As I ponder the love languages, I personally have trouble with a few of them due to boundary violations. The five languages are: quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and physical touch.
It has been groundbreaking recently for me to figure out something that would really be helpful, that would truly be of service to me, and to not only identify it, but to ask for it and then receive it. Wow. Bliss!
Up until recently, acts of service, to me, has meant being grateful for the things that others are doing for you. Which doesn’t particularly feel like love if it’s not something I wanted in the first place, and can kind of feel like twisting a knife if it’s something I specifically wanted/needed to do myself.
There’s a boundary and self worth thing going on here. A few things. Knowing what’s me and what’s the other party is a big part of it, and then there’s drawing a line against the stuff that I don’t want, and drawing a line asking for the things that I do need.
I’m learning, there are a few facets to the nebulous concept of “boundaries.” There’s understanding what’s me vs you, what’s my motivation vs your motivation, my needs vs your needs. Where do I end and you begin? And then there’s finding the needs and limits and enforcing them – making sure that I don’t overextend or take on too much, and making sure that I get what I need and the help I need.
So when someone does something for me in the name of love, but it’s not something that actually services me, it blurs the line between me and you (why *are* you doing this “for me”? And begs for stronger lines, clearer communication. “Thank you for doing that, but I’d actually rather do it myself. What I could *really* use help with is ______.”
And then there’s the love language, words of affirmation. Another that I bristle at. But there have been times where I soak it up like a dry sponge. I think the difference is when words of affirmation is being used as a manipulation tool. If we’re in agreement that my job is to get on your track (as some see child-parent or employee-boss relationships) then words of affirmation are great – they confirm that you’re on the right track and you won’t be shamed. (Me vs you is getting seriously blurred here) But if you see people as separate, with their own needs, desires, motivations, then words of affirmation just degrade that sense of self. Another boundary violation. Alfie Kohn has a lot to say on the topic in his book, Punished by Rewards, and Kelly Bartlett has some alternatives in her book, Encouraging Words for Kids.
So in order to *feel* loved by the various love languages, you need to be able to accept the love offering. And in order to do so, healthy boundaries are a must. Without them, “love” can degrade your sense of self, and make it hard to figure out what your own needs and desires actually are.