My Love Language Is Gifts But Gifts Aren’t My Love Language

My love language is labeled wrong. Maybe yours is too.

“I think you guys will really like this book,” the Pastor who was going to marry us said, as he handed us a copy of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Immediately, I was intrigued. The pastor went on to explain that showing and receiving love is sort of a language, and we generally receive love the same way we give it. If you and your partner don’t speak the same language, you might not realize when your spouse is showing you love, which could lead to problems.

Obviously, we didn’t want problems in our marriage (oh to be that naïve again!), so we dutifully read the book and took the quiz. Chapman asserts each person falls into a couple of these categories, and each person typically has one dominate love language.

The “love languages” are:

  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts

In news that surprised no one, my husband got quality time and physical touch as his, and I got gifts and words of affirmation as mine. I knew the assessment was right, but I didn’t like it. Gifts are my primary love language, but I felt uncomfortable seeing it on paper. I couldn’t help but feel this meant I was kind of materialistic, even though the book is clear that it isn’t the amount of the gift, rather the thought behind it. I owned it anyway, wincing a little each time I had a conversation with someone about the book and had to admit my love language is gifts, quickly adding the disclaimer, “But I don’t care about the things!”

As the years went by, I started to see less and less people admit their love language was gifts. They would say, “Gift GIVING is my love language.” And I’m like, yeah, but if you’re following the premise of the book, so is gift receiving. I understand being ashamed to admit it because of the negative connotation. Like I said, I struggled with it too. After reading an article on Scary Mommy titled “This is what Your Love Language Says about You,” I became annoyed and defensive.

Why, you ask?

Let’s take a look at how the author describes people who have gifts as their primary love language:

“First of all, we love you. So let’s just be honest here: Y’all are materialistic. I know we’re not supposed to say that, and you like to go around with that qualifier of ‘but it doesn’t have to be expensive!’ or ‘not just any gift! It has to be well-thought-out!’ … But that is still a material good. And it’s okay! Because on the upside: You guys are so delightfully easy!”

She goes into further detail about those of us who give / receive love using gifts: “These folks tend to be straightforward and conventional in their relationships. They probably fight the fact that experiences make us happier than possessions, but we’re happy to go along with that because they’re just  so easy!” Buuuuut, we have a downside too. According to the author, “They are the most expensive to ‘love on,’ so they might become money pits. Also, possible goods-hoarders. Not, like, hoarder hoarders (not always, anyway), but people who like stuff and keeping stuff around.”

Essentially, what I gleaned from this article is if someone giving you a gift makes you feel loved, moreso than say, someone washing your car or holding your hand, then you are a simple minded consumerist who is woefully misguided when it comes to what makes you happy. Andplusalso, your house is filled with crap and you’re going to cause your loved ones to have to take out a second mortgage if they want to show you just how loved you are. But don’t fret or take offense because people love that you’re easy.

“But I’m NOT materialistic,” I wanted to shout.

And that’s true. I don’t generally follow the latest trends. My closet would make most people pity me. Accruing items does not fulfill me. I am practically a minimalist and don’t actually want a bunch of junk.

Still, I couldn’t really counter her point. I started to doubt my own motives. I wondered if other gift people are simplistic and materialistic? I thought, maybe I just like gifts because I grew up without a lot of money? Maybe I am materialistic just not in the traditional sense? I think I fall more on the minimalist spectrum, but perhaps not? Do I need to purge my home again?

It wasn’t until a friend of mine posted this to my Facebook wall that I realized just how wrong the Scary Mommy author was, at least, about me, but likely about most of the GIFTS people.

love language

Finally, the evidence I needed to prove it is not about the product!

My love language has nothing to do with material goods. It is about the thought. I don’t mean that in the cliché “It’s the thought that counts” kind of way. What I mean is “All I need in order to feel loved is to know that I am thought of!” No material goods necessary. Jessica spent zero dollars. I wouldn’t have felt any more special had she bought me the koozie. The “love” feeling I get isn’t from the item, it comes from the thought.

You thought about me when you weren’t with me? That makes me feel like I matter to you.

Gifts is the wrong word to describe my love language. A more accurate name for my love language is Thoughtfulness. I define it as “A physical representation of being known and considered when I’m not around.” The representation can come in the form of words, gifts, digital graphics, letters, song, dance, art, etc. It certainly isn’t about a products or about someone spending a dime on me.

This language is reciprocal. I think of my friends and loved ones often. I show affection to my kids by leaving them notes in their lunchbox or picking up their favorite snack. I send my husband graphics featuring lyrics to “our” song. I created an iPhone wallpaper for a friend going through a difficult time. I am still on the hunt for a particular wine glass I know my business partner loves. Shhh, don’t tell her.

If your primary love language is gifts, do not be ashamed! You are not materialistic. Or, you might be, but it’s not because of your love language. You are a thoughtful person. You are not a confused, simple minded, money grubbing hoarder the way some might think.

While I am exaggerating the point for maximum impact, I genuinely believe those of us who have gifts as our primary love language are often mislabeled. We give and receive love through thoughtfulness.

Fellow gift people, does this resonate with you? 

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Myndee is a 35ish year old New Orleans area native. She's an author, speaker and self-love advocate. As an introverted extrovert, Myndee loves being part of the generation where most of her friends live in her computer. She and her husband, Luis, live just outside the city with their three kids.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I really struggle with understanding people who receive love this way, for the reasons outlined above.

    Some of the ‘thoughtfulness’ as you have described seem to be examples of acts of service/words of affirmation? (eg a poem or adding a note when you prepare a lunchbox ). Writing things down for your partner is words of affirmation.

    • fun fact! this is how I recieve/give love and I went to a class that talks about the love languages, and many experts agree that this sort of love is kind of the middle ground of all the love languages! in a way, scary mommy is right that we’re “easy,” many of us are compatible with different love languages, since almost anything can count as a gift! someone who’s busy a lot could gift us with their time (which also counts as quality time!), or gift us with a surprise “love you!” text when we aren’t even chatting (which is also words of affirmation!), or even the gift of a relaxing night by doing the rest of our chores for us (which is ofc an act of service).

      what sets it apart from the others is how it’s internalized by the recipient; it’s hard for me to describe exactly, but it’s sort of like…if we’re considering quality time, it would be a reminder that Im loved if someone were to offer to take me somewhere without me asking first, but I’d feel like Im forcing someone to do something against their will if I were to complain about us never going out anymore first. or for words of affirmation, someone saying “i love you too!” after I say I love them really doesn’t mean as much to me as someone just texting “love you!” out of the blue

      I hope that helps a bit! 🙂

  2. Thanks for writing this authentic and insightful article! I stumbled upon it while wondering about the oftentimes negative connotations associated w gifts. Though that’s my least favorite love language, I still wanted to understand ppl for whom it’s their primary.

    “Thoughtfulness” still seems too vague here. Those who give other forms of appreciation can be considered thoughtful as well. Perhaps “tokens” could be a better term here, i.e. tokens of appreciation. You seem to be saying that you don’t only feel loved from receiving physical objects, but pictures of someone thinking about you, which doesn’t seem like an act of service when it didn’t technically “help” you w anything. I’m curious of your thoughts if you have any.

  3. Gifts is my love language and I agree wholeheartedly with the author. It’s not having tons of stuff that makes me happy. I am also somewhat of a minimalist. It’s the knowledge that I’m important to you and you were thinking of me when I wasn’t around. It’s that you know me well enough to find something that I appreciate and you made the effort to get that thing for me just because you know I’d love it. To be known is to be loved and I believe that you can only give someone something they truly love when you know and love them. I hope that makes sense. It’s the gesture that really counts; the meaning behind the gift. I guess you could say I’m sentimental. It can be really small things, like the author said leaving a note. A written letter really isn’t the same as just words of affirmation, although it definitely includes both. It’s having this physical reminder of your loved one that you can look at and read over and over. It’s that they took the time to format their words into a letter. For me, it just has more meaning when it’s written down in physical form and I can be reminded of my partner’s love by having something to look at and save. I hope this helps!

  4. This is such a well-explained perspective. I swear against caring too much for gifts, but I gift things to people so often in a “this made me think of you” kind of way, that I figured maybe I actually do like to receive things just as I like to give things.
    This article made things make so much more sense. “Thoughtfulness”–what clarity that brings!

  5. Thank you for this! I was always confused because everyone around me would be like gift giving is your language and I would be confused because I didn’t necessarily care about things in return from people, also when I take the quiz gift giving is my last. I absolutely love planning and giving gifts that are tailored directly for my loved one, more so than anyone else I know. Thoughtfulness makes a lot more sense!! I wish it labeled this in the book.

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