In Your Corner: How does your mom like to be loved?

Some time ago I was talking with one of Hale ‘Opio’s foster moms, and she suggested that I write a “corner” article about how people express and receive love. She gave me a list of five ways that Dr. Gary Chapman wrote about in his book, “The 5 Love Languages”. In honor of it being Mother’s Day, I though that today might be the perfect time. I looked it up on the web at

We might think that everyone wants to be loved in the same way, but in more than 30 years of marriage counseling, Chapman discovered that there are basically 5 ways that people usually receive love. There are hundreds of websites that suggest how we can show love, but if our recipient isn’t really comfortable receiving them, we might not hit the bullseye in the way that we would like. It’s not that we receive love in only one way, but that there is a way that we prefer. All of the ways of showing love are significant. Love is the one thing that humans don’t do well without. Little babies can actually get sick if they don’t get enough love and attention when they are young. Older people get depressed if they feel that no one cares about them anymore, and we in the middle with the most strength, wisdom and love get the opportunity to bring a lot of joy to these people.

It pays to pay attention. In your mind’s eye, can you remember what most seemed to make your mom or loved one happy and feel loved? Here are the five ways that Dr. Chapman discovered:

— Gifts: People appreciate that you cared for them by selecting that perfect gift, something tangible, that demonstrates that the giver knows them well enough to go out of their way and get them something special that they would appreciate. And here’s a hint. It should be personal, not for the house, like an iron or pair of pruning shears UNLESS it was specifically requested. Rather, if you know that your mom wears a lot of green, find a beautiful pair of malachite earrings, a necklace that would be beautiful around her neck. Jewelry is good.

— Quality time: Some people just want your undivided attention, without any interruptions or distractions. So cell phones off. This says, “I want to be with you more than anything else in the world.” Taking time to really be close to a person is a gift to you both, and a treasure to carry you over the bumpy times.

— Affection: Some people like to be physically touched, and cuddled. They would like to hold hands, or will give you a pat on the back or arm. They’ll rumple your hair, and give hugs. Touching is reassuring to them that they are loved. These are the people you show love to with a big hug and kiss, and better yet, by an occasional touch throughout the day.

— Affirmations of love: Poets wanted here. These people want to hear from you that you love them. And they’ll want to hear it more than once. They’ll also want to know in what way you love them. One of the wonderful blessings of living in Hawai‘i is the incredible Hawaiian music that is frequently about the love that the composer has for people, places, God and things. We love the verses, and so will your loved one appreciate hearing the different ways you love them.

— Acts of service – Some folks like it when you do things for them. I remember the first time my husband made me dinner, and I could do what I wanted right up until dinnertime, instead of stopping my work early to make the dinner and gather the family. I really felt loved. When you do something just for one person, it says, “I care enough about you to give up some of my time to take care of you, or do something for you.”

Make Mom a cake, or better yet, clean the house, wash her car or weed the garden. It may help to ask her specifically what she’d like you to do, because some people are very particular about how things are done.

An interesting fact that Dr. Chapman discovered was that the couples he counseled often had different preferred styles of receiving love. On person might like to show affection, but  the other didn’t. Gifts were what made him/her feel important and loved. I myself grew up in a home where mom didn’t show much affection, and we kids liked it, so we adapted by being affectionate, and later roughhousing with each other. My mom felt loved when someone did an act of service for her. Poor mom. It wasn’t until we had flown the nest that we figured that one out, although she covered her bases by giving us chores. But we did give her a lot of hugs. I’m sure she got the idea. Later in life, we made it up to her.

You might take a little time to think about what ways you like to receive love. After all, we all deserve to be loved in the way we like best. Drop hints, or when someone asks you want you want for your next celebration remember that it doesn’t have to come in a box.

Now you can go to the 445,000,000 websites that come up when you google “Ways to show love” for ideas, or just be still and ask your heart. If mom likes to receive gifts and spend quality time with you, plan a picnic somewhere and bring the gift. If she likes words, write a poem or a song, or carve “I love you” into a beautiful piece of wood she could display, with her name and yours on it. Take her to the movies and buy the popcorn. For the affection you can give her a head and neck massage, or foot and hand massage. And really, the cooking of the dinner and cleaning up is a nice “service” idea, especially if you ask her what her favorite meal is. We practice loving in our families, so that we can carry it on in our own families, and the world. Love is a force to be reckoned with.

• The ‘In Your Corner’ team comprises the leadership of the island’s government, court, police, education, family and social services communities. Contact Annaleah Atkinson with your questions or comments at


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