Speaking the Love Languages: Receiving Gifts
Hello DL Family! Welcome to the third installment of Speaking the Love Languages. Today, we’ll be diving into the Love Language of Receiving Gifts.
Before we begin, let’s make something clear: someone whose primary Love Language is Receiving Gifts is not automatically selfish or materialistic. This is a common misconception about this Love Language, but remember that people who understand love through gift giving likely also communicate their own expressions of love through giving gifts.
“At the heart of love is the spirit of giving,” explains author Gary Chapman, “all 5 Love Languages challenge us to give.” That said, what speakers of the Receiving Gifts Love Language need to understand communications of love is a physical symbol or thing from their partner that represents love in some form. For these people, “gifts are visual symbols of love.”
Gift-Giving as a Natural, Instinctual Expression of Love?
A question Chapman poses in this chapter is whether or not there is something innate, something “natural” humans do to convey love in the same way we begin to smile to communicate happiness long before we learn how to speak.
“From early years, children are inclined to give gifts to their parents, which may be another indication that gift giving is fundamental to love.”
This would explain why my own mother insists on keeping the first wildflower I ever picked for her in a memory box, clearly labelled in a Ziploc bag. To her, that was a significant expression of love. And to my tiny, undeveloped mind, it was probably one of the only ways I had to convey affection. No one teaches babies to bring dandelions to their parents and loved ones.
“Could it be that gift giving is a fundamental expression of love that transcends cultural barriers?” wonders Chapman. It’s true that the practice of gift-giving has existed for centuries; at least since the first Indigenous tribes began living in cooperative communities with one another. Gift giving is a universal language that requires no literacy in the literal sense of the word. What it does require is a literacy in emotional intelligence and mindfulness.
Gifts Have Nothing to Do with Money
“You must be thinking of someone to give [them] a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of [them]. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.”
While we may somehow be instinctually inclined to gift gifts as expressions of love, many people (myself included) experience anxiety over the idea of gift giving. It is completely normal to be nervous about gift giving: what if the person doesn’t like your gift? What if they already have the gift you intend to give them? How will they react?
Here’s the thing: in order to speak this Love Language, you have to keep in mind that the gift itself is simply symbolic of the love that motivated it. “To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts,” explains Chapman, “the cost of the gift will matter little, unless it is out of line with what you can afford.”
Get rid of the idea that a gift is something you go to a store to purchase and then deliver in a wrapped box. For those who communicate love through gift giving and receiving, it doesn’t make a difference whether the gift was bought, made, or simply found, like the wildflower I mentioned earlier.
This should be good news for those of you who keep strict budgets. Chapman takes time to speak directly to those who have a tight grip around their wallets in this chapter:
“If you are a saver, you will experience emotional resistance to the idea of spending money as an expression of love. You don’t purchase things for yourself. Why should you purchase things for your spouse? But that attitude fails to recognize that you are purchasing things for yourself. By saving and investing money, you are purchasing self worth and security.”
I think Chapman makes a good point here, however I don’t love the implication that gift giving is actually something you do to benefit yourself in the long run. Chapman goes to great lengths throughout the entire rest of his book to explain that learning a new Love Language is something you do expressly for the benefit of someone else. Looking at gift giving as an “investment in your relationship,” as Chapman phrases it, to me takes away from the overarching point of the Love Languages, which is to learn to love someone in the ways that they need to be loved simply because you value them and the relationship you have with them.
The Gift of Self
An important dialect of the Receiving Gifts Love Language is the willingness to give of your Self; that is, your presence and your time. To me, this dialect is actually a “trilingualization” of the languages of Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Acts of Service. All of these languages combined into one is what makes the Gift of Self so powerful.
“Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts. Your body becomes the symbol of your love. Remove the symbol, and the sense of love evaporates.”
The Gift of Self costs you absolutely nothing, monetarily. Being willing to give generously of your time and attention (and not only during times of crisis) can convey enormous quantities of love with essentially very little effort. Simply show up for your loved ones when they need you; even if their primary Love Language is not Receiving Gifts, you’ll see your relationships get stronger and stronger when you make this effort continuously.
Easily one of the most misunderstood Love Languages,
Consider that symbols of love can be found anywhere. Most importantly, always remember that the most valuable gift you can give is your Self.