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Have you ever felt like you and your partner were speaking different languages when you don’t see eye to eye?
Sometimes, it can feel like you don’t know how to communicate what’s going on, or that they aren’t able to understand the way you are getting your message across. This idea led to the development of love languages, which are patterns in how partners express their needs in relationships.
We all communicate differently, even if we use the same systems and languages to get ideas across. Some people might be more likely to have a calm conversation while others feel the need to communicate through actions. Some people say a lot through body language while others shut down. Other people show their feelings through words while others prefer to use actions, gifts, time together, or physical touch.
What are the 5 love languages?
The five love languages that you often hear about were coined by Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. His experience working with couples showed him that not everyone communicates their feelings in the same way. He noticed that there are, in general, five different ways that people commonly show love in relationships. These five ways are known as love languages, because they are the way that people communicate their love and affection for their partner or loved ones.
The five Love Languages as developed by Gary Chapman are:
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation as a love language means that you feel loved when you receive appreciation or validation through words, whether they’re said to you or written down. Folks whose love language is Words of Affirmation respond to kind words, encouragement, or other verbal demonstrations of affection.
If your love language is Physical Touch, physical affection is what makes you feel cared for and loved. This can include sex, but also cuddling, hugging, holding hands, or a loving footrub after a long day. Being close physically is what makes this person feel cared about.
Gift giving as a love language isn’t necessarily about getting lots of material things. When your love language is gift giving, it’s the meaning and thought behind the gift that makes you feel loved. With gift giving, the effort that goes into the gift is what makes these folks feel loved and understood, not just the gift itself.
Acts of Service
Folks whose love language is Acts of Service feel loved when their partner does nice, helpful things for them. This could be something like running an errand, brushing off your car when it snows, or taking a task off your hands.
If your love language is Quality Time, then undivided attention makes you feel loved and cared for. This means no distractions like screens are taking your attention away from each other during these quality moments together.
When you know how your partner likes to communicate their feelings, it will be easier to understand where they’re coming from.
Knowing how they like to show their love also tells you what not to do based on their love language. For example, if your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, they would probably prefer a written note or a verbal acknowledgement rather than a gift or token marking what’s going on.
How can I find out my love language?
Finding your own love language just takes a little bit of time and self-awareness. There are quizzes you can take online, or you can see if reading about any of the love languages gives you insight as to which you prefer.
If you’re not sure, try to picture each scenario. Imagine your partner expressing affection through words, giving you a gift, spending time with you, helping you with something, or displaying physical affection through a hug or kiss. Which of these actions would feel best to you? Which makes you feel, seen, heard, valued, and cared for?
Are there more than five love languages?
While these 5 love languages do cover a broad range, there are other ways to show love that aren’t necessarily on this list. If you look at the list of love languages and don’t feel like the way you show love is represented, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. There are lots of valid ways to show your feelings.
Your love language might also change over time, or your partner’s might. Try to think of love languages as not set in stone, but flexible, and influenced by things like trauma, sexuality, attachment, culture, and more.
How can we use our love languages to communicate better?
When you understand your partner’s love language, or the way they prefer to show and to be shown love, it will make it easier to understand their needs and how to meet them. Just knowing your partner’s love language doesn’t guarantee you’ll communicate better though. Some people get tripped up trying to force their partner to adapt to their own love language, instead of trying to use their partner’s preferred language to communicate to them.
The love language exercise is about learning how to speak the other person’s language, not to try to teach them yours. If each of you tries to communicate to each other in the language you prefer, you’ll both feel validated and cared for.
If your love language is Acts of Service and your partner’s is Gift Giving, focus your energy on speaking to them through giving gifts rather than doing things for them. In turn, they should prioritize acts of service for you instead of expecting you to respond to a gift in the way that they would.
There will be fewer instances of miscommunication where one partner doesn’t feel validated. This is because knowing your partner’s love language gives you built in ways to validate your partner in ways they actually respond to.
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Couples therapy can be a great addition to your couples toolkit when you need it. It’s perfectly fine to go to couples therapy when there’s an active issue between you and your partner, but it’s also recommended by couples therapists to go to therapy before you actually have any major issues. Think about it like preventative maintenance: you can learn new ways of interacting with one another that feel less triggering so that problems are less likely to arise.
Our Houston couples counselors can help you and your partner find and speak each other’s love language so you can feel closer than ever. Give our office a call today to get started!
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