I have a theory: I suspect The Five Love Languages was written primarily for and about women. As you consider what to do for Valentine’s Day, here’s my take on what makes most men feel loved. I call it the five love languages of men. I realize that it may describe some women too, so forgive any stereotypical language. Perhaps most of us are somewhere on a spectrum between the traditional “love languages” and these alternate expressions of them.
Firstly, men usually are not looking merely for words of affirmation. “Good job. Well done! I knew you could do it.” These words remind us of fifth grade. We weren’t men back then. No—we want words of admiration. This indicates respect for who we are and what we have accomplished. For some reason, many men (and some women) seem to be particularly tuned in to respect.
My wife is really good at helping me feel loved in this way. She shows her love for me through her public and personal admiration. She doesn’t try to nag me to get me to change. When a partner shows admiration, we feel more like a man (or a woman) and less like a child. That boosts our love feelings.
Secondly, we view quality time differently. Some have called this the difference between face-time and shoulder-time. Many men love shoulder-to-shoulder time, where instead of facing someone and sharing our feelings, we do an activity together. Whether it’s working on a project (thanks, Nicole, for helping me with the motorcycle repair!) or a hobby or a sports event, we love being side-by-side. Camaraderie makes us feel loved. When we go to a restaurant to “talk,” it’s often because you’ve asked for it, or frankly, because we’re hungry. (Food should really be another love language for men—but I digress.) Don’t get me wrong; I’m one of those men who love talking to my wife. It’s one of the reasons I married her. But in the balance of things, I need more shoulder-time and she needs more face-time.
There’s a similar problem with the love language of gifts. We see these differently. Nicole loves simple little gifts because they remind her that I love her, and that I’ve been consistently thinking of her. (Bring on the bouquets of wildflowers, boys!) But many men are not impressed by gifts. We don’t know what to do with that little “World’s Best Husband” trinket. We don’t need any more socks and ties (okay, maybe we do, but it still doesn’t cause warm, fuzzy feelings). Our love language is achievements. It’s a longed-for prize that we finally are able to get our hands on. It might be a gift like a longed-for tool, or it might be something more intangible like finishing a project.
Now, this may blow your mind, but I hope you’ll understand. One of the ways in which Nicole lets me know that she loves me is when she says, “I’ve got things under control at home, why don’t you stay on at work and finish what you need to do there.” What a gift! She enables me to achieve something and I feel loved. So, thank you for the card and that little thing that you thought was so cute, but if you really want your man to feel loved, help him achieve longed-for goals.
What about acts of service? Surely that applies to both men and women. But not so fast! I think acts of service misses the point. Most men (and probably quite a few women) are after something else. What makes us feel loved is dominion. When the house is in order, the subjects (children) are happy and obedient, and food is on the table, we feel like kings (and queens). Our oxytocin and dopamine faucets turn on!
Before you accuse me of returning to 1950s characterizations of housewives, let me explain. This applies to both sexes. And it’s good news. In order to make your spouse feel loved you don’t have to slave away trying to do as many projects as possible. Simply ask yourself, “What can I do in thirty minutes that would restore dominion?” Spending a few minutes to do a quick cleanup before your spouse gets home, or taking the kids and getting them out of the house so that the other parent can feel normal again, restores dominion. You may be wasting time doing projects that your partner doesn’t appreciate. Instead, do the things that restore peace and order to his/her dominion, and love sparkles again!
Finally, let’s talk about physical touch. Let’s face it. Touch is often interpreted differently by men and women. The romantic gesture for one tends to be a hormonal injection for the other. In our family, we often joke that women are like crockpots and men are like microwaves. Give a woman romantic love throughout the day and she will slowly build to a nice warm crockpot in the evening. However, for the man, find the right buttons to push, and bam, he’s on! However, once he’s on, there’s also no place where a man is more vulnerable. The bedroom is where a man either feels like a superhero or an emasculated weakling. If you want to make him feel unloved, reject his attentions or ridicule him. That’s where the microwave rapidly turns off or overheats. It’s a particular vulnerability for men.
There’s something else that you need to know about a man’s love language when it comes to touch. For us, touch may be visual. Before you despair of looking like the cover of Cosmopolitan, realize, it doesn’t take much for a man to be visually stimulated (unless there is an underlying problem with pornography, but that’s outside the scope of what we are dealing with here). We fell in love with you and you’re still amazingly beautiful to us. But, changing out those sweat pants for that special dress, throwing that flirtatious look or, for married people, having an intentional wardrobe malfunction ;), makes your partner feel like he’s just hit the jackpot. I suspect that for a number of ladies, how their partner looks affects their love feelings too.
Now, a few cautions as we end. If you’re a man (or a woman) and you’ve been reading this and sending me virtual high-fives because this describes you, remember that this likely isn’t what your partner responds to. If you want to make her (or him) feel loved, then you should probably go back and read the book by Gary Chapman. It has a lot of good advice on the love languages that probably apply to your partner. Learn their love languages and then teach them yours.
If you’re single, you may have to adjust some of the ideas here. I didn’t primarily have you in mind. Perhaps one day I’ll write the dating perspective to the love languages of men.
Also, please don’t try to use this information to manipulate your partner. It’s meant to give you an understanding of the person you love, not to give you extra tools for getting them to do what you want.
And finally, remember that love relationships are covenants, not contracts. They are not based on “if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you.” Rather, relationships are built on promises of fidelity that involve sacrifice. Love is a willingness to give up your own wants and desires for the sake of the other person. And love will sometimes withhold what the person wants in order to give them what they really need. (Hopefully this briefly-stated principle won’t be misunderstood.)
There you have it—the love languages of men, according to Alan Parker. What do you think? Am I on track here? Would you have stated it differently? Does this describe you or your partner? Let me know. For right now, you’d better get back to considering what you were going to do for Valentine’s Day!