I firmly subscribe to the belief that more is more when it comes to love.
And no, I’m not talking about polyamory.
What I’m talking about is the different forms of love that weave together to form the rich and varied tapestry of our love lives. A full and deeply connected life. One where we can transmit love in multiple directions, where we are able to give and receive love. Truly, deeply, and with grace.
I’m talking about friendship and companionship, our soul sisters and brothers. I’m talking about familial love and kinship:
“To the family we are born with, as well as the family we make along the way” ~ Higgins, Ted Lasso Season 2.
The love we feel for our children and godchildren, the nieces and nephews in our lives. Sure, romantic love has a place too. But so does collegiality and the broader types of love we experience in our communities.
I’ve long thought that the love languages are a phenomenal tool helping to decipher the many and varied communication styles. Figuring out another’s modus operandi has become a mini obsession for me. The people pleaser in me likes to maximize the relationships in my life by figuring out what makes people tick and then delivering to them an individual and carefully curated package of care.
Yet for many years, this obsession has only run one way, mostly focused on the output, on how I could give. Lately, I’ve been thinking deeply about the way in which I want to receive love. Many late-night discussions among friends later, I’ve decided. I no longer want to limit myself to just one or two, even three of the love languages. I don’t want to prioritize or categorize or pick and choose. My framework is simple: I want to love and be loved across all five.
Here’s what that looks like.
Acts of Service: Show me you care by showing me you care
Father, I will arrange for a cleaner to clean your house before mother arrives back from her visit to Canada. I know that despite being an ace in the kitchen, you really struggle with cleaning, and you would much rather be met with delight rather than disappointment when she walks through the door after three weeks away. I also know that you struggle with things like booking appointments online, so I will take that load off your plate.
Future partner, I’m cooking you dinner tonight even though I rarely relish the opportunity to get out the spatula. It’s just I know you’ve had a tough day and it will take a weight off you to walk through the door as I’m plating up our supper.
Later, you are going to help me rewire the dodgy living room lights because electricians are a rip-off, and quite frankly, you are terrified I’m going to electrocute myself whilst simultaneously blowing the fuse. It’s not necessarily “fun” and of course there are better things we’d like to do together, but we do nice things for one another because that type of generosity of spirit is baked into our DNA.
We don’t need a reason, we just do.
Gifts: show me you care with thoughtful tokens of appreciation
Possibly the most room dividing of all the love languages. People seem to either love giving and receiving gifts or hate it. For those in the dislike camp, the arguments usually centre around gifts being too “materialistic” or having to involve substantial spend. However, I encourage us all to get creative about how and what we gift. Hint: we can gift our time (see above acts of service).
Monetary spend is not important here. Think meaningful rather than pricey. Future partner/soul sister/niece: you could pick up a seashell on the beach, plop it in a recycled gift bag, and say, “It reminds me of you because it’s weathered and wise and when you get lonely you can hold it up to your ear and hear me whispering sounds of the ocean to you,” and I would Loose. My. Mind.
Flowers on my birthday? Yes please! That rose-scented incense they sell for a £1 at the local store? Gimme, gimme, gimme!
Gift giving is going to the store and seeing a mug with the message, “You are blooming lovely” and spontaneously buying it for your colleague who has just separated from her partner. It’s wrapping it up in some reused tissue paper with the hand-written note, “I thought you might need a reminder” and leaving it on her desk so she gets a surprise when she comes in the next day.
It’s peppering gift giving into the day-to-day rather than being for special occasions only. Gifts need no reason other than those that arise as a spontaneous response to life.
Words of Affirmation: show me you care by speaking your care into existence
One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a dear friend who’s been in my life for many decades. “I really struggle with edges and edgy people” she mused. “One of the things I most love about you Amanda is that you’re a circle. You don’t have edges. There is just nothing to rub up against.” Her words stay with me every time imposter syndrome sets in. Every time I doubt that I’m loveable or deserve to be loved. Her words cost her nothing and yet they mean everything to me.
Being generous with our words is a gift that doesn’t have a price. They cost us nothing.
Had a nice outing with friends? Tell them. And get specific. Sure, saying we had a lovely evening on the group text is fine. But we can do better than fine. If and when it’s genuine, I like to text each one in the group individually telling them how they made my evening, in what ways they showed up that made it stand out for me.
Thought someone delivered a great presentation at work? Tell them what exactly you liked about it and why. Giving detail shows that we are engaged and present. “I really enjoyed your presentation; the pacing was good and you left more than enough time for Q & A. I really appreciate that.”
Friends and family: deluge me with a waterfall of words. I want to feel seen, heard, understood. Support me, lift me up. Elevate me when I can’t elevate myself. Etch the words into existence so they can stick around in my memory long after you’ve physically departed.
Tell me these things because words cost you nothing, yet they stay with me forever.
Quality time: Show me you care by spending time with me
Oh the things I want to do with you. All of you—my friends, siblings, my soul sister, and my future partner. My nieces and my goddaughter. I want to take road trips that last hours, and I want to sing loudly the harmony line in Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” when it comes on the radio and for you to think that’s pretty cool.
I want to play mini golf and go ice-skating and go on a sushi-making workshop and break and fix cute Japanese pottery with golden glue, and I want to go to the cinema and fall asleep during the film and for you not to care. I want to curl up on the sofa in front of the fire and not watch the television as we argue over what to watch.
I want to go e-curling and axe throwing and horse riding and to roller disco and a trip to the beach and eat fish and chips with salt and vinegar and ‘99 cones from the ice cream van.
And I’m interested in hearing what you want to do too. Golf? I’m still not sure I believe it’s a sport, but I’ll give it a whirl. Fishing? I’ll sit by your side as you hold onto the line. Tango? I’ll take CBD to calm my dancing anxiety and borrow a suitable outfit from a friend. This is your time too, and I’m open to it all.
And I also recognise that there are so many threads of me that it is almost impossible to keep up and so we will unwind the rope strand by strand and separate it out so that this quality time becomes a shared responsibility across the broad all-encompassing community that makes up my love life.
Touch: show me you care with hugs, lots and lots of hugs
Hugs. Of course, all the other stuff too, but mostly hugs. I operate a strict, three hugs a day minimum policy. I give and accept hugs anywhere it’s even remotely deemed socially acceptable. And I always want more.
I’ll just say it outright: there can just never ever be enough hugs. I want to be hugged morning, noon, and night, and then spooned a bit more overnight for good measure.
Please note future partner: overnight stays are a cuddle puddle; my dog likes to get in on the action, and she will tightly squeeze herself in between us. We are a pack after all.
Lets be generous with our love
My manifestation—part reality, part aspirational—might sound ambitious, but I am not choosey when it comes to love. I accept all different forms in the myriad of ways they show up. I don’t expect that one person can provide everything I need.
Forget a village; it takes an army.
And it’s not about giving to receive something in return. It’s about giving because it fills our own cup too. It’s because a generosity of spirit is a way of life. We set firm enough boundaries that the people we let in don’t take more than they give. It’s giving without condition and knowing that it doesn’t lessen our spirit; nothing is being taken from us as a result.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~Buddha
We model how to be generous not because there is anything in it for us, but because it is so baked into the way we are, we simply cannot be any other way.
I want to love and be loved across all five love languages.
I want to be broad with my definitions and generous with my love—in all it’s different forms.