Relationships can be hard. Sometimes it’s even a challenge to remember that you’re on the same team. You may only be seeing the things that drive you crazy. You know, those little things that get under your skin. Those things your partner may (or may not) be doing that you feel are driving you apart. You may find yourself asking “What were the things that I fell with so early on in this relationship?” Sometimes it’s like you’re practically speaking a different language!
So how do you get back to a place of love and feel connected again?
One way to help you back on that journey is a book that I frequently recommend to clients — The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by world-renowned marriage expert, Dr. Gary Chapman. Obviously, from the name of the title, this book illustrates five “love languages” as a way to express and experience love.
These five love languages are Gift Giving, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. It’s incredibly insightful to learn the language you speak and see how to effectively communicate with your partner (or potential partner, if you’re currently single) in a way that they can truly “hear” and receive your love. It’s also important to know that you may have more than one love language. You may even enjoy all five!
The one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision every day. – Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages
According to Chapman people tend to naturally give love in their preferred language and assume that’s what love looks like for everyone. So it makes complete sense when a husband (for example) has a love language of Acts of Service and shows his love by fixing up parts of the house, washing his wife’s car, and camping with the kids.
However, her love language is predominantly Words of Affirmation and what she really craves the most is hearing sweet words and “I love you.” Meanwhile, his wife takes the lack of compliments or kind words as slights and intimacy avoidance, and her husband is left feeling unappreciated for all the work (and expressions of love) that he has done. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and delve into each language a little bit deeper.
For some people receiving (and giving) gifts is what conveys love and affection. It’s a visual, tangible symbol that can create the warm fuzzies for so many.
A gift can show that your partner watches and knows what is of value for you. And while something in a Tiffany box is very nice, it doesn’t have to be expensive. For these people, it really is the thought that counts.
If your partner complains about not spending enough time together, that most likely is their love language. And it’s not just hours on end. It’s stealing little moments in a crowded room, putting down the digital device when you’re together, and looking into each other’s eyes.
It’s about sharing your undivided attention. For this person, talk is cheap and when their needs are met, they feel comforted and satisfied.
Words of Affirmation
Positive words, compliments and saying “I love you,” are all ways of giving and receiving love for those with this as their primary language. These are words that affirm the other person. You can really light someone up with just a few words of praise and gratitude!
Words convey depth and meaning for these partners. And it’s not only what is said but the tone of our voice in how we say these words that can also have a powerful impact on what someone hears. For people with Words of Appreciation as their love language, they may, at times, take things too literally.
Verbal slights, insults (real or imaginary, intended or unintended), general negativity and criticism cut deep and are not easily forgiven. This can be particularly true when our tone is harsh.
Acts of Service
These people prefer more action, fewer words. To them, it’s really in what you do that expresses your love. It’s the planning and careful execution of a project, cooking a favorite meal – and, of course, bringing your loved one breakfast in bed, or doing any of those little things around the house that you know are important to them. Those acts of service really convey a special caring on your part.
It takes knowing the person well enough to do those little things that mean so much. Broken promises, unappreciation and laziness are detriments to this love language.
This person feels affection through physical touch, which doesn’t just mean in the bedroom (although that will very likely be important to them). It’s really the small physical connections — a flirtatious tousle of hair, a sweet cheek caress, the touch at the small of her back when entering a room — that are truly meaningful.
And it’s not about over-the-top PDA, but a little touchy-feely makes them feel loved and safe. (Be sure to check out my blog on why physical touch is so important in relationships.)
Tip: If you know your love language, it’s important to tell your partner with as much clarity as possible. One of the very best things you can do is to give your partner specific examples about what it is that you respond to. For example, if you like flowers, tell them what types of flowers you like. If you like to be touched, let your partner know how you like to be touched. Would you like to be caressed or would you like to be massaged? The more detail you can offer, the better your chances of you getting what you need.
While I do value the depth of the book, you can also take a short quiz to discover your love language and encourage your partner to do so as well. It certainly will spark an interesting (and potentially monumental) conversation.
Also to see the Five Love Languages in action, watch this great video.
I hope that this article helps you to better understand your own love language. Whether you are single or in a relationship, I’d be happy to help you explore this in more detail if you would like to learn more. Contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation anytime.