Finding Your Love Language: Five Steps to Showing You Care
Last week I addressed conflict in couples’ relationships: how to remind yourself that your partner is not your sworn enemy while going through tough times, and how to show vulnerability to your partner, helping them to understand that you really do care.
Continuing down this path to better communication, I would like to touch and expand on a bit of insight from the great book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Gary Chapman first penned the idea of love languages, bringing to life a theory that has helped many couples better understand each other.
Every Relationship Has Its Rewards
Being in a relationship can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. There is nothing quite like sharing fun activities, peace and quiet, silliness, our deepest thoughts, our dreams and our time with someone else. As we grow closer and our partner gets to know us better and better, the intimacy created is something that is quite priceless.
Every Relationship Experiences Conflict
But every relationship experiences its ups and downs. Conflict is inevitable, as partners will, over time, grow and change at different rates, encounter unexpected parts of their partner’s personality and experience a variety of stressors that bring strain to the relationship.
One of the keys to managing and reducing conflict in a relationship is simply letting the other person know you care while, at the same time, feeling cared about yourself. While Hallmark commercials and romantic comedies make this look like a simple task, for many it takes a bit of thought and some intentional focus to really do it right.
In the Same Room, but Missing Each Other?
I’ve encountered many people who feel unappreciated by their partner for the efforts they are putting into a relationship. This is happening at the exact same time their partners are making effort to show them appreciation.
How is it that people can be making efforts towards the same goal, but completely missing the effort put in by the other person?
Simply, these people are not speaking the same language. They are missing each other’s messages due to being unaware of 1) How to speak, and 2) How to listen.
The 5 Love Languages
Listed below, the five “Love Languages” describe ways we both give and receive love:
-Words of Praise and Affirmation-
This is not only inclusive of compliments, but of validation, gratitude and empathy. This category includes all affection expressed verbally.
-Spending Quality Time-
Considered a display of affection by many, this category includes dates out or time in: any time spent focused on one another, either sharing an activity or engrossed in conversation.
-Giving and Receiving Gifts-
Many are moved by the thought another person puts into a gift they give to them: the meaning of the gift, the time spent planning it, the financial expenditure and the object itself can have great meaning. One may also feel warm and closer to a person after giving them a gift.
From the little things like opening a door or cleaning up after dinner, to bigger efforts like clearing your partner’s car of snow or getting major chores done around the house, many feel affection is expressed through activity.
Not only inclusive of sexual relations, physical touch can include something as small as the touch of a hand, brushing hair from another’s eyes, or rubbing someone’s back. Many feel affection through simple physical proximity to another.
What is your love language?
Reread these descriptions and, as you do, think about how you like to receive love and affection. There are likely a couple of these you prefer: make a mental note of those. And how do you believe you show love and affection? Do you do this in the same ways you receive love and affection, or differently?
Using the 5 Love Languages to Improve Your Relationship
How do you believe your partner likes to show love and affection? This is a perfect opportunity for discussion, sharing this list with your partner, sharing your preferences with each other and thinking about how this has worked (or not worked) between the two of you.
Have you been bringing your wife flowers every week, when all she really wants is for you to empty the dishwasher? Have you been setting aside time to watch football with your husband, thinking it’d be nice to share in his interest, when all he really wants is to hear that you appreciate his efforts at a tough job?
Defining each others’ love languages may be one of the most valuable conversations you can have. Not only does it help you better focus your efforts to please your partner, understanding what will make them feel good and connected to you, but it also teaches you how to listen.
Use these ideas to think outside the box, outside the few categories of the affection that you look for and to realize that there are efforts your partner is making that you haven’t noticed before. Listen for their efforts. Learning to appreciate your partner for what they give can greatly relieve and reduce tensions. You may find that the love you’ve been searching for has been there all along.
If talking about how to better communicate with each other using these ideas does not seem to alleviate tension, we are always here to help. The clinicians at Stenzel Clinical Services are trained to help couples communicate better, resolve conflict and face the tough issues that have come between them. We would be pleased to help you, so Contact Us today for more information about our services or to schedule and appointment.