A Love Lost in Translation

As I touched on in a previous post, I do believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. 

How you communicate is how you love.

Most can easily recite Gary Chapman’s five love languages as words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

But what does any of this actually mean? How do these languages play out IRL? 

There’s a really cute breakdown of each love language floating around the Internets. The languages are explained using tacos by a Joshua Perez character. I don’t know who he is, but the tacos are helpful. Most people speak fluent taco. I know I do.

  • Words of Affirmation: Your tacos are delicious.
  • Acts of Service: I made you tacos.
  • Receiving Gifts: Here’s a taco.
  • Quality Time: Let’s go out for tacos together. 
  • Physical Touch: Let me hold you like a taco.

Which of these statements sticks out to you? 

What love language would you most appreciate hearing? What love language do you fluently speak? I’m no relationship expert, but I think it would be a safe assumption that a lot of love becomes lost in translation. 

What complicates things further is the possibility that your love language is rooted in trauma.

I’m the product of an absent father and an ambitious mother. I watched my mom bounce from one job to another job to another to care for me. At a very early age, I knew how important education was to her, and I watched her pick up one degree after another while pouring herself into community service, church ministries, and whatever else. She was always somewhere or on the way. 

As I became active in sports and the performing arts, my mother took on the role of a taxi driver, shuttling me from place to place. I knew my mother loved me, but her love seemed to always be in passing. She went this way. I went another. I remember us being busy, but I don’t remember us being together and present. 

My mother’s love was spoken through acts of service, so that’s what I understood love to be. A lot of the emotional weeds, I was left to tend to on my own. I’m still in the process of untangling some of the wirings in my brain. 

I came to understand an intimate relationship between a man and a woman as one without intimacy. Even in my friend groups, a father figure was rarely present. What is a man? What are they for? To young Candace, men were these interesting, puzzling creatures that served no purpose and offered nothing yet were still desired. I would enter into relationships with men who weren’t emotionally (and often physically) present, ambitious to a fault, and forever in the pursuit of something. Always they were chasing something. Their love was always, always in passing, or across the country, or in some way far removed from me. They offered nothing and took everything, and left me with a big emotional mess to tend to on my own. 

When Self Love is Difficult

Listening to Instagram influencers tell you to take a bath or get a mani won’t do the trick if your soul aches for a few loving words or you just need to spend some time alone doing nothing. I didn’t know spending years trying to understand everyone else’s love language would mute my heart’s song. I didn’t know love languages could change as hearts mended, and that what I understood yesterday might sound like complete gibberish today.

A few decades of playing a game of telephone with love and its players has taught me so much. 

I speak words of affirmation. I hear quality time. I do also like hugs. And tacos. 

I didn’t sit down to write this post with the intention of providing any answers or offering any real solutions. Rarely is that my goal. 

Because really, what is the problem? In love, we often hear words nobody says, and ignore the things they do. New people can poke at old wounds. What’s offered can be hard to receive. It’s all tricky business. 

I’m learning how to comfortably sit in my restlessness — how to be okay with thinking the whole world has gone mad. If we aren’t all yelling, “Marco!” into the great unknown hoping to hear, “Polo!” in response, then I just don’t know what love is.

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

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