What Love Language Do You Speak? Understanding Your Partner’s Preferences
Have you ever resented being given an expensive present that was offered out of love, when you really would have preferred more quality time together or using the money to pay down the mortgage? Have you been taken out for a nice dinner and a movie but were left feeling empty because what you were really craving was some positive affirmation? Or have you wished that your partner would acknowledge the ways that you love them through fixing or decorating the house or putting effort into making their favorite meal?
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, thoughts turn to finding the perfect gift to express love. We've all received a disappointing gift. This disappointment often stems from feeling like our partner doesn't understand what we really need to feel loved.
Gary Chapman coined the term “love languages” to help prevent this exact situation. He states that there are five basic love languages (or preferences) and the key is to know which are your partner’s predominant love languages so that you can show your love in ways that they will hear and appreciate rather than in other ways which they may dismiss or even resent.
Words of Affirmation
Some of us need to hear out loud—both privately and publicly—that our partner finds us attractive, smart, good with the kids, creative, funny, and more. Giving your partner thoughtful compliments will make those who prefer this love language feel great. Doing so publicly also can feel special: “Doesn’t my wife/ husband/ partner look outstanding this evening?” or “I have never thought about it that way. You are so smart!”
They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, and for some folks it's true. A beautiful piece of jewelry, the latest electronic device, or tickets to a special event might be the ticket to your partner’s heart. The key is to listen to your partner’s cues and hints throughout the year. Maybe rubies, silver, or locally-made items are preferable to diamonds; perhaps new golf clubs, amateur football, or small theatre tickets are what your partner craves. Giving something they will enjoy is more important than how much you spend.
Acts of Service
People who speak this love language appreciate the time and effort you put into caring for them, whether that be changing the oil in their car, altering their clothes, giving them a massage, or preparing their favourite meal. Although they may get a more therapeutic massage from a massage therapist, they value the time and attention you put into giving them a massage yourself. Rather than suggesting your partner take a bath, run the bath yourself with their favourite essential oil, candles, their favourite music playing, and a warm towel nicely placed next to the tub. The extra little touches communicate your love.
This language is about offering physical contact on a regular basis, not only during sexual encounters. It's about holding hands when walking together, rubbing your partner’s back when they're doing the dishes, a foot massage during a movie, or a sweet kiss and a lingering hug on the way out the door. It's about connecting on a physical level on a consistent basis, affirming their attractiveness to you, your love for them, and your connection together.
Spending quality time together is how some folks feel loved. This might look like tidying up the basement together, knocking down the old shed, going on a bike ride with the family, playing cards on a Saturday night, or taking time away from the kids for a few hours to nurture your relationship. Of course, actual quality time means that the phone stays off and emails and text messages wait until later. It's about offering each other your undivided attention doing something your partner enjoys.
Perhaps by now, you have a sense of your own love language(s). I recommend my clients take an evening to discuss what their love languages are and give examples of what that might look like. You can even take the test here. It's not cheating to give your partner a list of things that you appreciate. How can we expect our partner to innately know what makes us feel loved if we don’t tell them?
Of course, Valentine’s Day is an ideal time to offer a gift of love, but an unexpected time is an even better opportunity to spoil your partner; not because Hallmark tells you to, but because your love for them inspires you. Putting in a little effort on a regular basis in the language that you use to communicate with each other is a very effective way of sustaining the love that will keep your relationship alive for years to come.