What if you could say or do the right thing that’s guaranteed to make your partner feel loved every time you interact with them? Wouldn’t that make life easier? Well, the secret to achieving this is to learn your partner’s love languages, as described in the best selling book, “The 5 Love Languages”, by Dr. Gary Chapman Ph.D.
Couples Good Intentions
Most couples that come to see me for Couples Counselling or Marriage Counselling genuinely care for their partner and want to make them happy, they’re just not sure how to. In the beginning of most relationships, couples often try very hard to please their partners, and go to great lengths doing things they believe their partner will love and appreciate them for. Unfortunately, in spite of all their best efforts, the response they receive from their partner may not be the happy and appreciative one they were envisioning and looking forward to. Instead, sadly, all their hard work may either go unnoticed, be acknowledged with a feeble “Oh yeah, thanks” when asked about it, or even worse, they could end up being criticized for their well meaning actions – leaving them feeling confused, hurt, demoralized, and then angry. Which may then lead to a full blown argument between the couple.
So how could a simple action, contemplated with such a pure intention of love for their partner, end so badly? Why is the instigator left feeling totally bamboozled, thinking “I would have loved it if they had done that for me, or said that to me!”
Therein lies the problem. Couples tend to give their partner or say to their partner, the exact thing that they would love to have done or said to them, without checking if it means the same thing to their partner! They forget that their partner comes from a different background and may value different things to them. In other words, they didn’t take the time to learn or ask what their partner’s particular love languages are.
Here’s a quick way to work out what your partner’s love languages may be. Watch what they do for you and how they express their love to you. That will be their preferred love language. If you do the same thing or say the same thing back to them, they are guaranteed to feel loved by you. Another way is to ask them what made them feel special or loved as a child, or what they would have loved someone to do for them as a child to make them feel special. Most likely, it will still be the same thing that makes them feel loved and special today.
The Five Love Languages
Below is a list of the five love languages Dr. Gary Chapman discovered and describes in his best selling book. Most people have one predominant love language, which makes them feel really loved and appreciated, and one or two minor ones. As you read them, note which ones you like, and guess which ones you think your partner likes.
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t speak louder than words for people with this type of love language. In fact, it’s just the opposite. If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, unsolicited compliments mean the world to them. Hearing the words, “I love you,” will melt their heart. But going a step further and telling them what it is you love about them, is the icing on the cake for them that will make their Spirit soar and fall back in love with you. Insults, on the other hand, will leave them shattered and will not be easily forgotten.
If you are constantly telling your partner “I love you” or complementing your friends often with words like, “you look great in that”, then you most likely really value words of affirmation.
For people who value Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like your full undivided attention. In fact, being there for them in this way is critical for their wellbeing, and requires you to be fully present with them in body, mind and spirit, without being distracted by external things or other people. This means turning the TV, your mobile phone and ipad off, putting all the unfinished chores and business out of your mind. Just sitting down to talk and listen to each other. This type of attention will make your partner feel truly special and loved.
Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen will be especially hurtful to them.
If you drop everything when a friend or family member is sad or going through a hard time, to be there to listen to their woes, Quality Time is likely to be one of your love languages.
This love language should not be misconstrued as materialism. The person who has gifts as their love language will be touched by the thoughtfulness, and effort their partner took to find a gift they would like, not how expensive it is. Receiving a special gift or gesture makes them feel known, cared for, and appreciated.
A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous to them, as would the absence of everyday gestures.
If you take a lot of time and care in picking out presents for others, receiving gifts is likely to be one of your love languages.
Acts of Service
“Words are cheap. Don’t tell me you love me, show me!” These are the catch phrases of people who value acts of service. Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing heavily on their shoulders will speak volumes to them, and prove that you really do love and care for them after all. What they most desire to hear from their partner is, “Let me do that for you.” It could be anything from taking out the garbage, or doing the vacuum cleaning, as long as it makes their load lighter, they will appreciate you for it. Laziness on the other hand, broken commitments, and making more work for them will make them feel that you don’t care about them at all.
Organising a date, an outing or a holiday for your partner is also an Act of Service that your partner may appreciate, especially if you showed initiative by organising it all by yourself, without their input.
If you are always trying to help other out by doing physical things for them, acts of service is likely to be one of your love languages.
This language isn’t all about being sexual. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse are unforgivable and destructive.
Suggested Exercise for Couples
One of the things I ask all the couples who come to me for Couples Counselling or Marriage Counselling is to write down or type all of their love languages, then write down how it makes them feel when their partner does those things for them, as well as how they feel about the relationship when they receive those things from their partner. I normally provide them with worksheets to write their answers on, or an Excel spreadsheet for them to type them in. If you would like either of these, you can download them by clicking here.
When they are finished writing down all of the above, I ask them to discuss them with their partner. They can do this by themselves or in their next session with me. I also ask them to stick both of their lists on the back of their bedroom or toilet doors so they both see them daily. Then I ask them to commit to choosing one of their partner’s love languages each day to give to them. I tell them, “You give these to your partner not because you enjoy doing them, but because your partner enjoys receiving this gesture of love from you. This builds good will and appreciation in the relationship.”
Write down your Love Languages (Loving Gestures)
I love when my partner cleans up the dishes without being asked to. (Acts of Service)
I love it when my partner tells me they love me. (Words of Affirmation – Usually required by Auditory people)
I love getting a nice present when I don’t expect it. (Receiving Gifts)
I love when my partner organizes a date out as a surprise. (Quality Time)
I love when my partner hugs me (Physical touch – Usually required by Kinesthetic people).
Write or type how it makes you feel about your relationship together when your partner gives you this gesture of love.
It makes me feel closer to my partner, which make me think that we can really make our marriage work. Once again, the more you write the better.
Write or type how it makes you feel when your partner gives you this gesture of love. The more you write here the better your partner will understand how important it is to you, and it will motivate them to give you this particular gesture of love.
This makes me feel really special, or like my partner really cares about me, or that I’m not being taken for granted.
Click here if you wish to download the 5 Love Languages Worksheets to fill in or the Love Language Excel Spreadsheet.
Sandy Therry (M. Couns) runs a private practice in Perth, Western Australia. She offers Psychotherapy, Marriage Counselling and Life Coaching to her clients, in person and via Skype or telephone. You can learn more about her by visiting her website at www.EmotionalHealingCentre.com.au