Learning the Language of Love
From the epic romances found in novels and movies, to the musical melodies of love found in nearly every genre, love is something that everyone is talking about. Everyone has an opinion - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can be helpful to receive advice from parents, friends, partners, or even hair stylists. It can, however, also make things feel more confusing while navigating this endless maze full of dead ends, wrong turns, and poor communication.
Love surrounds us, but that doesn’t mean it’s always clear. At the end of the day, what does love come down to? How can it be conceptualized in terms of how people give and receive it?
According to researcher Gary Chapman, there are 5 languages of love, or ways that people express love to one another. By having an understanding of the way you communicate love, you will have a better understanding of the ways in which you may also hope to receive love.
Words of Affirmation: Some individuals place high value on acknowledging or being acknowledged by a partner, anything from a simple “Thanks for taking out the trash” to a significant “I love you.” Often, people forget to acknowledge the little things that partners do for each other. If one partner does not feel appreciated, this can lead to arguments. By taking the time to appreciate your partner for who he or she is, this can set a positive foundation for your relationship.
Acts of Service: This comes down to one phrase you may have heard before, “Actions speak louder than words.” For some individuals, simply showing your love through actions can speak volumes to your partner. This can be anything from doing the dishes to mowing the lawn. Some individuals feel that though a partner may verbalize love, there is nothing being done to show it. Try showing your partner your love through the acts you can do for him or her.
Receiving Gifts: In many ways, giving a gift has always been a symbol of appreciation. Gifts are given during birthdays, holidays, and sometimes “just because.” Though anyone will appreciate a gift, for some, receiving gifts is a significant marker that represents love. If you or your partner’s primary love language is about receiving gifts, that does not mean that it has to be expensive. In this case, it truly is the thought that counts. From a “thinking of you” note to a bouquet of flowers, these gestures (no matter how small) can mean all the world.
Quality Time: For some, it is all about receiving undivided attention. Spending time together can significantly make a difference. It could be a romantic evening or chatting about each partner's day, but this shows that you value your partner and appreciate spending time with him or her. These moments can be difficult to notice. Try and pay attention to the times your partner engages with you. Does he or she try to talk to you while you are engaged in another activity? Do you find your partner getting frustrated and saying things like, “you are not listening”? If so, this may be a sign of your partner’s love language. So put down that phone, turn off the television, and engage with your partner, distraction-free.
Physical Touch: This has been a way individuals receive and show love since birth. Parents cradle babies in their arms to show affection, and likewise, babies feel safe and loved being held. For some, touch continues to be an important sign of affection. This could be a simple welcome or farewell hug, a hand on your partner’s knee while they drive, or holding hands in public. For some, nothing represents love as much as these subtle moments of closeness. If you or a loved one’s primary love language is physical touch, go on, and reach for your partner.
Now that you may have a better understand of the ways in which you give love and hope to receive love, remember that it is more important to try to offer your partner his or her preferred love language than to give the type of love you hope to receive.
If you and your partner are struggling in your relationship and would like extra support, seeing a therapist can help facilitate a discussion about problematic issues. For any questions, please contact us at Hilber Psychological Services to set up an appointment. If you are thinking about therapy, you can read Dr. Hilber’s blog “How do you start therapy?” For more general questions about therapy, please visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.