Discovering Our Love Languages
Our emotional need for love and belonging is fundamental to our nature. We each have an “emotional love tank” within us and when we are hurting, it may be that our “emotional love tank” is empty. With an empty tank, we may become more critical, withdrawn, misbehaved etc. When our emotional love tank is full however, we may gain a much more optimistic perspective of our lives, relationships and the world. Keeping our emotional love tank full is as important to our intimate relationships as the proper oil level in a car. It requires conscious effort, but with every step regardless of how small, healthy changes are registered in the brain.
But how do we meet our partner’s deep, emotional need for love? How do they meet ours? Because everyone expresses and receives love differently, we need to widen our perspectives of love and recognize it as broken down into languages. Our top love language is usually different from our partner’s – complete the love languages test to find out at www.5lovelanguages.com. The following summarizes the 5 love languages as developed by Gary Chapman.
Love Language #1 – Words of Affirmation
Words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love
Verbal compliments like “thank you for getting dinner prepared tonight” are far greater motivators than nagging words
Use encouraging words instead of pressuring your partner or using verbal flattery to get them to do what you want
By encouraging your partner, you are showing them that you believe in their abilities. It requires empathy and seeing life from your partner’s perspective
Love makes requests, not demands
When you make a demand from your partner, you become like their parent
When you make a request however, you are affirming their worth and abilities
Try using indirect words of affirmation as well (i.e. saying positive things about your partner to others when they are not present, saying positive things about them to others when they are present). This type of complimenting can work wonders when done in moderation
Love Language #2 – Quality Time
Quality time means putting all devices away and giving someone else your undivided, focused attention
Although time can feel like a precious commodity, quality time does not need to be long (e.g. spending 10 minutes talking at the end of each day when the kids are in bed)
It does not mean spending time gazing into each other’s eyes, but either doing something together that requires your full attention or engaging in sympathetic dialogue where you share your experiences, thoughts and feelings with each other in a friendly, non-interruptive way
Maintaining eye contact when your partner is talking and not engaging in secondary activities are ways to communicate that you care about them and what they have to say
Pay attention to their body language, listen for feelings and confirm with them that you are understanding what they are saying
It is important to only give advice when it is requested and never in a condescending manner
Start with establishing a daily sharing time to talk about three things that you each experienced that day
Love Language #3 – Receiving Gifts
Visual symbols of love are important for some as they symbolize being cared for and thought about
A gift does not necessarily need to cost money; it is the thought expressed in the gift giving that counts
Gifts can come in all shapes in sizes; some are expensive, some are free, some are purchased, some are made etc.
If your partner’s top love language is receiving gifts, almost anything they receive from you will be seen as an expression of love
If you are a saver, you may be emotionally resistant to the idea of spending money as an expression of love
Even though you are not directly purchasing something for yourself, you are making an investment in your relationship by filling your partner’s emotional love tank, which in turn will come back to you through your partner's investment in filling your emotional love tank
The gift of self or presence can also be enough of a gift for your partner; if the physical presence of your partner is important to you, it is important to verbalize that. Do not expect them to be able to read your mind
Love Language #4 – Acts of Service
Doing things for your partner that are important to them or that you know they would like you to do, expresses love. Actions speak loudly!
Such actions as cooking a meal, picking up groceries, fixing the car etc. may require planning, time and energy. But when done with a positive spirit, these tasks can easily fill your partner’s emotional love tank
No one likes to be forced to do anything however. Love must be given freely, not demanded
Requests give direction to love, while demands, criticism and manipulation by guilt (e.g. "you are not a good partner if you don't...") stop the flow of love
Criticisms are an ineffective way of pleading for love (e.g. if your partner criticizes your video game playing, it is not necessarily that they do not agree with video games, but rather that they keep you from being productive around the house)
By learning to speak your partner’s love language, you may find they become more supportive of your choices and want to find ways to reciprocate your loving actions
Love Language #5 – Physical Touch
Physical touch is a powerful way to communicate emotional love and without it, people can feel unloved
Of the five senses, touching is not limited to one area of the body. This makes touch very powerful
In terms of the psychological components of touch, it can communicate love or hate
In a partnership, the touch of love can take many forms, meaning that not all touches are equal. Some will be more pleasurable than others; your best instructor is your spouse
By not listening to your partner’s preferences, you are communicating the opposite of love and saying that you are not sensitive to their needs. Do not make the mistake of believing that the touch that brings you pleasure, also brings them pleasure
Love touches may be long (e.g. a back rub) or short (e.g. touching your partner’s shoulder as you pass by). Having a balance of both is typically best
If your partner’s primary love language is physical touch, holding them when they are upset is also very important. We cannot always change events, but we can survive if we feel loved!
Remember, the outcome of our relationships is so much more in our hands than we tend to believe! Start by understanding your own and your partner's love language to work towards having both of your needs met in healthy ways!
For more information or to take the love languages test, visit www.5lovelanguages.com
Chapman, G. D. (2014). The 5 love languages: Singles edition. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.