Do you try to do nice things for your partner but s/he is not happy? Are you lost as nothing seems to work? Is your relationship starting to feel like a battle ground and provides you with more grief than happiness? Or perhaps it just feels stale?
Recently, I came across the book “Five love languages: Secret to love that lasts” by Gary Chapman, who is a couples’ therapist and an anthropologist. To my delight, I discovered an audiobook version of the book and I enjoyed listening to the broad Southern accent of Mr Chapman as he spoke about “looove”. I very much enjoyed the book and the idea of different love languages made sense to me. I wanted to share with you and help you to identify your own and your partner’s love language.
All of us have different styles of wanting to be loved. What we share is our need to be loved; we have this from birth and the first source of love are our parents. Mr Chapman says that loving someone is a decision and after the initial “in love” fluctuation (usually lasts up to 2 years) is a decision and formed of acts of love. In a romantic relationship, we desire for our partner to fill our love tank if our love tank is empty and we don’t feel loved and cared for by our partner the relationship is likely to gradually wither.
Many couples struggle to know each other’s love language and fail to contribute to each other’s love tank. If your partner’s love language is different from yours, but you try to demonstrate love by using your own love language, your partner may be dissatisfied. You may feel confused because you don’t know what you have done wrong even if you tried your best.
There are not only 5 love languages, but also different dialects of the love languages. It is suggested that if you learn your partner’s love language; be prepared that they will start behaving in a different manner towards you. The book gives numerous case examples of how relationships have changed after a partner or both partners have started demonstrating love by using the love languages.
How often do you recognise what your partner does for your relationship and the qualities you appreciate about him/her? Perhaps you think that your partner knows how you appreciate him/her without saying it loud. If your partner’s primary love language is receiving compliments and they feel loved by hearing your appreciation, you need to learn to verbalise your appreciation.
It is suggested that you make a list of all the things that you appreciate about your partner including small details and voice those to your partner on a regular basis. If this feels awkward to you initially because it is not your primary love language, start with stating something small to your partner and build it up.
Does your partner often say “you always come home late…”, “you are always out…”, “I never see you…” or does s/he complain about seemingly trivial things that you do? If you have a busy family/work life, you and your partner may not have much time together to reconnect. Often in the modern world full of technology to distract us, even if we had few minutes that could be spent giving our partner our undivided attention, we often choose to check the social media updates or engage in other distracting activities.
So if your partner’s love language is spending quality time together, s/he may feel deprived of love because there is little or no quality time spent together. Simply co-existing in the same room without proper emotional engagement won’t do. The two different dialects of quality time are: having loved one’s undivided attention and engaging in meaningful conversation and engaging in activities together, where both of you are fully present.
If your primary love language is not receiving gifts, you may cringe at the thought of giving gifts and spending money on your partner. For a person, who feels loved when receiving small gestures of love in form of a gift, it is not the monetary value of a gift that matters but the fact that the other person has thought about them and given a gift to demonstrate their love. For a person whose primary love language is receiving gifts seeing the gift reminds of the love. Mr Chapman talks about how across cultures getting married has always included giving and receiving gifts. Similarly, for a mother, when her child brings a small flower from the garden, it is a very dear gift and demonstrates the child’s love for his/her mother.
Receiving gifts is definitely not the primary love language of a person who complains about your presents or demands them to have certain monetary value.
If you struggle to find suitable gifts for your partner (buying, for example, a lawnmower or hoover for your partner is not one), perhaps speak to your partner’s friends to get ideas and listen to him or her talk about what they might enjoy.
A gift doesn’t have to be a concrete one either, it can be your time together, organising a date night or otherwise you giving your undivided attention to your partner.
Acts of service
Does your partner often complain that you do not help him/her around the house or participate in doing the chores / cooking etc.? Or perhaps you finding yourself nagging your partner about these and feel that your partner does not care about you as they don’t help you or expect you to do everything? These may be messages about your partner’s love language being acts of service.
If this is not your love language, you struggle to understand how on earth your partner could feel loved if you do some hoovering in the house or tidy up after meal times or otherwise take part in the chores. For example, if your love language is physical touch, would it make you think twice about contributing to the chores if you knew that helping out at the house would make your partner feel loved?
From birth we crave for physical touch; it is a basic human need to feel physically close and connected with another person. Babies feel calm and cared for when they are held. Physical touch can communicate to another person love (hugging, kissing) or hate (refusing physical touch, violence). Physical touch takes many forms from a platonic hug and gentle strokes to passionate kissing and sex. Whilst physical touch is an important part of any relationship, people whose love language is physical touch, they need physical touch to fill their love tank. If physical touch is denied or used as a way to negotiate the relationship, it can be very painful for the person, a rejection like a slap on the face. Read more about signs of fear of rejection in your relationship here.
What is important to know about the love language of physical touch is that you must not assume that your partner likes to be touched in the same way as you do. If you touch your partner in a way you like to be touched, s/he may find it irritating and if you continue to touch this way, it communicates the opposite of love. Physical touches can take place for a few seconds, such as quickly stroking your partner’s cheek when passing by, to a longer engagement, such as foreplay.
It is important to listen to your partner to learn how they want to be touched and loved. It is suggested that you try out different ways of touching and your partner will let you know whether they’ll like it or not. Remember that you are learning the love language of your partner! You are likely to experience the benefits of your partner feeling loved by you.
I loved this book and the idea of different love languages and dialects. This applies to children as well. They too crave to be loved in different ways.
Hopefully, you found the post useful thinking about your own relationship and how to express your love to your partner?
What is your love language(s)? How could you help your partner to fill their love tank?
If you and your partner are struggling and have lost that loving feeling. Perhaps you don’t know how to communicate love to each other or family responsibilities have made you distant and it is difficult to find a way back to your partner, couples’ therapy can help to find a way back to the place of harmony, loving existence and having a deep connection. Learn more about couples’ counselling here. Arrange your 15min FREE consultation to discuss how therapy could help you as an individual or you two as a couple. Contact now!
Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol, is a chartered counselling psychologist in private practice in Harley Street, Central London, and Reigate, Surrey. She is passionate about working with individuals and couples who are struggling in their relationships and seeking a deeper connection and a harmonious existence. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapman, G. (2014). 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts