As we approach the holiday season of gingerbread cookies, festive parties, flying reindeer and jolly old elves, many of us are already gearing up for another frantic month. Some of us will brave the malls to buy the hottest gifts, others will spend hours in the kitchen cooking the perfect meal and countless families will be busy planning much-needed vacations.

That’s how many of us show our love for the important people in our lives. However, sometimes the kindest gestures and the most laborious efforts aren’t appreciated as much as we’d like.

According to author and marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman, we all feel and show love in various ways, but everyone has a dominant love language: receiving gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and quality time.

As a young couple, my husband, Benjamin, and I learned that we were linguistically incompatible when it came to love.

After an assiduous day working as a physician, Ben would come home and selflessly cook for me, help out around the house and take care of the kids even though I hadn’t seen or connected with him all day. While I appreciated his acts of service, all I really wanted was for him to wrap his arms around me in a meaningful hug.

After reading Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages” and taking a free love language quiz for adults and kids (www.5lovelanguages.com), we realized that we were trying to love each other the way we wanted to be loved, not the way they wanted to be loved.

So for my acts of service speaking husband, I remember to set the DVR to record the Duke basketball game or pick up his favorite cold brew coffee.

And for his physical touch speaking wife, Ben tries to show affection whenever we’re together with hugs, closeness or just holding my hand.

This season, before we spend hours tracking down a toy, putting pressure on ourselves to cook every dish at every meal or working tirelessly around the house, perhaps we can all spend some time learning our loved ones’ love languages.

What do the people around us really need?

Would your spouse prefer quality time with you while enjoying the HolidayLights at CALM? Would a long letter filled with all the things you appreciate about your daughter be the ultimate gift? How about a coupon book full of acts of service your friend can redeem throughout the year for washing the dishes, babysitting the kids or picking up the dry cleaning? Maybe your son would prefer some special books along with snuggling together on the couch while reading them? Perhaps some of your relatives really enjoy receiving gifts. In that case, do think of presents to put underneath the tree that would bring them the most joy.

All of our hard work, effort and care can turn into true blessings for our loved ones this holiday season when we learn to speak their language of love. 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.

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