Have you ever looked back on a breakup years later and thought to yourself, “you know, some of that might have actually been my fault, too”? …yeah, me neither. (Just kidding.) But in all seriousness, it’s incredibly common for relationships and marriages between well-meaning people to suffer from passion-fueled miscommunication. And when you’re in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to understand any perspective but your own. With over 35 years of experience in marital counseling, Dr. Gary Chapman knows a thing or two about love and how to help people keep it alive for the long haul. He’s also the author of New York Times Bestseller The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Camille’s read it (and loved it) and I just picked up my copy this week. Dr. Chapman’s theory is that we all grow up speaking a primary “love language”, one of five clearly defined methods of communication. Once you’ve identified your own love language, you’ll be able to ask for (and get) what you want out of a relationship. But perhaps the more important question this week is: what’s your partner’s love language? Drop in on our chat with Dr. Chapman to decode your Valentine (and to brainstorm some great gift ideas for him or her this weekend!)
featured image via duitang
So, what’s a “love language” after all? Do we all have one?
When someone says, “I feel like my spouse or partner doesn’t love me,”—something I’ve heard countless times during my years as a marriage counselor—what are they really complaining about? After years of pondering this, I discovered that their answers fell into five categories that I now call the five love languages—five fundamental ways to express emotional love. Just as we grow up speaking a primary language like English, French, or Italian, we also grow up with a primary love language. People give and receive love through: (1) words of affirmation, (2) acts of service, (3) gifts, (4) quality time, and (5) physical touch.
What’s the best way to figure out what our own unique love language is?
To discover your own primary love language ask yourself three simple questions:
- How do I most often express love and appreciation to others? Look at all the love languages. You can give and receive love in all five languages, but the one that resonates with you is your primary love language. It’s the way you say love—and wish to receive it.
- What do I complain about most often? Your complaint helps reveal your love language.
- What do I request most often? If you find yourself frequently asking, “Can you help me?” your language is likely “acts of service.” If “How do I look in this outfit?” is something you say a lot, then you are a “words of affirmation” speaker.
And what’s the best way to figure out our partner’s?
To discover someone else’s love language, observe that person’s behavior and ask the same three questions. It’s as simple as that—but the knowledge is profound.
Okay, so if two people don’t speak the same “language”, does that mean the relationship is doomed?
Seldom do people in a relationship speak the same love language and that’s often the reason for many conflicts. The good news is that all of these languages can be learned. Those who have never spoken a particular love language will find the learning curve to be steeper, but not impossible. For instance, if they did not grow up hearing ‘words of affirmation’ it may take more time for them to feel comfortable speaking such words. What I suggest is taking small steps to get started and allow time to develop the ability to speak the other person’s love language. It may take some time to see results, but with a sincere effort being made, changes will begin to take place. I know, it happened in my own marriage, and I’ve heard from countless others around the world who have shared their stories with me.
So learning to speak your partner’s love language can create more romance in a relationship?
The answer to keeping romance alive is learning and really connecting with each other’s language. I am still in awe that something so basic and straightforward has helped millions of couples restore emotional warmth to their relationships.
Now for the for fun part… Can you help us come up with a great Valentine’s Day gift idea for a “Words of Affirmation” person?
Give a greeting card and include a personal note, expressing appreciation for the things about them that you love most of all. Look for opportunities to give sincere compliments throughout the day. You are simply looking for ways to positively acknowledge him or her. The words may be spoken, written, or even sung.
And what about a great V-day gift for an “Acts of Service” speaker? This one seems tricky…
Ask in advance if there are specific things they’d like for you to do and then plan to get them done that day. Or surprise them by serving breakfast in bed, or offer to take care of the kids so he/she can sleep in or go and do something they’ve been wanting to do. If this is their primary love language, then the old saying “Actions speak louder than words” will be true.
How about for a “Receiving Gifts” speaker? You’d better not forget Valentine’s Day for that person!
Flowers are always are wonderful way of saying “I love you.” But if you can’t afford flowers find a small gift that would me meaningful to him/her and present it to them in a fun-loving way. Getting a thoughtful present says that the giver genuinely loves and appreciates the recipient.
And what would be a thoughtful gift for someone who speaks the “Quality Time” language?
We all have busy schedules and planning ahead for quality time shows you really want to make your time together special. Plan an evening out, take a walk, or sit and have coffee in order to have a meaningful conversation, focusing on things you enjoy most about each other – make it special by agreeing to turn off or put away cell phones for that time. The important thing is that the activity focuses on being with each other. What communicates love is the fact that you give the gift of time and your undivided attention.
I feel like we already know the answer to this one, but we’re going to ask anyways. What about a “physical touch” speaker? What would be a great Valentine’s Day gift or gesture towards this type of person?
Start the day with a sweet kiss and warm embrace. Whisper in his/her ear your plans to “finish what you’ve started” when time allows, preferably that evening. Physical touch is expressed in lovemaking, holding hands, embracing, kissing, or placing an arm around the shoulder of the one you love.
Oooh la la! Can do, Dr. Chapman.
This is so enlightening… we are into it! Where can we go to learn more about the 5 Love Languages?
Learning more about the 5 Love Languages for yourself and how you can apply them in all relationships is easy. I have created a fun, easy-to-follow love language assessment profile. The profile can be found in the back of the book, The 5 Love Languages, or on the website www.5lovelanguages.com.
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