It wouldn’t be accurate to lump all single adults into the same group. There are at least five very different categories of single adults.
The largest numbers of singles are those who have never been down the aisle. But the other four groups also command our attention. Here are the five groups:
- Never married.
- Separated but not divorced.
- Single parents.
Clearly, single adults are a very diverse group of people. However, they are still united by those factors that hold all of us together as humans. Everyone wrestles with values, morals, relationships, and meaning. If you are a single adult, just like everyone else, you’re seeking to understand yourself and your place in the world. At the heart of these pursuits is the need as an unmarried person to give and receive emotional love.
Learning to speak love and appreciation in a language the other person can receive is the key to enhancing all human relationships. Apply the principles of the five love languages, you will become more effective in all of your relationships.
Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
For some singles, this is already their native tongue. They grew up in a positive linguistic environment, hearing many affirming words from their earliest childhood. It will be relatively easy for them to speak this language, because they have been practicing it for many years. These are the people who are known in their social circle as encouragers. They are constantly affirming, encouraging, and expressing words of appreciation to others.
The singles’ world is filled with people who are worthy of praise. The single mom who works to support her family and to educate her children deserves the highest accolades. The person who works through the pain of divorce and comes out with a positive attitude believing in the future deserves praise. The single adult who wrestles with cancer and maintains a positive attitude by using his or her energies in positive pursuits is worthy of a whole praise team. The never-married single who invests time and energy in helping underprivileged children accomplish educational goals deserves words of praise. All around us there are people who daily expend energy for the benefit of others. These people need to hear words of praise.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- To what degree did you receive words of affirmation from your parents?
- Do you find it easy or difficult to speak words of affirmation to your parents? Why?
- If you find it difficult, is it time for you to take the initiative to express words of affirmation to your parents?
- How freely do you express words of affirmation in other relationships?
- Is there a relationship you would like to enhance? Do you think speaking words of affirmation would be meaningful to that person?
Love Language #2: Gifts
A gift is a tangible object that says, “I was thinking about you. I wanted you to have this. I love you.”
Some gifts only last for a few hours. Many moms will remember this gift—a dandelion picked from the yard and given to her by her child. The gift was quickly gone, but the memory has lingered for years. Other gifts, like the rocking chair, endure for a lifetime. The important thing is not the gift, but the emotional love that was communicated by the gift. The right gift is any token, big or small, which speaks that emotional love
A gift is not a gift when it is given to smooth ruffled feathers. Some people think that giving a gift will offset the harsh words they have spoken. Some sons were instructed by their fathers, “When you’ve done wrong, always get her flowers. Flowers cover a multitude of sins.” After a while, however, girls who receive these flowers regularly just want to throw them in the guys’ face. A gift is a gift only when given as a genuine expression of love, not as an effort to cover over past failures.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- To what degree was the love language of gifts spoken by your parents to you and to each other?
- How often do you give gifts to those you love and care for?
- What is the last gift you gave and to whom did you give it?
- Do you find speaking the love language of gifts difficult, or does it come naturally for you? Why?
- In your conversation with others, do you consciously listen for gift ideas? Would keeping a gift list in your notebook be helpful for you?
- If you enjoy receiving gifts, from whom would you most like to receive one? Would it be appropriate for you to give this person a gift this week?
Love Language #3: Acts of Service
Life is filled with opportunities to express love by acts of service. You accompany a coworker to the parking lot and find her left front tire flat. An older single adult needs a ride to the doctor’s office or to church. You have a date for the evening—why not call ahead and ask if she needs a loaf of bread or some milk, which you can pick up on your way over? (If you pay for it, it is both a gift and an act of service.) Taking your elderly mother to the grocery store is an act of service.
For some singles this love language comes easy. They grew up in homes where they were taught that “actions speak louder than words.” They were praised when they did acts of service for family members, and the family often did service projects for the elderly or those in need. They feel deeply that to love means to serve. Consequently they are alert to the opportunities around them.
Others will find this love language extremely difficult to speak because their family of origin emphasized everyone fending for himself. “Don’t expect me to take care of you all the time” is the message those people heard during their childhoods. Consequently, the focus of their lives is looking out for their own needs. They expect everyone else to do the same. Why should I do something for others they can do for themselves? is their way of thinking. “Oh, sure, I would help a little old lady in need,” he says. But in reality he seldom does.
Therefore, before doing an act of service, you’d better ask, “Would it be helpful to you if I did _____.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Did your father speak the love language acts of service similar to Leah’s father? What about your mother?
- How freely do you express acts of service to others?
- What acts of service have you done for your parents in the last three months?
- What acts of service have you shown toward a friend or someone with whom you have a dating relationship?
- What acts of service have others done for you recently?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, how much love do you feel when people express acts of service to you?
- Would you be willing to set a goal of speaking the love language acts of service at least once a week to someone you care about?
Love Language #4: Quality Time
Quality time does not mean we must spend all of our moments gazing into each other’s eyes. It may mean doing something together that we both enjoy. The particular activity is secondary, only a means to creating the sense of togetherness. The important thing about a mother rolling the ball to her two-year-old is not the activity itself, but the emotions that are created between the mother and her child. Similarly, a dating couple playing tennis together, if it is genuine quality time, will focus not on the game but on the fact that they are spending time together. What happens on the emotional level is what matters. Their spending time together in a common pursuit communicates that they care about each other, that they enjoy being with each other.
If, on the other hand, your dating partner has expressed a desire to learn to play tennis and you, being more proficient, agree to give him a tennis lesson, the focus is on developing your partner’s skills. This may be an expression of love, but it’s not quality time, this would be the love language known as acts of service. You are providing a desired service, teaching your partner to improve his tennis game. He may feel genuinely loved by your efforts, especially if his primary love language is acts of service. In this context, you might also speak the love language of quality time if after the instruction you sit down for a cool glass of lemonade and have a quality conversation.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- To what degree was the love language of quality time spoken by your parents to each other, and to you?
- Are you energized when you spend quality time with others, or does it tend to deplete you emotionally?
- With whom have you spent quality time this week? Was your time together primarily quality conversation or quality activities?
- Would it be wise for you to give some quality time to one or both of your parents this week? This month? If so, why not put it on your schedule now?
- In your circle of friends, who seems to be asking for quality time? Is this a relationship you would like to enhance? If so, why not set aside some quality time for them right now?
Love Language #5: Physical Touch
Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. If the person’s primary love language is physical touch, your touches will speak much louder than the words “I love you” or “I hate you.” Withhold touches and you will isolate and raise doubts about your love. A tender hug communicates love to any child, but it shouts love to the child whose primary love language is physical touch. The same is true of single adults. When you listen to a friend who is feeling down and answer with a clasp of the shoulder, you declare loudly, “I love you. I care, and you are not alone.”
When your body is touched, you are touched much more deeply than the mere physical contact. When someone withdraws from your body, they distance themselves from you emotionally. In our society shaking hands is a way of communicating openness and social closeness to another individual. When, on rare occasions, a man refuses to shake hands with another, it communicates a message that things are not right in their relationship
On the other hand, some single adults may not respond positively to physical touch. If, when you give a work associate a pat on the back he stiffens up and withdraws, he is communicating that physical touch is not his primary love language. However, another person in the same office might feel affirmed by your pat on the back. The purpose of love is to enhance the well-being of another, not to satisfy your own desires. Therefore, learning to speak another person’s primary love language is the most effective way of loving others.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- What types of physical touch do you consider affirming?
- What kinds of touches make you feel uncomfortable?
- To what degree did your parents speak the love language of physical touch to you? To each other?
- In your circle of friends, who are the “touchers”? People whose primary love language is Physical Touch usually like to be touched. In what way might you reciprocate their love?
- Looking back over today or yesterday, what types of physical touches did you give to others? How did they seem to respond?
- If touching comes easy for you, whom have you encountered who seemed to draw back from touching? Why do you think this is true?