this an issue?

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I talk about ways humans show and receive affection and care, how a lifestyle change can alter this, and how to keep your relationships intact when you adjust your life philosophies, as in the case of changing to a zero waste or plant-based vegan lifestyle.

Sometimes the signs aren’t so obvious!

Years ago, when Alan and I were first dating, we encountered communication breakdowns and some philosophical differences. We both felt misunderstood and under-appreciated. But we were committed to this relationship, and through counselling and a lot of dedicated work, we made it through the bumps and hurdles. During this process we discovered a very helpful relationship tool, The 5 Love Languages, where we learned that we spoke different love languages. He was speaking to me in a language that made him feel thoughtful and caring and attentive, but I received the message much differently–and vice versa. Do you ever learn something and think, “Well, duh, that makes sense. Why didn’t I know that before?”

The Five Love Languages

5 love languages

5 Ways We Show/Receive Love, According to Gary Chapman

In The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, Gary Chapman counsels that there are five ways people speak and understand emotional love:

Words of Affirmation

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

People have a primary love language, or primary way of communicating and receiving love–it’s the thing that makes you feel proof that someone loves and cares for you. If your mate communicates in their way, but it is not the way you prefer to receive love, you may feel shorted and unimportant. And, in turn, if you continually communicate your love to your partner in a way you prefer but they do not, you feel like you try and try and try and never get appreciated for all the things you’ve done to prove your love to them. And sometimes, one mate gets it right and the other wrong, leaving one feeling fulfilled and happy, and the other partner frustrated. Gosh, this sounded so familiar!

Love in many languages!

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as they would have done unto you”? Well I think that’s flawed, always have. It should read, “Do unto others as THEY would have done unto THEM”! Right? If someone tries to reward you with a foot massage because that’s what they love but you’re horribly ticklish, to the point that having your feet touched is torture, how is that the right thing for them to do??

In addition to the assessment in his book, Chapman has an online quiz on the 5 Love Languages website to identify your primary and secondary love languages. Through this, I found that my primary love language was Receiving Gifts and secondary was Quality Time. In addition, the least desirable language for me was Acts of Service. Alan’s languages were Acts of Service and Quality Time. More interestingly was that his least desirable language was Receiving Gifts; were actually 180-degrees from each other. No wonder we felt a disconnect–we weren’t speaking the same language!

Enter a Lifestyle Change

And so there we were, for years, communicating in the best ways possible to show each other love. Until Alan noticed it was off. He suggested we return to the 5 Love Languages quiz and see if our lifestyle change (going zero waste), had affected our love languages (actually, how it had affected mine). As it turns out, it did change my love language, but his changed too!

                 Alan                  Before Zero Waste

                  Alan                 After Zero Waste

Acts of Service

Words of Affirmation

Quality Time

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation

Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

 

                 Cindy                 Before Zero Waste

               Cindy                 After Zero Waste

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Quality Time

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation

Physical Touch

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

It was remarkable to see how moving toward a zero waste lifestyle really had changed how I feel loved! Alan was right, receiving gifts used to be the way to my heart, but now, it’s on the bottom of the list. And that makes sense, I’d rather have experiences than things now. A gift brings wrapping, packaging, and more stuff–all things we’re trying to reduce in our lives. We found it fascinating how needs and desires change over time.

Het Blauwe Hart (The Blue Heart) in Delft, Netherlands.

The 5 love languages definitely are a factor in successful lifestyle change. Changing your lifestyle changes where you put your energy, what you value, and how you spend your time, and this affects relationships. It can make transitioning to zero waste, going plant-based vegan, triathlon training, etc., hard to incorporate into your daily life. And this is often a major concern people have when considering making changes, how they will affect their relationships. I had one client, in particular, where this was very obvious. Her husband, a trained chef, was not interested in transitioning to a plant-based vegan diet. Her eating and lifestyle change was a concern in their household because he demonstrated his love by cooking for her. We really had to work to navigate this big change for them so they could both be successful in her change in eating patterns and continue their happy, loving relationship. I’m happy to say they are successful on both fronts due to their communication and work!

So check out the 5 Love Languages–the quiz is free and a great resource to learn more about your yourself and others in your circle. It is one excellent tool to learn how a lifestyle change may affect your relationships and opens up lines of communication so you can make a change and still be successful.

Heart in the wild

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