Creating and sustaining meaningful connections is akin to tending a vibrant garden. Just as a garden thrives with a diverse array of flowers, expressing love through various gestures and actions allows our relationships to blossom.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, neurodivergent folks tend to put their own spin on showing affection, which often means their garden goes unnoticed or misunderstood.
In this article, we will explore the five love languages, how they may differ for neurodivergent folks, and how to foster deeper understanding so that every “garden” may be appreciated.
Just as a gardener carefully selects and plants seeds according to their personal taste and needs, everyone plants different seeds of love in relationships. By diversifying our expressions of love–our love languages–we create a rich foundation for strong and flourishing connections.
In short, the idea behind love languages is that individuals give and receive love in different ways. Recognizing and understanding these differences can improve communication and strengthen relationships.
Traditionally, the five love languages are defined as:
The following are some of the ways that neurodivergent individuals may express love. You may notice that several of these are actually quite similar to the five traditional love languages; however, there are key differences. Here are the five neurodivergent love languages, and what they actually mean:
Deep pressure can be extremely soothing - not only for neurospicy folks, but we tend to enjoy and need it more than neurotypical people. The deep pressure from a tight hug, a weighted blanket, etc., helps produce feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, and decreases stress hormones like cortisol.
This is, in essence, spending time together in the same space doing your own thing. For example, one person reads while the other plays a video game. Many neurodivergent people have very different energy and stimulation needs, and therefore tend to need more alone time and personal space to recharge and reduce overstimulation. If a neurodivergent person allows you into their space while they are resting, it’s a sign of trust and comfort, as if to say, “I trust that you’ll respect my need to not interact. Being around you doesn’t drain my energy, and is soothing/comforting.”
Many neurodiverse folks have special interests - topics that they are extremely passionate about, and can talk about at great length and in great detail. However, in many spaces we’re shamed - either for being so intensely interested in a ‘strange’ topic, or for talking so much about it. Thus, infodumping is a sign of great trust and comfortability in the listener.
Also referred to as Penguin Pebbling, after the behavior of several penguin species that ‘gift’ their mates with pebbles to build their nests, this love language is all about showing the recipient that we care because we were thinking about them. It’s really very similar to the traditional love language of gifting, with the main difference being the type of gift - something small, often of little to no monetary value, that demonstrates an appreciation for the unique relationship and connection.
Certain tasks can be particularly difficult for neurodivergent individuals to complete. The specific tasks vary greatly from person to person. However, for some reason, the same task may be quite easy to do when performing it for someone else. For example, let’s say making a phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment may be incredibly difficult for Jane. However, she finds it easy to schedule an appointment for her partner. Support swapping is, in essence, identifying those tasks each person struggles with most, and ‘swapping’ by performing those tasks for each other.
Just as a well-tended garden brings beauty and joy, nurturing our connections through diverse expressions of love fosters strong and fulfilling relationships. If you have a neurodivergent friend, family member, or partner, it’s important to recognize that they may express their love in a different way. The more you can speak with the person about each of your preferred love languages - whether the traditional types, or the neurodivergent types - the better you’ll both learn how to communicate your affection and care for the other.