I often hear couples say that even though they try to show their partners they care for them, they are often frustrated when accused of not making enough effort. It seems that their way of showing love is either unappreciated or unrecognized by their partner. It is almost like trying to speak with each other in another language. At times, couples stop trying and end up disconnecting from each other. So you could be trying very hard but your kindness and caring may be missing the mark.
According to Chapman (2002), most of us have one primary language in which we express our affection or approval to other people. The love language is also the language we long to hear spoken back to us. When we do receive love expressed in our primary language, our “love tank” fills and we feel secure. When we do not receive such expressions of love, we may feel hurt and rejected, in spite of any other love languages that are being spoken to us.
In The five love languages, Chapman explores the different types of “love languages” and helps the reader to be in tune with their own as well as their partner’s love language. Once you are more aware of each other’s different needs for affection, you can learn to speak your partner’s love language.
1. Words of Affirmation
Using words to affirm the other person (e.g. You look great; I appreciate your help; Thanks for tidying up; I know you worked hard for this; You’re supportive; I enjoy doing this with you). Words of affirmation may focus on the person’s behavior, physical appearance, personality or abilities. The words may be spoken or written- or even sung! To people whose primary love language is words of affirmation, such words will make them feel appreciated and loved.
2. Quality Time
Giving the other person your undivided attention (e.g. sitting together talking; going for a silent walk together but still focused on each other, sharing an activity you enjoy and finding/making moments for closeness). Quality time may require planning an event or opportunity for two people to share something of their lives with each other. The important thing is not the activity but the attention, which communicates love.
Giving tokens, as well as more expensive items (e.g. picking up a coloured stone while on a walk to show you were thinking of the person; remembering for months what the person wants and then buying it for a special occasion; sending a card for no reason).
Nothing makes some people feel more loved and special than receiving a gift. It may be small or inexpensive, but it shows that the person was thinking of them.
4. Acts of Service
Doing something you know the person would like you to do (e.g. making a cup of tea; cooking a meal; tidying after the kids; cleaning up; taking a job off their hands). If someone’s primary love language is acts of service, they may be puzzled by a partner who speaks words of affirmation or gives gifts etc. but doesn’t do anything useful around the house. However, your partner is not a mind reader, you may have to let your partner know or request (not demand) certain acts of services that are important for you to feel cared for. Or give your partner a choice of options rather than insisting on a particular act that may not be comfortable for your partner.
5. Physical Touch
Physical touch is connecting body to body, skin to skin (e.g. hugging; kissing tenderly; holding hands, patting a shoulder; massaging a back; spooning). Even if a person may not want a certain kind of touch at certain times, it is important to find other appropriate ways to make that physical connection, if their primary love language is physical touch. Without it, they will not feel loved. It is important to share what works for each partner at certain times (e.g. I like it when you do this or I would like a hug when I come home from a stressful day).
Your Partner’s Primary Love Language
You can usually tell what your partner’s primary love language is by noticing what they like to offer to you. Then you can offer the same language back to them, sincerely and willingly. This may take practice, if their language does not come naturally to you. You can also try to appreciate what they offer to you, even if your own love language is different. Try not to reject or criticize their offerings, instead acknowledge any efforts made. This will encourage them to keep trying.
Your Own Primary Love Language
You can usually tell what is your own primary love language by noticing what makes you feel most loved – and what leaves you feeling most hurt, rejected or vulnerable when it is absent. Talk to your partner about your own love language. Explain what will make you feel most special. Agree to talk each other’s primary love language, at least sometimes.
Chapman, G. (2002). The five love languages. Strand Publishing: Sydney.
Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.
Blog written by CBT Professionals Clinical Psychologist on the Gold Coast, Raylene Chen. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples. Please call and make an appointment on 56 683 490.