Have you heard of the five love languages and do you know how understanding them might help you improve your relationship(s)? Or are you maybe struggling in your relationship right now and are wondering what your next steps could be?
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All of us recognise that life is mostly quite different from how it’s portrayed in the movies. After all, the big screen is designed to entertain and take us away from our normal, everyday lives.
Unfortunately for many people, their ideas of love and all it entails have very much been coloured by the portrayals they’ve seen on TV or in films. When it comes to having a relationship in the real world, with a real person who doesn’t solely exist as an amusing plot line, unrealistic expectations of love can lead to relationship issues.
It’s no surprise, then, that relationship issues come up quite frequently for my clients during our online counselling sessions. A book that I often recommend to those dealing with these sorts of challenges is “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate”.
Written back in the 1990s by Gary Chapman, it’s been on the New York Times Best Seller list since August 2009 and has sold more than 13 million copies – clearly, it resonates with people.
In the book, the author explains how romantic partners can express and experience love differently. In fact, he’s identified five different ways a person might do so – the so-called five love languages.
One of the key points he makes is that, even if you are expressing affection to your loved one regularly, it won’t make any difference until you truly take the time to make sure you are communicating it the way your significant other wants to receive it and vice-versa.
Every human loves differently and has their preferences on how they want to receive love (their “love language”).
Gary’s book is based on his years of experience and includes examples from his own counselling practice.
The five love languages, according to the author, are:
1. Words of affirmation
If this is your love language, it means that you love it when your partner gives you verbal compliments. The compliments don’t even have to be complicated. Even the simplest praise can be very effective.
“That shirt looks amazing on you!”
“I love your new haircut!”
On the other hand, for people who experience love in this language, negative comments can be extremely hurtful and even make them more unforgiving than others.
2. Quality time
This love language is about undivided attention. If your love language is quality time, then you want to be the centre of attention for your partner. TV, smartphones, or any other distractions are a big no. This would mean that cancelling or postponing time together is extremely hurtful to you as the feeling of being less important than other things or activities lingers.
3. Receiving gifts
Despite how it sounds, this love language is not necessarily materialistic. It just means that a person appreciates meaningful and thoughtful gifts. They feel loved with something as simple as their partner picking up their favourite chocolate bar for them to enjoy after a long day at work.
4. Acts of service
Different from receiving gifts, this language is about performing acts of service. It can be anything – from cooking a meal, washing the dishes or doing the laundry, to organising a holiday or important appointments. These acts of service should be undertaken with positivity and keeping the partner’s ultimate happiness in mind.
5. Physical touch
Not necessarily characterised by over-the-top PDA, physical touch is the love language where people feel more connected and safe in a relationship by holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc. Partners who prefer the love language of physical touch want to feel you close by – not only emotionally but also physically.
The interesting thing is that everyone has some sort of mix of love languages, but one will stand out as the most prominent. When you find out your partner’s love language, it doesn’t mean you stop showing your love in all the other ways. But it does mean that you can consciously choose to show your partner you love them in the way they experience it most easily.
Often in my online sessions, I remind my clients of what this book has made very clear:
“People tend to criticise their [partner] most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”
If your partner often complains about the fact that you never do the dishes, or wash the floors, or make the bed… it’s likely their love language is “Acts of Service” and you’re not speaking their language. They aren’t feeling your love.
If you find yourself complaining to your partner about the fact that they’re never around, or they’re always on their phone or watching TV… it’s likely that your language is “Quality Time” and your partner is not speaking *your* language, and so you’re not feeling their love.
How to know which one is yours or your loved one’s love language?
At any age, whether you are single or in a relationship, you can take the quizzes available at The 5 Love Languages®. If you are in a relationship, you can ask your partner to take the quiz and let you know their preference too.
Knowing your primary love language and that of your partner will open up a whole new world for you both when you both choose to express your feelings in the way your partner receives love.
What do you think? Does the idea of 5 love languages make sense to you? Can you imagine it being a helpful concept as you navigate your relationships with others?
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