It is so easy to take things for granted – the ground under our feet, waking up in the morning to a new day and, far too often, our relationships. It is so easy to be critical or to notice what is missing or makes us crazy about our partner, parents, children, friends or coworkers.

We are so much happier when we are positive, yet by taking things for granted or harping on the negative, positive things sometimes slip by unnoticed as we are complaining. The complaints may be real, but by focusing on them, we miss a lot. Much joy in life can come from appreciating and valuing the many wonderful things around us.

Recently, my therapist mentioned that one way to break out of taking things for granted is to recognize the five languages of love.


She mentioned that there were different ways to express love and that perhaps I was not counting all the ways: verbal affirmations, touch, quality time, giving gifts and acts of service.


By the way, I am a big believer in therapy as a tool to help us understand ourselves and as a way to grow. I believe therapy can have great value, from individual therapy, to couples therapy, to therapy with our children (that I did during their teen years). One of my friends calls therapy “mumbo jumbo.” My response is that therapy is the “best mumbo jumbo in town.”

So thanks to my therapist, I got curious and googled it. In no time, I found the book The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It is a simple idea, but so profound, I would like to share it with you.

Chapman identifies these five languages as very different ways that love gets expressed. He speaks of the expression of love as a kind of language and that we need to be aware that not everyone speaks the same language. Here is my take on the different languages after reading the book:

Verbal Affirmations

Verbal affirmations are expressions of love, are positive affirmations, expressions of appreciation, and kind words. They are said directly to the person or about the person to others. Either way, the value of the person is acknowledged.

I am a verbal person and I always try to do this. I know that it took my father many years to begin to express his love and pride in me. Now, at 90, when he says he is proud of me, I beam.

Quality Time

Quality time is more than sitting together in front of the TV. It is taking the time to talk about our feelings and it is about doing things together. During the crazy years of raising a family, it seemed like there was never time to breathe, let alone spend time with my husband and with each of my children, one at a time. Now, I seek to have dinner or long talks with each of my children by themselves.

Quality time also can be a group experience too, sharing our time together. That was one thing we did religiously when our kids were young. Even when we had no money, each year, we went on wonderful family camping trips with the kids.

Now with adult children, all busy with different jobs and schedules, we need to work to find a way to bring that back.

Giving Gifts

Giving gifts can be big or small items that show the person is thinking of you. I am a very verbal person, and have often felt that my husband does not express words of affirmation or compliments very often. Yet, in the language of love, he is great at giving gifts all year long.

I had never thought that each time he brings home a papaya for me or new gardening boots, he is thinking of me and expressing his love. By looking through the lens of this idea, I was able to recognize so many ways my husband shares love, even if he is skimpy when it comes to compliments.

Physical Touch

Physical touch is a basic need (research has shown that babies need to be touched) and a powerful way to express love. I loved this Sixty and Me article, Make Hugs Not War. Since I read that blog, I have made it a point to hug people in a way that feels genuine and not rushed.

With touch, as with the other languages of love, we need to be cognizant of the person on the other end. Some people are not huggers. However, the other day we saw a friend who had lost her cat. We offered condolences, and she had the saddest look on her face. My husband reached out to hug her and I could tell it made a real difference.

Acts of Service

Acts of service refers to the things we do for those we love. It is easy for those acts to get taken for granted, especially the things we do again and again for years. One easy example is that I have taken my parents’ generosity to me for granted over the years. But, the large and small things mean so much.

This is where we take care of each other, especially when we are sick. My husband and children took great care of me when I had my vocal cord surgeries. And, I have been taking a friend with cancer to her appointments and she is extremely grateful.

The idea of the five languages of love was an important revelation to me. And once the door was opened, I began to see how it manifests in all my relationships. We are looking for validation in ways that are meaningful to us.


Chapman suggests that we learn the languages of those we love, and by speaking to them in languages they speak, they will be better able to feel our love. I feel that a starting point is to become aware of the different expressions of love.


We can forgive others who might not meet speak our language. I have another friend that took care of my baby for two weeks in a moment of need, 33 years ago. She agreed to it without question. Yet, she was someone who never called.

Over the years, we would have lost touch if I hadn’t kept calling her. Yet, that amazing act of service that she did in a moment of great need helped me accept her weakness in the area of staying in touch. And years later, I traveled to Arizona to be with her in hospice as she was dying, and we both were able to recognize and be grateful for the many years of friendship.

We can notice the way love is coming our way from many avenues. It keeps us aware of the kindness that surrounds us that often goes unnoticed. It also brings joy to tune into love and kindness and the joy of giving it as well.

Do you agree that it is important to recognize that love can be expressed in different ways? How do you express your love? Please join the conversation.

Becki-Cohn-VargasBecki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D works as an independent consultant to schools and organizations with over 35 years as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and superintendent in public education in California. She developed a standards-based bullying and intolerance prevention curriculum and has worked to create accepting and inclusive climates in over 150 schools and colleges across the US. With Dr. Dorothy Steele, she co-authored the book, Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn. Becki and her husband, Cohn-Vargas, are also working to develop an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest. They live in El Sobrante, California, and have three adult children living in the Bay Area.

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