no flowersI’m not really into gifts. I don’t care much for flowers. I won’t refuse them. I’ll just put them in the only vase I own and set them on the kitchen table to die.

Nor do I need loads of quality time to feel secure. Working part-time, writing, and meeting the educational, physical, and emotional needs of three kids and a 2400-square-foot house and yard doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

And I’m not the touchy-feely type either requiring physical affection to feel loved. All the cheek-kissing of my Latin friends took a little getting used to.

On the other hand, you have no idea how far a single act of service on my behalf or some sincere words of affirmation will go with me. I suppose the latter run amuck is what led to my co-dependency.

I read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages years ago. (If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.) The concepts are very familiar to me although the applications are a constant challenge.

Chapman basically hypothesizes that everyone has a primary way they feel loved and, in many cases, spouses, children, and friends don’t always “speak” the same love language which—as the Tower of Babel vividly demonstrates—can be disastrous when building strong, lasting relationships. Think of Greeks talking to Cubans, French to Chinese, Hindis to Navajo, all in their native tongue and you’ll understand how communication can break down very quickly.

For example, when birthdays come around, the girly thing to give is flowers, cards, candles, and/or bubble bath. Besides the fact that anything scented makes me nauseous, I’m just not into that stuff. Unfortunately, cleaning someone’s bathroom doesn’t rank very high in the category of popular birthday gifts, although if you did it for me you’d probably become my BFF. Not into cleaning my grout? No problem. Just validate me. Tell me how awesome I am and you’ll win a permanent place in my Hall of Fame of Friends. Or at least a spot on the Favorites List of my cellphone.

The problem occurs when we assume that other people feel loved the same way we do—hence the endless perplexity and subsequent bitterness of some couples when the wife wants to lay in bed and talk and the husband wants to…do other things. Or the puzzled and impatient parent who can’t grasp why their four-year-old would rather sit in their lap and watch a 20-minute episode of Blues Clues in lieu of tearing into the $50 gift they just bought them.

We often fail miserably at speaking each other’s love language because we don’t even know there is another language other than the one we “speak”. Close friendships grow apart and families break down because love tanks are running dry.

But there was one guy who was multi-lingual in the language of love. He was the ultimate Casanova because he actually created not just the tongue but every dialect as well (Col 1:16): Jesus touched the leper (physical touch). He turned water into wine and washed the apostles’ feet (acts of service). He praised the centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman for their faith (words of affirmation). He spent quality time with the bleeding woman (who told him her whole story). And he gave all of us the most important gift he could—forgiveness of sin and our salvation.

In middle school band while I was still living under the delusion that I could be a female Benny Goodman, we played a popular duet by Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond that portrayed a couple who never learned to speak each other’s love language. If I was Barbara, I would have sung, “Please don’t bring me flowers anymore. Just take out the trash, keep the bushes trimmed, tell me how brilliant I am now and again, and I’ll be a happy camper.”

What’s your love language? What’s your spouse’s or kid’s or best friend’s?