Do you ever feel that while you know deep down that your partner loves you, they don’t always show it? Do you ever feel irked when you’ve planned an evening for just the two of you, but the ping of a group chat is dividing their attention? Are you longing to hear the words “I love you”? hankering for thoughtful gifts? or are you just hoping they’ll finally pick their dirty clothes up off the floor and put them in the laundry basket, because THAT is the way to your heart?
It might be that you’re speaking different love languages.
Bestselling author and marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman suggested in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate that the way in which we communicate love and affection can be categorised into five different patterns.
His five ‘love languages’ were based on what he saw in his therapy sessions with couples: that many of them seemed to describe the same sort of problems in their marriage, and what these problems came down to was a difference in how each person demonstrated their feelings to their partner, and how they interpreted what their partner expressed to them.
Since he first proposed his five love languages in the early 1990s, Dr Chapman’s ideas have been explored and used by therapists across the globe in order to transform relationships for the better. Therapists (including our co-founder Natasha!) often find that when couples sit in front of them complaining about their relationship, they tend to have contrasting love languages. Most of us will use elements of each love language at different times, but we usually lean more towards one overall. There’s no right or wrong language though – each is equally valuable – what’s important for improving communication in a relationship is knowing your own love language, and understanding your partners:
Chapman’s Five Love Languages
- Words of Affirmation: Compliments, kind words and encouragements – not forgetting those all-important three words “I love you” – this language is one is for the talkers.
- Acts of Service: From the mundane (putting the bins out, checking the smoke alarm batteries) to the grandiose (arranging date nights and holidays), it’s the things their partner does that best represents love for these guys and girls.
- Receiving Gifts: Sometimes getting an undeserved bad rep, taking joy in receiving gifts isn’t mere materialism for individuals in this group, but instead it makes them feel loved – knowing they have been considered and thought about by their partner.
- Quality Time: Those who speak this language need uninterrupted time with their loved one – time not shared with phones, TV, or other distractions. This group need their partners to be present when they are with them. Netflix and Chill? Just chill, please!
- Physical Touch: More than sex, those in this group crave the goodbye kiss, the hello hug, the gentle brush of a hand across a leg. These people are the hand holders, and they need touch to feel loved.
So what’s your love language? and what’s your partner’s? If you’re not sure, think about recent times you’ve felt especially positive towards your partner and try to remember what you did to attempt to show or tell them. Did they respond as you hoped? If not, it’s time to work out what their love language is so you can communicate your love for them in a way that they’ll truly appreciate. As for how to help them understand how you need them to communicate love to you … well, tell them. Maybe let them take a read of this article to start the conversation! Perhaps this Valentine’s day could be the time to start finding ways to say “I love you” that really, truly works for you and your partner.