Have you ever thought that your partner hasn’t been doing much to show their affection for you? Have you ever felt like you’ve been doing a lot for your partner, but he or she says they need to feel more love from you?
Perhaps you the problem is that you have a different love language ® than your partner.
Love languages were discovered and researched by Dr. Gary Chapman. He explored this concept by talking to couples and noticing that there are different ways that people can feel love and instinctively show love.
Dr. Chapman noticed that individuals often have strong preferences for the way they want to be shown love and that they also have a strong tendency to show love in a certain way. He described this as the person’s “love language ®.”
The concept of love languages is now a key tool used to help couples feel closer to each other and increase the quality of their interactions. Dr. Chapman defines love languages as the ways that people express and experience love. His discovery showed that there are five different love languages or five different ways that people prefer to express and experience their love. The five love languages are:
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Words of Affirmation
Let’s explore each love language ® a little further.
If this is your love language ®, you feel most loved when you get to spend uninterrupted time with your partner in a setting that makes you feel closer together.
You feel loved just spending time with your partner, regardless of the setting. You could be out at a concert or curled up on the couch together. As long as you are both there and present with each other, you feel the love from your partner. You really appreciate it when your partner prioritizes time with you and limits distractions.
Acts of Service
If this is your love language ®, you feel most loved when your partner does things to make your life easier.
If your partner helps you with a task or notices something that needs to be fixed without being asked, you feel giddy! You know how nice it is to have a partner who is looking for ways to make your life easier and does it for you. Whether they fix you coffee in the morning or they go pick up the kids from school so you don’t have to, you feel most loved when your partner is able to recognize things you need and takes the time to help.
If this is your love language ®, you know that your partner loves you when the two of you share physical contact.
You really appreciate it when your partner holds your hand or rubs your shoulders. When your partner greets you with a big hug or wants to cuddle with you at night, you feel close. You love having physical closeness with your partner and really feel loved when you and your partner are touching.
If your love language ® is receiving gifts, then it isn’t the gift itself that makes you feel loved. When your partner brings you a gift, it means that he or she thought of you when they saw this item and that’s what makes you feel loved.
Whether they bought you something or made something for you, you feel the most loved when you can tell that your partner thought of you, wanted to make you happy and brought you something to show for it. You know your partner loves you when he or she brings something for you just because they wanted to make you smile.
Words of Affirmation
If this is your love language, you feel really loved when your partner shares nice words with you.
You can’t get enough compliments, love notes, or kind words. Just a text message from your partner that lets you know they’re thinking of you puts a big smile on your face. When your partner remembers to let you know how much they love or appreciate you, you know they love you.
So, what’s your love language ®?
After reading these descriptions, determine what your love language is. Then, ask your partner to determine what his or her love language is. Share them with each other!
If you and your partner don’t speak the same love language ®, don’t worry! It’s actually very common for both partners to have different preferences.
Frustrations may arise when individuals in a couple speak different love languages and aren’t aware of it. Suppose you show love by buying gifts, but your partner’s love language is quality time… He or she may feel unloved if you keep buying gifts, but you aren’t spending any time with them! Imagine how frustrating that could be for both people.
Watch Out for that Negative Cycle when Discussing Love Languages!
Another reason that couples become frustrated, even after discussing love languages with their partner, is because they don’t talk about their need for love in a way that is motivating for the other.
Sometimes, couples get trapped in a negative cycle that could be summed up by a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality.
In other words, they withhold loving words or actions from their partner until their partner shows them loving words or actions first. Even if you know each other’s love language ®, this knowledge won’t be useful unless each partner is actively using it and filling the other person’s love tank.
It is true – when someone feels loved, he or she has an easier time being loving in return.
Giving to your partner can be a challenge when you are feeling depleted.
If you think this may be the case for you or your partner, it is important to state your needs in as soft and loving a way possible. Stating one’s needs in a demanding, harsh, or critical way has a very negative effect, and is guaranteed to perpetuate your disconnection.
This is easily done with a statement such as , “When you ________, I feel _________.” For example, someone with the love language of touch might say, “When you pull away from me, I feel unloved.” To take it up a notch, try adding a specific and realistic request about something your partner could do to help. You can say something like, “I really want a hug from you right now.”
This kind of conversation gives partners the opportunity to speak about their feelings and needs in a direct and more loving way.
Another reason that frustrations may arise – despite knowledge of the love languages – is when couples struggle to get out of their usual habits and interactions.
Perhaps your love language ® is “words of affirmation” and your partner’s love language is “acts of service.” You are really used to showing your love through kind words, and your partner is really used to showing his or her love by doing tasks around the house.
However, the two of you had a conversation about love languages and you now know each other’s preferred way of feeling loved.
If you have identified and shared your love languages, and are attempting some reaches to each other, and you still get stuck – don’t worry! It’s pretty common for couples to need help to even see they have a negative cycle going on. If this sounds like you, working with our Denver Couples therapists could help a lot.
Great! But now how do we make changes that last?
You told your partner that you’d love to receive texts during your work day with kind messages. However, the two of you have been in a negative cycle for so long that your partner struggles to remember this. A week goes by, and you received one nice text from your partner while you were at work. You feel like your partner isn’t trying or doesn’t care. Meanwhile, your partner thinks they have done a great job because even sending one text was an improvement from before!
Likewise, you are used to telling your partner things like “good job” or “thank you for doing that for me” when he or she completes tasks around the house. However, what your partner really wants is for you to join in and help out so the two of you can do acts of service together.
You really struggle with this, though, because you are gone at work all day. You would love to just relax and have good conversation with your partner. More chores at home sounds exhausting! You tried to join in a chore with your partner since you learned that it means a lot to them. However, you got frustrated and the two of you got in another argument.
What do you do then?
You should still talk about it! Make time to talk to your partner about why you’re struggling. Recognize any efforts that your partner has made. Make sure to also give realistic ideas or suggestions about things they could do to help.
It’s okay if your partner needs to set reminders on his or her phone to send you some nice words during the day until it becomes a habit. It’s okay if you can only do tasks for your partner a couple of times a week until it becomes easier. Making new patterns and routines can be difficult! Just remember to be forgiving with each other. You’re learning and changing. It takes a lot of energy to do that.
What NOT to do for your partner’s love language ®
Also, be mindful of things that might be particularly harmful to your partner. Below are some examples of things that may be particularly hurtful to your partner, depending on his or her love language ®:
- Words of Affirmation – name-calling; hurtful words
- Quality Time – looking at your phone while spending time together; not making time for your partner
- Physical Touch – pulling away from touch; sitting far away from each other
- Acts of Service – leaving something unfinished; not noticing something your partner did for you
- Receiving Gifts – forgetting to acknowledge important dates with gifts; coming back from a long trip without bringing anything back
It is important to have a conversation with your partner about what his or her own personal definition of their love language ® is. What do they really like, and what do they really hate? This information is helpful to increase your knowledge bank about the other!
Keeping your partner’s love language ® in your mind as you progress through the relationship can be really beneficial to your relationship and connection with one another. Plan a time each day to do something for your partner in their love language ®! Make it fun, and enjoy feeling loved. If you’re struggling to change patterns and habits, remember to have an honest and direct conversation with your partner. Share your needs and feelings in a helpful way. State what you need to feel more loved.
After all, who couldn’t use a little more love in their life?
If you think that you and your partner would benefit from speaking to a therapist about other ways to improve your communication and grow closer, don’t hesitate to make a Greenwood Village couples counseling appointment by calling us at 303-513-8975, X1 or by scheduling online: Schedule Appointment