For the longest time, I assumed “love languages” were a made-up construct in meme-talk and didn’t exist outside of the internet pop-culture parlance. Recently, I acquainted myself with the actual concept. The five “love languages” describe the ways in which people typically express and experience love. They are:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Physical touch
- Quality time
It almost felt like a light-bulb going off moment when I read the psychological reasoning behind these categories and how they help us forge intimacy with others. There was, after all, some logic behind why people show affection the way they do.
After my light-bulb moment, though, I felt even more confused. It dawned on me that I didn’t know my love language. I was lost trying to define how I choose to show my affection and what works for me when people express love back. My main struggle was this: I didn’t understand how to confine myself and limit my idea of affection within five categories—especially five categories set by someone who doesn’t know anything about my life, or my identity as a multipotentialite.
This made me wonder: are there multipotentialite love languages? Less rigid categories that could allow us to express all of ourselves in our relationships? If being a multipotentialite means exploring ourselves beyond “just one thing,” should our ways of showing love and affection and accepting the love we think we deserve be limited? Can we have more than one, inter-connected way of expressing our love?
After taking several rounds of the love language test and finding that my result changed each week, I went down a rabbit hole of introspection and came up with five broad categories for multipotentialite love languages. Most of these are derived from the existing love-language list. But, as a multipotentialite, I found value in reshaping this concept for myself. I hope this will help you, too, come closer to realizing how you love and accept love.
Validation instead of “Words of Affirmation”
As far back as my memory can trace, anyone who has validated my interests in life—across fields and years—has gotten my wholehearted love and affection in return. People close to multipotentialites can easily be overwhelmed witnessing our wide range of interests, hobbies, passions and callings. The ones who stick around and help us see the best in our passions are often those who validate these interests and ambitions for us.
The traditional love language, “Words of affirmation,” can be slightly limiting. There are times when we are of two minds about our decisions and life choices. In times of distress and duress, validating our fears and shortcomings can actually be helpful for us. It also helps us knowing you see through us, not just the good bits but all of it. I stick close to those who help me feel comfortable about living with varied passions and interests. Admittedly, I have a huge circle of friends, but my closest friends are those who are able to adjust to each of my many potentials instead of ridiculing me for them.
There are, however, people who can offer words of affirmation but extend no support to fuel our passions and aid our curiosities. These people tend to lack insight into how multipotentialites function. While they can offer words of affirmation, it’s not nearly as effective as validating our way of being in the world. ourselves in a limited way.
Enabling Curiosities instead of “Acts of Service”
All your life, you’ve steered clear of sports. Until one morning. You wake up and decide you want to understand at least “one sport” —to be able to make conversation, if for no other reason! You like the idea of learning about Formula One, but you don’t know how to go about learning more. Now what?
Some of my closest relationships and friendships were forged on the basis of people enabling me to know, understand or learn something new. Passion sharing is infectious. Enabling someone’s passion is one of the greatest forms of love. In doing this, you are not only introduced to their interest but also see their enthusiasm towards their subject. And, you get to know something new together.
That is also how I was introduced to Formula One, when I had steered clear from sports for over two decades. It took one phone call with a friend and there has been no looking back since. Nobody who knows me would believe this story, since I am labelled one of the biggest Formula One fans in my circle of friends, but this is truly how the journey started for me.
Participation instead of “Receiving Gifts”
The idea of gifts as a way of expressing affection is slightly transactional. Gifts tend to point towards material goodies and surprises. While I am a big fan of those, no gift is better than a friend or partner’s participation in one of my many areas of engagement. It could be something as simple as making a TikTok or an Instagram reel on a subject that is close to me, or watching a TV series together.
Participation, as a giver or a receiver, is an important way to show love. Whether it’s helping your friend navigate through a tricky break up by listening to them talk or sending them a pizza to fill the love shaped hole in their heart, being there for someone is a welcome way of showing and knowing love.
Engaging instead of “Quality Time”
Defining “quality time” together is a difficult task these days, given lockdown limitations and our shifting lifestyles. When you consider the concept of quality time, spatiality and physicality stand out as key components. If you can consider a Zoom call as an idea of spending quality time together, what prevents us from including a “like” or a share of our passion projects on our loved one’s Instagram story as a form of spending quality time together? After all, they are engaging with our interests, be it actively and passively.
For multipotentialites, spending quality time extends beyond hanging out together IRL. It’s in the engagement—regardless of the form—where I see love being shared between two people, whether they are friends or romantic partners. Two people can passively engage with a film over a distance or in person. Engaging together is a wider, more multipotentialite-friendly definition of spending quality time.
Collaborating instead of “Physical Touch”
It’s going to sound cheesy when I say this, but physical intimacy is a form of collaboration. Instead of limiting this expression of love to physical touch, as the traditional love languages do, my thoughts turn to all the ways in which we can make our partners or friends experience joy or pleasure through doing things together: collaboration.
You could be cooking together and brushing fingers or walking someone back home or you could be helping your partner with taking on their share of responsibilities when they are going through a tough time at work. While these may or may not directly translate to the idea of “physical touch,” collaboration is a way to distinguish “acts of service” from “physical touch”. In essence, collaboration means honoring your loved one with your presence.
Multipotentialites are fluid and fluent in love languages
Of course, the multipotentialite love languages listed above are fluid and inter-connected, and they may or may not look the same for you. The purpose of understanding your love language is to help you come one step closer to awareness about yourself and how you respond to your loved ones and vice versa. To me, it seems there is a multipotentialite urge to be equal parts fluid and fluent in our understanding of love language. What is your social and emotional response to the idea of love languages? Is the concept inflected with flexibility and self-reflection for you?
Do you also score differently each time you take the love language test? Do you struggle to understand how to define your love language? Share with the community in the comments!