Cecile Booth explains what the five love languages are and how they play a role in the support you get from family and friends.
A love language refers to the way love is received and expressed in relationships. Dr Gary Chapman developed and wrote a book on the five love languages to help people know both their partner’s love language, as well as their own, to ensure both parties feel loved and appreciated in their relationship. Although each person receives love in a specific language, the other four remain just as important and offer different ways to express love to each other.
What are the five love languages?
Words of Affirmation is when you like to receive love through the use of spoken words, praise or appreciation, to express affection. You need to hear your partner say, “I love you” and also why they love you. This can be done verbally, written, or even via a simple WhatsApp.
Quality Time is all about receiving your partner’s undivided attention. This seems more challenging in the busy and often distracted world we live in. You both need to put down the cell phone, stop watching TV and leave the chores and simply give each other undivided attention.
Physical Touch is when you thrive on any type of physical affection. You want your partner to be intentional about expressing love to you by giving hugs, holding hands or even offering a massage.
Acts of Service is expressed by your partner doing something to ease your burden of responsibility. Some examples of this could be: making a meal, doing the dishes, going grocery shopping or walking the dog.
Receiving Gifts is not simply about wanting gifts, but rather thriving on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind a gift. It’s about having the right gift picked out by your partner, showing that you are understood and that you were being thought of.
Love languages and your cancer diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis affects many aspects of your life, including your relationship with your partner, family members, friends and even colleagues. Although this change may not be permanent, it can definitely impact the way you receive and express love. You may have been the one to always lend a hand to others, but now you’re the one who needs help. This can feel frustrating at times, and because the diagnosis is stressful, all of this can put strain on your relationships.
My patients often want to isolate themselves, as they feel no one can understand what they’re going through. While this is true to a degree, this is the time that you need to communicate your needs to those important people in your life. Always remember that you don’t need to tell everyone about your diagnosis. However, keeping open communication with the really important people in your life can often help you feel less anxious and isolated, and also minimise their stress that they’re also experiencing from your diagnosis.
If your family and friends offer help, be specific about the ways they can help. Tap into each person’s love language, in a way that will support you. If you have a friend who shows love by acts of service, ask them to buy groceries or make a meal. Ask your friend who enjoys quality time to come over and have coffee so you can have an uninterrupted chat. Your friend who loves physical touch could simply hold your hand during treatment.
Don’t be afraid to be specific about your needs. If you need to chat about anything other than cancer, say so. You aren’t simply a cancer patient, you’re still you, but now just have the added role of being a cancer patient. Don’t let it be your only role.
MEET THE EXPERT – Cecile Booth
Cecile Booth is an oncology social worker and has been working at ABJ Inc for the past 14 years. She developed a passion for palliative care in 2015 when she did a post graduate diploma in palliative medicine at UCT. She then decided to pursue her masters in palliative medicine at UCT in 2019 and graduated in 2021.
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