I’ve written three different posts on how to more effectively communicate with the other person in your relationship, and the points I have raised are certainly valid. See:
Communicating with Your Partner
Helping Loved Ones Communicate More Openly with You
More Effectively Communicating on the Job (and in Your Relationship)
However today I will be looking at communication from a different perspective, through the lens of “The Five Love Languages,” a book written almost twenty years ago by Dr. Gary Chapman, which I only read this past week. It lays out a very simple premise, namely that indications of love are different for different people, and that these indications fall into five basic categories: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch. People don’t require ONLY the category that most resonates with them, but there is generally one or two that are far more important than the others.
Chapman uses the metaphor of a gas tank. He says that if one’s “love tank” is nearly empty it needs to be filled by one’s partner taking action in the right language. Otherwise, just as if I were speaking English to someone whose native language is French, the action will have limited (or even NO) impact.
To illustrate: if my primary love language is Gifts but my partner’s is Words of Affirmation, all the “I love yous” in the world won’t be as meaningful to me as an unexpected little present. Another example: someone whose primary love language is “”Quality Time” will feel loved if his/her partner gives undivided attention. Things like truly engaging in conversation at a restaurant without looking at the smartphone, walking somewhere together and chatting, or upon arriving home asking how the day went and listening attentively are more likely to be meaningful than a hug or making the bed.
Physical Touch can range from brushing up against him/her to holding hands to a back rub to sex. Acts of Service are doing things for your partner that he/she doesn’t like to do: emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming the house, weeding the garden, taking out the garbage.
Dr. Chapman wisely points out that there are “dialects” within each of the languages, and each person values most the expression of the love language in their own dialect. For example, sexual foreplay is a “dialect” that may be of exceptional importance to someone whose language is Physical Touch. Little things (flowers, a card, a cupcake) might be the main dialect for someone whose language is Gifts, or that person may place primary importance on more significant offerings (tickets to the opera, a pair of earrings, a new 5 iron).
“Speaking” your partner’s love language can pose a real challenge. But, to quote Chapman, “Love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself. We discover the primary love language of our (spouse/partner/boy or girlfriend) and we choose to speak it whether or not it is natural to us. We are not claiming to have warm, excited feelings. We are simply choosing to do this for his or her benefit. (In this sense) love is a choice. And either partner can start the process today”.
Speaking a love language that is different from one’s own often involves a lot of effort. Remembering to pick up a gift, to NOT check the phone during a conversation, to spend time in foreplay, to take out the garbage, or to compliment your partner’s appearance….these will not come naturally and may even be very difficult. But if the health of your relationship is at stake, the difficulty will be worth it.
If the ideas I’ve expressed hear resonate with you, I urge you to pick up Dr. Chapman’s book. It has numerous illustrative case histories and valuable suggestions on how to implement the ideas he sets forth.