Love Languages

Navigating Love Across Cultures with Chapman’s Love Languages

Discussing love and relationships nowadays inevitably involves the term ‘love languages,’ a concept introduced by American author Gary Chapman in his early 90s book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.” Dr. Chapman, who is now 80, couldn’t have foreseen the widespread impact of his concept, now sometimes humorously extended to a potential sixth language, with ongoing debates ranging from tacos to chocolate. 

If you search ‘love language’ on TikTok, you’ll see a library of clips amassing a total of one billion views. But it’s not just pop-psychology buzz fanned by twenty-somethings. Relationship counsellors in the UAE, too, use Chapman’s framework to help partners understand each other’s needs more effectively.

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“It’s important to learn to speak our children’s and partner’s love languages, so that we can display love the way they understand and need it the most.”

– Resha Erheim, mental health counsellor with Wise Mind Center, Dubai, speaking to Gulf News

According to Dr. Chapman, everyone shows and understands love in different ways. To make your partner feel loved, just talk to them in their own love language. The enduring relevance of these love languages first emerged from Chapman’s counselling experiences, where he observed couples struggling to understand each other’s needs. His identification of five love languages — Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, and Receiving Gifts — provides a comprehensive framework for navigating the intricate dynamics of relationships.

At KHAMSA, we’re passionate about love, especially the profound impact of culture on how people express and receive it. We’ve explored Chapman’s concept from a regional perspective, highlighting the nuanced interplay between culture and love languages. We stress the importance of viewing love languages as a tool for communication, not a justification for negative behaviour. Recognizing and interpreting each other’s differences in love languages becomes crucial to avoid being lost in translation.

١. Words of Affirmation: The Power of Spoken Love

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Words of Affirmation” encompass encouraging expressions of love, support, respect, and validation. They convey appreciation and contribute to building connections. Words of affirmation are not confined to specific relationships, as they can be exchanged among family members, friends, colleagues, or even casual acquaintances.

However, in intimate relationships, words of affirmation hold an essential role since they help foster a secure attachment style — a therapist’s term for a one’s ability to love and trust in a healthy manner. In the Arab world, where verbal expression can be both subtle and profound, words are integral to the way we express love and gratitude. In a region where eloquence is celebrated and poetry is revered, “Words of Affirmation” become a finely tuned art. 

٢. Quality Time: Moments That Bind Hearts

Image courtesy Sarah Bahbah

Quality Time,” the second love language, highlights the importance of being present with a loved one. This can come in the form of sharing a hobby together or having meaningful talks. When it comes to spending time together, it isn’t just about sharing physical space, but about being in the moment with someone, and that distinction can make a world of difference in a relationship.

In the Arab world, where the rhythm of life varies from place to place, time spent together is a cherished treasure. In Arab cultures, family and relationships are often a core element of one’s identity and values. Quality time is not just about quantity, but about the depth of connection. Our culture places great importance on gatherings, whether it’s sharing a meal or making the effort and time to see family on a regular basis. 

٣. Physical Touch: The Silent Language of Love

Image courtesy @subwayhands on Instagram

Physical Touch,” the third love language, speaks a universal tongue. In the Arab world, however, affection is often displayed through subtle gestures, the language of touch takes on unique expressions. Physical touch in the Arab world is not confined to romantic relationships either; it extends to the warmth of a hug among friends, or a reassuring hand on a loved one’s shoulder, or the tenderness of a parent’s embrace. While overt displays of affection may not usually be the case in our cultural context, greeting with kisses on the cheek are common throughout the region. The cultural nuance of this particular love dialect emphasizes the various ways in which it has the power to make us feel loved and supported. 

٤. Acts of Service: Love in Actions

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Acts of Service,” the fourth love language, embodies love through actions rather than words. It is about putting your money where your mouth is. While some prefer verbal affirmations, others appreciate love shown through deeds. In the Arab world, where hospitality is a sacred tradition and kind gestures are cultural norms, this love language flourishes. Actions carry great significance in Arab culture. Simple acts of kindness, like preparing a meal or assisting with a task, are powerful demonstrations of love. There’s a deep appreciation for loved ones making life easier or more comfortable through both small and grand gestures.

٥. Receiving Gifts: Tokens of Love and Affection

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The final love language, “Receiving Gifts,” is deeply embedded in the cultural traditions of the Arab world where there is a cultural significance of gifting in the region, it is seen as a form of respect and love. It’s not about the material value but the sentiment behind the gift. Seen through the lens of Arab culture, receiving – and giving – gifts is not only reserved to romantic relationships; it is a sign of hospitality that deeply resonates with values embedded in our culture. These tokens serve as subtle indicators of respect and gratitude as much as they do reflect an understanding of your partner and your attentiveness to their preferences. It’s essential to note that individuals who appreciate this love language aren’t necessarily driven by materialism; rather, they find value in the love, thoughtfulness, and effort encapsulated within the gift.

“The key lies in selecting a gift that signifies your understanding of your partner and the effort invested in expressing love.”

– Gary Chapman

The act of giving a gift communicates to your partner that you took the time to consider them in advance and went out of your way to procure something that would bring a smile to their face.

Exploring love languages in the Arab world, we discover that love is not confined by boundaries or stereotypes; it is a universal force that takes shape and form in countless beautiful ways. Chapman’s five love languages continue to guide and inspire, offering a timeless roadmap to the heart, no matter where in the world one may be.