Deployers learn to leverage love languages for healthy relationships

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  • 349th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve deployers and their loved ones learned about relationship tools and strategies at a Yellow Ribbon Program event in Anaheim, California, July 30-31.

The Five Love Languages course focused on helping event participants to take a deeper look at the ways in which they share appreciation for others in their life. The course is based on the book, “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman, who also wrote “The Five Military Love Languages” and “The Five Apology Languages.” The books outline different ways that people receive and give affection.

“All of these books are incredibly helpful for people in relationships or anyone trying to develop stronger ties with family, friends or even your pet,” said Master Sgt. Lindsay Barnes, a religious affairs specialist who taught the course. “Learning to speak your partner's love language can be an incredible benefit to your relationship.”

According to Barnes, a Reserve religious affairs specialist assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, the five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time and gift giving. She said that everyone appreciates these different forms of showing affection to varying degrees.

Barnes also emphasized that each of the love languages is important to healthy relationships, but putting in extra effort to prioritize the one love language that a partner appreciates most can be the most effective.

Barnes shared a personal anecdote of how she applied the five love languages. While deployed, she prioritized quality time, her primary love language. She focused on receiving and giving this kind of attention even when it was very hard. To get enough quality time from halfway around the world, she and her partner would watch movies together.

“Just knowing that he was sharing an experience with me, even if it was remote, meant a lot because of my attachment style,” she recalled.

Barnes encouraged course participants to discuss their love languages and come to terms with differences they may have with their loved ones.

“I am very big on gift giving, and she is more of a quality-time person,” said Technical Sgt. Chad Christensen from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “Realizing that your spouse doesn’t have the same love language as you and how your differences make you better together is a really great tool to improve your relationship.”

Providing acts of service and quality time were the most common love languages among attendees with quality time topping the list for nearly half of the attendees.

“As time has gone on, and my life has changed, my love language has changed,” said Col. Jennifer Fiederer the 419th Mission Support Group commander at Hill Air Force Base. “My husband is also a group commander, and when we had kids, acts of service became so much more important because our time and energy was in such short supply.”

The course encouraged couples to prioritize their partners' love language preferences during deployments to maintain strong connections.

“When you give a gift, even something small and your partner hangs onto it for a long time, that's a sign that their love language is probably gift giving,” said Col. Joshua Kim, the Yellow Ribbon Program’s senior chaplain. “When we can notice ways that our actions are meeting our partner’s needs, that is incredibly helpful.”

Although the course drew attendance from mostly couples, single Airmen also gained useful tools for navigating their personal needs in friendships and family relationships.

“I would recommend this course to anyone who is deploying or anyone coming back from deployment,” said Maj. Casey Smith, a flight nurse with the 302nd Air Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “As someone who prefers physical touch, I intentionally sought out opportunities to play sports as a way to build friendships and receive physical touch in a deployment-appropriate way.”

This particular iteration of the Five Love Languages course marked the first time that a religious affairs specialist led the course at a Yellow Ribbon events. It’s typically led by a chaplain, but Barnes’s familiarity with the course content and her experience as a school teacher was enough to convince the Yellow Ribbon staff that she was up to the challenge.

“I’m honored to be the first person in my career field to lead this course,” said Barnes. “I had a lot of fun, and the audience participation made it something truly special.”

The Yellow Ribbon Program aims to connect deployers and their loved ones with resources that can help them before, during and after deployment.