Speak your partner’s language to build a closer connection
One powerful idea that I share with almost all of my couple clients is “love languages”. Dr. Gary Chapman identified that the way we communicate love and affection can be put into one of five categories that he calls “love languages”. Most of us like to receive love in all of the ways he describes, but there is often one language that has a special impact. When you are loved in your own language, you feel cared for, treasured and valued.
A challenge for many couples is that they have different love languages. You may be sending many signals of your love to your partner, but if it is not in their language they could be missing the signal. You could be missing theirs too. People can feel unloved and unappreciated because they are overlooking the love that is right in front of them. Learning how to communicate love in your partner’s love language can be a powerful way to strengthen your connection.
Below are the descriptions of each love language. None of these are better than the other–all are equally valid ways of communicating love and affection. Consider which one speaks most to you.
Words of Affirmation
Kind words of love, affection and praise, for example; “I love you” “I’m so glad we’re together” “I’m proud of you” “you look great”. Any words that build up your partner and share your positive feelings about them and your relationship.
Giving your partner your undivided attention. What you do with your time is less important than spending it together—as long as your partner feels they are the focus of your attention.
All kinds of physical touch can communicate love: holding hands, kissing, sitting together on the couch, snuggling under a blanket, back rubs, sex. All of these can feed your partner’s need for connection.
For folks with this love language it really is the thought that counts. The fact that someone took time and effort to get something tangible can be very meaningful. Even small gestures, such as a fresh coffee or a grocery-store bouquet of flowers can have a big impact. It’s not the monetary cost of the gift that is meaningful, it’s the fact that your partner was on your mind.
Acts of Service
For some people, actions really do speak louder than words. Putting effort into doing something demonstrates love in a tangible way. Examples could be brushing the car off in the morning, preparing coffee, or picking up milk on the way home. Any action that would help your partner or make their life easier can demonstrate care and affection.
After reading the descriptions, do you know your primary love language? Can you guess your partners? If you are not sure, you can take an online quiz or purchase Dr. Chapman’s book for more information. [Note: I do not receive any compensation for the sale of this book. I recommend this only because I believe it might be helpful for my readers.]
When my husband and I learned about this concept, it made a profound impact on our connection. His love language is words, while mine is acts of service. He would say all sorts of wonderful things, and I would respond (not so helpfully) with “actions speak louder than words”. (I wince when I remember how insensitive I was.)
Since words were not my main love language, I would be quite stingy with praise and words of affection. However, I was generous with acts of service. Unfortunately, my kind actions did not have the impact on him that I hoped. He frequently discounted my actions as something anyone would do, or things that were “just my job”. He did not appreciate that these actions were my gifts to him. It was like one of us was speaking Greek and the other Chinese—both were trying to communicate but we did not understand each other.
We were both isolated and feeling somewhat disconnected. Learning about love languages helped us to both give and receive love in ways that were meaningful to each one of us.
I encourage you to experiment with these ideas. Think about how you could become “bilingual” using both your own and your partner’s language. Love languages can be a powerful tool to strengthen your connection.