What’s up with that?
You’ve had a stressful day at work. You were late to a big meeting, one of your employees told you they’re looking for other jobs, and you are in the middle of a huge project. All you want when you get home is to squeeze your honey bunny and cuddle up with them on the couch. That would make you feel so loved, and so much better.
Your partner knows how your day went. They know you’re under a ton of pressure lately. When you get home, instead of showering you with the affection you crave, they excitedly tell you about all the things they did around the house. Laundry is done and put away, the bathroom is clean, and they plan to spend the rest of the night finishing vacuuming and cleaning your car.
All you want is to be held. All they want is to do stuff around the house to make you happy. What gives?
The 5 Love Languages: RELATIONSHIP GAME CHANGER
If you haven’t read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, you 1) are missing out and 2) don’t know the answer to the scenario above. In The 5 Love Languages, Chapman describes five different ways people experience and show love. He coins them “love languages”.
He uses true anecdotes of real couples to demonstrate mismatches in love languages. Additionally, he explains the details of each love language. His point is not that people must have the SAME love language. But partners must be aware of each other’s love languages so they know how best to show love to their partner.
Even though the book is a little high on the cheese scale, it can be a GAME CHANGER for couples. Especially if they have different love languages and have experienced frustration by their partner’s (perceived) lack of love. Here’s a little snapshot of each love language:
Love Languages Defined:
Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.
o People whose primary love language is receiving gifts put a lot of time and thought into the gifts they give. You won’t find them at the stores on Christmas Eve working with whatever is left on the shelves! At the end of a long day, a person with this language has flowers or a thoughtful gift waiting for their partner.
Physical Touch: With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch. It can be holding hands, hugs, or gently stroking your partner’s arm.
o Most men have an affinity for sex, but this love language goes beyond just a primal-type need. When your primary love language is physical touch, you like to rub your partner’s back, give out kisses like high-fives, and touch while you’re both sitting on the couch. At the end of a long day, a person with this language needs to be physically close with their partner.
Acts of Service: Actions are used to show and receive love, rather than words.
o When someone has this as their primary love language, they find ways to show love through DOING for their partner. Take something off their partner’s plate, unexpectedly do something the other would not have thought of, etc. At the end of a long day, a person with this language will do something like cook and clean up dinner for their partner.
Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.
o Not everyone needs to say “I love you” on a daily or multiple-times-a-day-basis, but people with this love language use their words to SAY how they feel about their partner. Hearing kind things unexpectedly is a bonus! At the end of a long day, a person with this language will validate how much they love and appreciate their partner by telling them so.
Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
o Those who primarily speak Quality Time don’t have their phone in their hand and they aren’t multi-tasking when they’re spending time with their partner. Doing activities together and having “just us” time is important. At the end of a long day, a person with this love language wants to spend interrupted face to face time with their partner.
What language are you speaking?
Can you already start to identify with one (or more) of these love languages? To gauge yourself even more, there is a 30-question quiz on Chapman’s website that helps you understand your preferred love languages. The results will show you all five languages and your tendency towards each. Some of the questions may seem silly but in the end you’ll understand more about yourself. If your partner takes the quiz as well, so many parts of your relationship may make a bit more sense.
You don’t need to take the quiz but to get an idea of your love language. Based on some of the examples here, what do you lean most towards when you feel most loved? And how are you most often showing love to your partner?
It’s also important to recognize the languages you do NOT express love in. For example, if you are lowest on acts of service, that could mean that when people (not just your partner) do acts of service for you. You may assume it’s not a big deal for them when in fact, it does matter to them because they show love in that way. Being mindful of your strengths and weaknesses in showing love helps you be more self-aware. This allows you to be a better partner, friend, child, sibling, etc.
Speaking each other’s language
Knowing your partner’s love language helps you understand so many things about your relationship. You can use the information going forward, and it’s also helpful as a rearview mirror. You may understand why your partner has reacted certain ways. Or why you’ve fought about certain things, why they haven’t reciprocated your words/actions or why your feelings have been hurt by them in the past. Knowledge is power!
If you and your partner’s love languages are different, it can be difficult to shift from your primary love language to your partner’s primary love language when trying to show them love. If you’re used to telling them they’re sexy and you appreciate them and you love that they do X, Y, Z but Words of Affirmation doesn’t mean much to them, it can be hard to switch to stop saying things and instead giving them undivided Quality Time if that’s instead what they value.
Be patient with each other as you learn your styles, and then adapt to them. Talking openly about “what would make you feel loved right now?” is a great question to ask when you know your partner needs love but you’re not sure how best to love them in that particular moment. Talk it out and use this knowledge to build your relationship even stronger!
The beautiful thing about these five love languages is that while they primarily serve romantic relationships, they make so much sense in other relationships. Think about your mom, your brother, your friends. They may show love differently than you in your relationship. And when you recognize that you can better understand and meet them where they are so your relationship can be more aligned.
Now that you know about Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages,” read the book if you’re so inclined and get to loving your partner they way they loved to be loved! And teach your partner the same about you.