The ways we feel and receive love have been labeled as “Love Languages.” According to Gary Chapman, the author of the New York Times Bestseller, “The Five Love Languages” book, falling in love is easy--it’s staying in love is the challenge. The book explores five methods of giving and receiving love: acts of service, quality time, physical touch, gifts, and verbal affirmation. Everyone feels loved through these methods, but the author believes that each love language is ranked in order of importance for each individual. For example, someone may feel more loved through physical touch than they do by receiving gifts. A hug would mean more to that person emotionally than a bouquet of flowers. However, if that same person received regular physical touch, a bouquet of flowers would be an added bonus. There’s no limit to the amount of love someone can receive! What’s your love language? In case you aren’t sure, assessments can be taken online to discover what your love language is! But what happens when we are aware of our primary love language and realize that it hasn’t led us to healthy relationships? How does someone’s love language help or hinder the relationship? Let’s dive in:
Words of Affirmation: When words of affirmation make you feel seen and appreciated for who you are, you are able to verbalize your feelings very easily to those around you. Naturally, if you feel love this way, this is also how you give love. But when you attract partners who are all talk and no action, this love language might need to be reevaluated. In words of affirmation people can feel loved by words and in the same turn, be just as easily hurt by someone’s words. Words of affirmation will not serve you if your partner weaponizes their words against you.
Physical Touch: Physical touch can be anything from a pat on the back to a hug to a back rub. If this is you, and you happen to get into a long-distance relationship, or with a partner who travels frequently, this can leave you feeling unloved with the exception of intermittent reinforcement. Similarly, physical affection is a topic that both parties need to be on the same page about--especially public displays of affection. If one partner needs physical touch and the other does not feel comfortable being touched or with PDA, then this could be a mismatch.
Acts of Service: Favors, gestures, and actions your partner makes in order to show you that they love you can absolutely reinforce the “actions speak louder than words,” idiom. The way this love language can backfire is if you are not used to asking for what you need. You feel loved when someone takes initiative and takes out the garbage, and unloved when they don’t. The key thing to remember with acts of service is don’t always assume that your partner knows exactly what acts of service you want from them. Use your words to convey what acts of service mean the most to you, and give your partner the chance to love you accordingly to your specific needs.
Quality Time: Quality time is a wonderful way to bond, connect, and be intimate. When you feel loved by having your partner spend quality time with you, make sure that you’re not looking at an unrealistic amount of quality time from your partner. Independence is healthy in relationships, and when one or both people need to always be together, that can be a result of unhealthy codependency. Check in with yourself and your partner to differentiate if your need for quality time is out of fear or for healthy connection.
Gifts: Being spoiled with gifts can make anyone feel special, but take care that gifts aren’t being used in your relationship to take place of any of the other love languages. For example, if you haven’t seen your partner or spent quality time in a while, a new purse is nice but does it really make up for the lack of connection? What about if you’d just had a terrible fight, and your partner buys you some jewelry instead of talking it out and coming to a mutual understanding and making up? Gifts can easily be used for manipulation, so tread lightly when your love can be bought.
Like with anything else, a healthy relationship is so much more than a love language. It’s important to understand how you feel love and how you give love as a result. It’s not required for couples to have the same love languages, but when you have different love languages and don’t realize it, conflict can occur. I had a client who only ever felt love through words of affirmation, but found time and time again that she was falling for men who could say anything and get away with it! After repeatedly going through this, she learned that what she really craved was quality time, but had been so starved of that in her marriage that she couldn’t even imagine feeling loved through quality time. It wasn’t until she ended up in situationships with men who wanted to text her all day--but not set up a time to see her--that made her realize that she needed actions to go along with words. Once she made that shift, she said, “Words are nice, but I realized that they weren’t enough. Actions really do speak louder, and now I know that when a man wants to see me, the connection is much deeper. Now my go-to love language is quality time.” The best way to achieve a healthy relationship with a partner is to first achieve a healthy relationship with yourself. Once you heal your wounds, work toward self-love and acceptance, and understand what your needs are from a romantic partner, you will be able to live a life that is consistent for your highest good! Join me today at divauniversity.org. Photo source: Emma Bauso via pexels.com