Has it ever dawned on you that your partner may not experience love the same way you do? If you have been together a while, you may have figured this out by now. Lest there be any doubt, a great question to ask your partner is, what’s your love language?
When you ask about love languages, you might get a deer in the headlights look, so be prepared to explain what you mean. The term “love language” is a phrase first coined by Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book called The Five Love Languages. In the book, Dr. Chapman describes how he realized that the clients in his marriage counseling practice were often at odds in their relationships not because they didn’t love each other or weren’t trying, but because they expressed and experienced love for each other differently. It was as if they were speaking different languages.
Chapman put these eye-opening concepts into his book for people around the globe. Since that time he has sold millions of copies and helped a lot of relationships, one aha moment at a time.
So what are the five languages of love? Here is a description of each to help you figure out what are your favorites and also so you can discover which ones make your partner feel especially cared for.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation acknowledge effort, deeds, and accomplishments. It could be words like, “I’m proud of the way you handled the situation”, or “your help made all the difference”, or even words of praise such as, “you look amazing tonight!” For the person that thrives on this love language, remember to use words of appreciation to fill their cup.
Quality time is about spending uninterrupted time together enjoying each other’s company. I highly recommend putting your phone aside if this is your partner’s favorite love language. Carving time out of your busy schedules to have date night, morning coffee, or an activity together, such as a bike ride, are ways to say I love you with quality time.
When a person’s favorite love language is gifts, it doesn’t mean that the person is materialistic. Receiving gifts is special to the person because they feel that their loved one was keeping them in mind. When returning from a trip, or even, just because, giving a small gift or picking up fresh flowers really lets them know you care. Also, be sure to remember birthdays and other special occasions if your partner’s favorite love language is gifts.
Acts of Service
Acts of service is about practical ways of giving help. For example, “Hey honey, let me grab the groceries and you can sit and relax.” Or knocking out some extra chores that you know your partner will want done is another great way to say I love you. Even though it may seem unromantic to you if this is not your love language, think in terms of practical to-dos if your partner feels loved by acts of service. Haven’t you ever heard how, for some people, cleaning the kitchen is a wonderful form of foreplay?
Some people feel most loved by the language of touch. This can include displays of affection as well as sexual intimacy. Holding hands, a hug or sexual activities say, I love you, for the person whose favorite love language is physical affection. Even small gestures such as sitting close, holding hands, or a welcome home kiss can go a long way to let your partner feel your love. If this is your partner’s favorite, take your time and don’t rush past these acts of connection.
Lost in Translation
Now that you understand how people have different ways of experiencing love, can you see how things can get confusing when people in relationships don’t know the answer to, “What is your love language?” For example, say you are feeling loving and move in for a hug because physical affection is your love language. But your partner walks right past your open arms and gives you a scowl. As it turns out, you never emptied the overflowing trash and acts of service is your partner’s love language. Or, perhaps you forgot to pick up the flowers your spouse keeps hinting at. Instead, you suggest you spend quality time together and go hear some music. She turns you down flat and goes to bed early.
A Beautiful Friendship
In each of the above scenarios, feelings get bruised and often no one knows why. Someone is giving and it’s not being received. After a while, partners stop giving and things really start to break down. Instead, people can begin to “speak” each other’s favorite love language and they can reawaken the spark. Paraphrasing Rick in the classic movie, Casablanca, this could bring about a new beginning of a beautiful friendship.
For more relationship improvement you might be interested in a downloadable program called Soothing Moments. This one-hour audio and printable transcript by Pete Pearson and Dr. Ellyn Bader teaches you how to repair your relationship and get back on track with your partner after something has happened that made you feel angry or hurt. Click Soothing Moments for more information or to order.
Meg Luce, MFT, is a psychotherapist who provides relationship counseling services for individuals, couples and parents. Her approach is caring, compassionate and nonjudgmental. She collaborates with clients in a safe environment to promote the changes that they wish to make and believes that all people have the ability to grow, change and resolve relationship conflicts. To learn more about Meg please visit her blog at www.nevadacountytherapist.