Would it be useful for you to know how to love your partner in exactly the way they want to be loved? Would you like to have your partner love you in a way that totally fills your tank up?
I imagine your answer is a resounding yes! I mean, we all want to be loved, especially in the way that is most meaningful to us.
Humans are such fascinating creatures. At times we all seem so very different and then at other times, we seem so similar. Often at the beginning of relationships, all we see are the similarities, then – as time goes on – we start to notice the differences. Sometimes the differences become so vast that the relationship struggles to stay together.
Doing the work that I do, there is one thing I know for sure – and that is that humans have patterns and those patterns become predictable once we have an understanding of them.
For example, a pattern of behaviour that you may already have awareness of is that of the extrovert and the introvert. If you know that your friend is an extrovert, then you can predict with a high level of accuracy that when you take that person to a party they will comfortably find someone to chat with and before long they will have made new friends. Oppositely, if you take your introvert friend to the party, you know that they will either want to stay near you for a while or maybe just chat to one or two people throughout the party. They won’t be drawing attention to themselves and will be less eager to tear up the dance floor.
When it comes to love (how we show it and how we like to receive it) there are also patterns. These patterns were discovered and made famous by a man called Dr Gary Chapman.
Dr Chapman has a background in the church and throughout his years as a minister and counsellor he worked with thousands of people – many of them married. Over the years he identified five distinct patterns in how people love each other. He also noted that often, when a marriage or relationship was in crisis, it was because the couple were showing their love to each other in different ways. Because of that, the partner would misunderstand an act of love and the moment would pass.
The Five Love Languages is one of the most simple, yet effective frameworks that I utilise in helping people create happier relationships. When we can communicate our love in a way that is desired by our partner we create stronger bonds and are more equipped to weather the storms of life together.
When we are miscommunicating our love (or our love is not being understood) it is like a person speaking Japanese to a Chinese-speaking person and then wondering why they are not being understood. They are two very different languages!
So what are The Five Love Languages?
- Words of Affirmation: This is all about expressing love and affection through words, praise, compliments, acknowledgement and appreciation. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If your love language is words of affirmation then genuine compliments and positive words will mean the world to you. Being told “I love you”; “You are a great dad/mum”; or “I am blessed to be with you” will make your heart sing and you will feel truly loved.
- Quality Time: If Quality Time is your primary love language, nothing says, “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being present for this type of person is critical – with the TV off, knives and forks down and the phone away. This will make your significant other feel truly special and loved. It’s all about being in the same place and focusing on each other.
- Receiving Gifts: This love language isn’t all about materialism. The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift – no money even needs to be spent. It could be a flower brought in from the garden, a poem, or bringing home your partner’s favourite chocolate bar. If you speak this love language, a beautiful gift or heartfelt gesture shows that you are seen, you are cared for, and you are valued.
- Acts of Service: Can doing the dishes or washing the car really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service Person” is a powerful demonstration of love. Feeling supported through assistance and acts of service shows a level of thoughtfulness that fills up this person’s love tank.
- Physical Touch: A person whose primary language is physical touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. They love hugs, holding hands, gentle touches on the arm or shoulder when walking past each other, as well as all of the more private moments of intimacy. Physical touch shows this type of person that they are loved and cared for. Physical presence and accessibility are extremely important.
Here is an example from the book that highlights the misunderstanding that can happen when we speak different love languages:
A husband said:
“I mow the grass every Saturday after I wash the car. I vacuum every Thursday night. I do the dishes at least four nights a week. I help with the laundry. I do all of this and she says that she “does not feel loved” – I don’t know what else to do”.
His wife’s response was:
“He is right. He is a hard-working man”. Then she began to cry and said, “But we don’t ever talk. We haven’t talked in thirty years”. She is dying for ‘Quality Time’, while he is speaking ‘Acts of Service’.
This example is such a great illustration of two people who are communicating through different love languages and it having a serious impact of how loved they feel. The husband has such good intentions and really believes that he is demonstrating his love by easing the household workload – yet it totally misses the mark for her.
Self-awareness and knowledge are power! If you feel that you could have a more connected and more loving relationship, then I highly recommend reading The Five Love Languages. Dr Chapman even has an online quiz you can do to work out what your own primary and secondary love languages are – and this could be the first step towards a more loving and empowered relationship.