I Learned My Self-Care Love Languages And It's Fascinating

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
I Learned My Self-Care Love Languages And It's Fascinating: woman thinking in cafe window
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My husband and I have had multiple conversations about our love languages. We went from no kids to four kids over a span of eight years, and one of our kids has special needs. It’s nearly impossible for us to have time for each other when we’re spending our every waking moment cuddling kids to sleep, picking them up from practices and therapies, solving sibling disagreements, and making snacks. However, we know it’s essential that I take time to offer my husband his love language — words of affirmation. I need him to show up with a thoughtful gift. Doing so ensures we both feel love and appreciation.

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We know how important love languages are, and in fact, we apply them to our kids too. Last month, we made a connection list for each of our kids, figuring out ways we could spend time with our children that would be the most meaningful for them. So if our partnership and parenting is fostered with the love language, why can’t our self-care be, too? When a graphic by Dominee Wyrick featuring self-care love languages popped into my feed, I was intrigued. We all know self-care matters, but this is the first time I’ve stopped to analyze what I need so I can DIY my self-care.

In case you’re new to love languages, there are five, popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman. Good news! You can take a free love languages quiz online to figure out what your love languages are and in what order. You will have a primary love language, followed by a secondary, and so on. If you have a partner, you can have them take the quiz, too. The idea is that you love another person by carrying out their love language, because too often we express love to others in our own love language.

I admit, I was pretty skeptical at first. I roll my eyes at self-help books and gurus. If a book is popular, I’m probably not going to read it. Not only do I roll my eyes at nearly every self-improvement “expert,” but I don’t have time to read their advice. However, I discovered a used, free copy of The Five Love Languages and decided to give it a whirl, and I’m very glad I did. The concept is simple yet can have a profound effect on a relationship when put into practice.

Wyrick told Scary Mommy, “Self-love languages matter because so many people have a one-dimensional idea of what self-love and self-care look like and being able to understand that it’s different for everyone can help more people focus on loving themselves.” Wow. Isn’t that some truth?

When I think of self-care, I consider all the stereotyped and often privileged options that are thrown at women. I’m supposed to like manicures, pedicures, massages, weekend beach trips, and going to dinner alone with a good book in tow. The reality is, I don’t have the time, money, or childcare for those. Not to mention, I don’t enjoy getting my nails done, massages make me uncomfortable, and going to dinner alone sounds boring. I know I’d just pull out my phone and scroll through my feed for an hour while scarfing down too many fries.

I’ve done a few things for myself over the years. I created a self-care box that I keep on my bathroom counter. It contains a few products that make me happy, like teeth-whitening strips and a dry skin brush. I’ve also been known to run to Target for some “essentials” as close to my kids’ bedtime as possible, leaving my husband to tuck in the children solo. I’ve relented to the fact that I won’t be jetting off to Mexico for the weekend until all my kids are out of the house, which is an obscene amount of time from now: 15 years, at least.

Though I’ve tried meditation several times, I just don’t enjoy it or stay committed. I also have zero energy when my husband gets home from work, so I don’t want to put on makeup and throw on jeans and a nice shirt and meet a friend for dinner. After 4:00 P.M., it’s all downhill for me. My goal? I want to eat chips and salsa in my bed while watching Parks and Rec. Please and thank you.

What is my primary self-care love language, then? That’s where this handy-dandy graphic comes in. I read over it, honing in on the words that spoke to me. What was interesting is that my love language results from Chapman’s online quiz seem to be the same for the self-care love language. I like receiving gifts. It’s no surprise that sneaking off to T.J.Maxx is a hobby of mine. If I can score a single pretty item, like a new hair clip or a pair of cozy pj pants, I’m thrilled. Yes, it’s the little things.

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to pick and stick. Just because you have a primary self-care love language doesn’t mean you can’t dabble in the others. The only time I’m ever alone is in the shower, so it’s no surprise that physical touch is on my radar. I go to therapy, organize, and plan, all of which fall under Acts of Service. My chips-salsa-Netflix fest is one way I relax, which is considered Quality Time. I enjoy journaling, which is one way Words of Affirmation comes into the self-care game.

It’s helpful for me to have a visual reminder of possibilities and new things to try. Like many moms, I have very little time to sit quietly and reflect on my hopes, dreams, and needs. Heck, I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast this morning let alone drum up a good idea on how to rejuvenate after another long day of raising children and working. It’s a good day if I can find my cell phone and coffee and no one is home sick.

Now that I know what my self-love languages are, I can better put them into practice. No, I’m not giving up my evening chips and salsa. However, I’m going to add a few more self-care practices into the rotation, all thanks to social media.

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