If you´re having trouble communicating with your partner, maybe you´re speaking different love languages.
Love is what makes the world go round. I love that color! I love that show!
Love is a word that we all use very freely when it comes to the world but probably not as much as we could when it comes to our spouse.
Marriage is a commitment that we make because we love someone so much that we feel that we can share our lives with them. Yet somehow, we all fall into a rut when it comes to love.
It’s almost as if we take expressing love for granted.
Simply saying I love you somehow doesn’t communicate it. The truth is that we become so preoccupied with our day-to-day lives, with our checklist approach to tasks, that expressing love becomes another task to check off.
This is so sad because love is not a checklist item, it’s an all-encompassing emotion. When we live in the expression of someone else’s love there’s nothing quite like it in the world.
The question becomes how do we keep our love alive in the face of the systematic approach to life that the world demands of us? How do we keep the specialness that we regard our partner with on the front burner of our lives? How do we do it in a way where they can receive it?
A Personal Example
I tell my wife Katherine that I love her every day.
Sometimes I tell her more than once a day. I also rigorously kiss her hello and goodbye.
Do these acts come across as love to her? Very often they come across as a ritual that we perform daily.
Now, don’t get me wrong. These are important rituals. The ritual at least reminds me who she is to me. It reminds me not to diminish her into a means to an end. It also might remind her from time to time why
I’m in this game with her.
Sometimes my saying I love you might look like I’m working in angle if you know what I mean. She might perceive it as an effort to get something from her. Especially when a kiss is added to it. Again the question comes up how do I communicate my love to my partner? The love of my life? The mother of my children? How do I communicate it to her in a way where she can receive it. The answer is I need to know her love language.
What Are Love Languages?
Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the five love languages. This is a book that I recommend to every couple I work with. He wrote the book after 20 years of working with couples. Gary noticed that was a pattern, that one partner would try and express their affection one way but the other person could not receive it and vice versa. He noticed that there were five ways that people expressed and received love. The problem is that most people have one or two primary-level languages. Very rarely do two people have the same love languages. People tend to speak the love language they want to receive and not necessarily the one that their partner can receive. You can see how this might lead to some problems!
The outcome of speaking a love language to someone that they don’t really understand is that they don’t feel loved. Additionally, you feel that your efforts at love are being totally rejected. This is a recipe for disaster, and indeed many couples have had disastrous results. Dr. Chapman found that once a couple can identify each other’s love languages, they can change this dynamic. Once both people start feeling loved and knowing that the other person loves them, it becomes a lot simpler to work through other challenges in the relationship.
I highly recommend that you pick up the book. It’s a fun quick read. It’s a great read to do with your partner as kind of a couple’s book study.
Alternatively, you can shortcut by going to take the five love languages quiz together.
Once You Are, Discover The Languages…
Once you’ve discovered your love language and the love language of your partner everything is easy peasy right? Maybe not because each level language has a dialect.
Certain ways of speaking their love language we’ll totally ring their bell, while others make come across as a little bit of a turn-off.
Once you’re aware of each other’s love languages you’re going to want to explore what works and what doesn’t with an open mind. Let me repeat that you want to have an open mind.
Consider exploring each other’s love languages as an act of love!
The Cliff Notes Version Of The Five Love Languages
1- Words Of Affirmation
When someone has words of affirmation as their love language, they want to be uplifted verbally, or in writing. Encourage them in what they do.
Affirmed them in what they do. Feeling appreciated is super important to them especially when done in an empathetic matter. You can do this by sitting them down and just sharing some loving words with them. Write a note or a card.
You want to avoid being critical at all costs. Anything that sounds like criticism to them will be risky as well so you’re going to want to have some awareness of what their buttons are.
Some people are very sensitive about criticism. It’s possible to speak in a way that seems to affirm to you but sounds critical to them. You’ll know if this is happening! Make note of where their buttons are to avoid this in the future.
2- Physical Touch
Physical touch is not necessarily about sex though it can be.
If someone’s love language is physical touch, and their partner has been touching them strictly for the purpose of having sex, there may be some repair work to do here.
Touch them on a regular basis expecting nothing in return. Touch their hand, touch their head, give them a hug, hold hands.
Physical affection is what they crave. If you’ve only associated physical touch with being physically intimate, you may want to practice this and wait for them to give you a clear signal that they’re interested in physical intimacy.
You’re also going to want to avoid receiving touch from them or affection from them without acknowledging it. Do not take their touch for granted. Understand that when they touch they are expressing love, this is their love language after all.
It may not be yours but make an effort to acknowledge that they are showing love to you in the way that they best receive it.
3- Receiving Gifts
You would think that people who have the love language of receiving gifts would be a snap. It’s not just about buying any old thing for them. It’s about buying things that you know they enjoy. Don’t buy them flowers if they don’t like flowers for example. Get an idea of what kinds of gifts they want to receive. The more thought you put into how you’re going to give the gift and package it, the better it will be received. For people who have this love language, the thought behind the gift is as important as the gift itself.
Similar to touch, people who like receiving gifts will often give them. If this is not your love language don’t deflect it. Acknowledge that this is them expressing their love for you.
4- Quality Time
People who value quality time don’t need a lot of it, but they do want the regularity of quality time.
Quality time is time that you’re spending just with them. It’s time where you’re focused exclusively on them. It might be time where you’re both focusing on something together, and communicating your experience of whatever it is you’re enjoying together to one another.
Much like gift-giving, the more thought you put into the quality time you’re going to spend together, the more special it becomes to your partner. If they understand that you carved out time for them from a busy day to have a really special moment with them doing something they enjoy, they will deeply appreciate it and you!
The danger is if this is not your love language, you may rush through it.
Do not look at your phone when you should be engaged in quality time. Treat this as a mindfulness exercise, and your mindfulness is focused on your partner.
Take this frame and use it when you have quality time together and you will win every time!
5- Acts Of Service
Partners who like acts of service will not only appreciate the service that you’re doing for them but that you do it willingly, lovingly and understanding that they appreciate it.
To you, access service may have little meaning. Your partner’s demand for an act of service may feel like henpecking at times. Just get it it’s not hand packing it’s a request for attention in a way that they appreciate.
These are people who like everything taken care of.
They want to know that:
- the last piece of trim was installed between the wall and the floor.
- the car will be cleaned.
- the roof won’t leak.
Anytime they bring something up with you, answer it with the affirmative. I will do it! It will be done! These are the words they want to hear.
In fact, saying these words is almost as important as the act of services itself. Saying the words and not fulfilling the act of service is emotional poison for your marriage.
If you’re going to be affirmative, make sure you get the job done!
Now that you know the five love languages and you presumably have a clue what your partner’s love language is, you have a responsibility!
Your new responsibility is to make sure that your love tank and your partner’s love tank are always full. If your love tank is getting near empty you have a responsibility to let your partner know.
For example, if your love language is quality time and you’re feeling your love tank is low, you have a responsibility to ask for some quality time. Do not assume they will know. Do not live in the world of “they should know”. It is your job to make sure they are aware of your needs and vice versa.
It is easy to get into a rut of check listing your partner’s love languages.
Think of this as a real language, you’re going to get better at speaking it over time. That means you need to pay attention to their reaction. You need to pay attention to your delivery.
Are you trying to squeeze in a gift without really thinking about if it’s something they like or want? Are you giving them a gift without wrapping it as an experience or as a gift? Watch, listen, and learn. And keep on practicing!