This is part one of a two part series of posts.
The concept of love is as varied as the languages used to convey love. I love coffee. I love that outfit. I love you. Each of these statements uses the word love in it yet; most people would agree that the love being expressed is not the same in all three.
Similarly, humans express and interpret love between one another in hundreds of different ways. Research shows that how we need to receive our love can be summarised into five primary ways. There are many dialects for each of the primary languages of love. This increases the challenge in relationships for partners to be speaking the right language and dialect to one another.
The five primary love languages defined by Gary Chapman are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch.
When your partner’s love language is ‘words of affirmation’, he feels loved by you when you acknowledge his characteristics, behaviors and actions. For example, letting him know how much you enjoyed having some free time while he did the washing up after a meal; telling him when he looks good in a particular shirt or pant; and acknowledging how you enjoy his sense of humor.
The interesting thing about love languages is that rarely do partners have the same language. Think of this as one partner speaking Greek and the other Japanese. Unless you learn to speak the other language, no amount of telling the person you love them in your own language will work.
Partners need to learn one another’s languages even when it is uncomfortable or unnatural. For example, if you don’t normally use words to express your love for someone and she needs to hear words of affirmation, you will have to step out of your comfort zone and start using words of affirmation otherwise she will always doubt your love for her regardless of what else you might do. Perhaps start with cards or notes if that feels more comfortable. Make a habit of giving a partner whose love language is words of affirmation at least one genuine expression daily and notice the difference this makes.
The second language of love is quality time. Quality time is when your partner wants your undivided attention to feel loved. The duration varies and often doesn’t have to be long – just you being wholly present and focused on your partner. If your partner complains that you never do anything together anymore, that’s a great hint that quality time may be her love language.
Make a list of activities your partner wants you to do together and has mentioned over the last six weeks or even six months. Add on any other activities you know in your gut and in your heart that would make your partner glow with happiness. Perhaps it’s a date night, a short walk together, snuggling for a few minutes after sex, camping on the weekend, or spending time together as a family. Decide which of these items you are prepared to be wholly present and open to doing and make it happen. Again, pay attention to the changes in your partner after a month of spending quality time with her.
Good communication is a foundation to a healthy relationship. Step back for a moment and consider the example of one partner who has words of affirmation as a primary language and the other partner having quality time. Communication in the relationship must be in the correct love language for each to feel loved. Using the right love languages for you and for your partner strengthens your relationship.
Couples counselling with a psychologist can assist you and your partner in implementing these and other techniques for re-kindling the love in your relationship. The second part of this post will explore the other three languages of love.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).