On speaking each other’s language
Have you ever noticed that one person in a relationship can think that everything is going just fine, only for the other to feel frustrated, misunderstood, and unfulfilled? Sometimes in a relationship we feel like we’re speaking different languages. In way, perhaps we are. Sometimes the things that make us feel loved are not the same things that make our partner feel good.
Dr. Gary Chapman, senior associate pastor, marriage counselor, and Author of The Five Love Languages noticed this phenomenon during his years of couple’s counseling, and started to categorize the complaints he heard. Through this observation Chapman coined the five love languages, which are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation: People with this love language like to receive verbal affections. Some examples are, “I love you,” or “you’re so handsome.”
- Acts of Service: People with this love language appreciate favors, such as cooking, giving massages, or fixing their computer.
- Receiving Gifts: People with this love language appreciate thoughtful gifts such as flowers, books, or video games.
- Quality Time: People with this love language appreciate time spent together, having meaningful conversations or making memories.
- Physical Touch: People with this love language appreciate gentle touches, hugging, kissing, etc.
We use all five of these languages, some with more frequency than others. Our love language, however, will be the one that is most important to us in a relationship- the one whose absence we feel the most when it is missing. Most of us are probably aware that different things make different people feel loved, and yet this issue crops up again and again in relationship after relationship.
How can we figure out what our partner needs?
- Listen: Make a mental note to pay attention to what your partner says and does. Do they make comments about how sweet another couple is as the hold hands at the mall? Do they reminisce about unplugging and going camping with their family or friends? They might be telling you that their love language is physical touch or quality time.
- Observe: Does your partner spontaneously buy gifts for the people in their life for no particular occasion, or do they enthusiastically offer to help with chores? The might be showing you that their love language is receiving gifts or acts of service.
- Communicate: Sometimes the best way to figure out what makes someone feel loved is to just ask them how they like to be treated. They might already know! If not, this could be a great opportunity for the both of you to ponder and discuss each other’s love language, and learn something new about each other.
What do we do with this information?
This is the crucial question. We can know our partner’s love language, but that will not do us any good unless we act on it. The first step is to accept their love language as a basic need. No matter how low it is on our personal list, it is the most important language on theirs. If we roll our eyes, complain, or neglect this need we are telling our partner that their need is stupid, a burden, or not worth our time. That is no way to treat someone we love.
On the other hand, we should also make a point to kindly communicate our needs to our partner. In the heat of our frustration we might yell that they don’t understand us, but we want to avoid this. Try to keep in mind, it is possible that they are loving you the way they were taught to love a person. They might be just as confused as you are. If our partner loves us, they will be open to the feedback. They will appreciate the opportunity to make us happy.
This article is not intended to take the place of professional help. If you or a loved one is feeling mentally or physically unwell, please consult a qualified professional before taking any advice online.