Elaine Ulsh is a first-year computer science and physics major and writes “The Occasional Observer” for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Love is important to most people; I know it is to me.
As someone who began dating at the young age of 13, I know how difficult it can be. That is the reason I found myself slowly drawn to the why’s and how’s of love. Not necessarily why people love, but rather why love can be so difficult as a young adult, as well as how it could be easier.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages” suggests that there are five love languages: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time and words of affirmation. Chapman emphasizes how people have different personalities and experience love in different ways. Furthermore, he discusses the benefits of acknowledging such, one of which being enhanced communication in relationships.
These benefits have since been proved by a 2000 study which indicated that Chapman’s love languages are a more effective way to get couples to communicate compared to other methods. This includes even the widely accepted categories of relational maintenance.
While Chapman has helped millions of couples strengthen their relationships, his book is geared toward what makes a marriage last, not a young relationship. He also has a book on love languages geared toward teenagers. However, this book’s audience is geared toward parents of teenagers, not the teenagers themselves.
There is not much about how these love languages affect those new to adulthood. I find this incomplete as teenage relationships can be equally, if not more, complex than many adult relationships due to inexperience with love.
I first came in contact with the love languages due to my therapist. I had heard of them beforehand but never knew what they were all about or how the concept worked. She suggested figuring out mine, so I could understand how I express love myself. After all, you cannot expect someone else to understand your love language before you do.
Specifically, my main love languages are words of affirmation and quality time. For me, words of affirmation means that I want to know that my partner notices me. I think this stemmed in me due to my love of books. I got to read the inner thoughts of thousands of different characters, so it was a challenge when my partner did not automatically see what made me tick inside.
However, with quality time, what I crave is undivided attention. Watching television with my partner can be boring sometimes due to it feeling like a waste of our time together. In fact, one of the things that Chapman mentions in his section on quality time is that it does not include television.
For my partner, his main love languages are acts of service and physical touch. When we first began dating, I did not understand why he always wanted to touch me even though was usually just wanting to hold hands or an arm around my waist.
It made me uncomfortable as I thought it was an implication of possessiveness. I know now it was just him expressing his love towards me.
With acts of service, he wanted to be shown love through me doing things for him, even unconsciously. It was more about being thought about than being pampered. I love to cook, so it was not that difficult to show love to him that way.
I noticed a significant improvement in my relationship once we started paying attention to the ways we were expressing our love for one another. It helped us. It led me to wanting to know how it could help other people too, especially college students.
As a teenager who fell in love, I believe love can be addictive. During the first couple of years of my relationship, I pushed my parents’ boundaries in order to maintain that love. I could not understand why they were so upset over how I was not spending as much time with them. I had spent my whole life with them.
Now I realize what was really happening. I was addicted to spending time with my partner. He invaded all my thoughts. I was constantly thinking about or texting him. In fact, I was counting down the seconds until each time I would get to see him.
Through the years, I slowly grew out of that. I believe this to be due to the further development of my brain, allowing me to become more responsible. After all, I was only 13 when I fell in love. However, that does not change the fact that love addiction can certainly be a thing for many young people; it happened to me.
An article by Susan Moore titled “Teenagers in Love” mainly focuses on how parents can support their teenagers as they discover what love is and the effect of love on teenagers.
Moore describes the teenage brain as a “work in progress.”
A University of Miami academic article addresses this by saying that until the age of 25, most people’s brains are not fully developed; specifically, the part of the brain that allows someone to be responsible is not finished forming. The article explains the way in which the young brain is basically in a constant tug-of-war.
As someone who loved a little early, I can conclude, it was undoubtedly a part of my self-discovery. At 13, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. Now getting ready to turn 19, I have a much better understanding of what it means to be a more accepting and loving person.
More than half of college students are in committed relationships or are “single and dating,” according to a survey done through Cornell University. Some of these college students may be beginning the dive into their love journey.
But with love being so new to them, how are they supposed to know how a relationship works? I feel the love languages have helped me look beyond my own interests and consider my significant other’s perspective a lot more.
Many couples all over the world have experienced the same relief, and I believe it could significantly improve many new relationships.
For many young adults, learning to love can be difficult due to both its newness and its complexity. A study by the University of Virginia observed how the quality of young relationships can cause long-term changes in mental health.
It was found that healthier, early relationships lead to stronger mental health as older adults, as well as vice versa; this means poor or toxic early relationships lead to poor mental health as an older adult.
Due to this, it is extremely important for college students who are just now exploring the wonders of love to fully understand how people express it. Having that healthier relationship would positively benefit both partners, leading to stronger mental health overall even if they were to break up.
I’m not saying love languages have to take over your whole life, but in my experience, having them in the back of your mind and putting in an effort makes things easier.
With how difficult young relationships can be, I believe taking the love languages into account could get rid of unnecessary turmoil caused by miscommunication.
For those jumping heart-first into a college relationship, acknowledging the love languages could make that relationship and even the rest of your lives significantly easier.
Contact Elaine Ulsh with comments at [email protected].