Have you ever gone to great lengths to display your affection and it falls flat? Ever tried to pay someone a compliment or do something kind and they either barely noticed or seemed unappreciative? Has someone even rejected your gesture? What was that about? Have you done something wrong? Don’t take this too harshly but, yes, you probably did. But not in the way you are thinking. Everyone expresses and understands love differently. How we express it to others and how we accept it, differs from person to person. This is called your love language and is certainly one of the many essential concepts in a marriage therapist’s tool kit. It’s simple and effective. I can’t tell you how many clients have told me they wished they knew about this for their ‘first marriage’.
Whilst you’d think displays of affection would be universal, or at least generally consistent within a culture, you’d be wrong. Every single person communicates love differently. Every. Single. One. Sure, there will be overlap. ‘I love you’ is rather straight forward and understood by most people, however, we all have our little quirks and desires. These aren’t just based on the culture and society in which we were raised, but influenced by our upbringing and experiences as well. I’m here to shine the light bulb on yours, to check you don’t spend the rest of your next or current relationship either flying at a different altitude or in a completely different direction to your partner!
Your love language isn’t just verbal. In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman suggests there are five types of love languages and we use different combinations. The five types are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Receiving Gifts
3. Acts of Service
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
You might be someone who expresses love through words of affirmation and physical touch. Your partner may communicate love through quality time and acts of service. You must learn to speak each other’s language so you both feel truly loved by one another. In this example, you need to learn how to express love through quality time and they need to learn how to use words of affirmation. As a start, a few examples of Words of Affirmation are, “Thank you for doing the dishes/cleaning/taking out the rubbish etc.”, “Your caring heart makes me so happy.”, “You are so beautiful/my big hot spunk.” And “You’re doing so great! Don’t give up.”
If you’re in a relationship and this is your love language, it’s important to tell your partner exactly what style of ‘words’ you feel most loved hearing? Acknowledging your work and achievements could fill up your ‘love cup’ in a heartbeat, whilst hearing about their incredibly alluring looks is important for the next person.
The next step is to think further about how you want to hear it. Is it through handwritten notes, lipstick on the mirror, SnapChat or text message? We are individually created and have preferences, so you may as well help your spouse with what you need to support your connection.
ACTS OF SERVICE
The desire of people whose love language is Acts of Service is, to quote the iconic Elvis Presley, ‘A little less conversation and a little more action’. It’s not that they don’t care for a few kind words or expect a personal attendant either. They place great value in doing something that needs to be done without being asked. To them, performing these actions is a greater display of care and affection than saying it.
This can create some obvious tension when you’ve got one partner who speaks in Words of Affirmation and another who speaks in Acts of Service. The trick is for both partners to learn how to talk to each other. The one who uses words must learn to use actions, and the one who uses actions must learn to use words. It can be quite uncomfortable at first, however with a little repetition and consistency — you’ll both be crooning “Burning Love” instead of “There Goes My Everything”.
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