- Gender and Relationships
How to understand your partner's love language
With hearts soaring, passion fizzes through your veins. Every word is a sweet treat; every moment spent together is a little treasure. Truth be told, you can’t get enough of your baby-boo, your sweet honey bunny or whichever other cute endearment you see fit (insert here) The truth is, once the rose tinted glasses start to slip a bit and you get into the second-sight/ second seeing of your partner (a Deepak Chopra teaching), you realize that the halo that you had first bestowed on your amore has begun to slip just a little bit. For the first time you realize that hey, your little angel-face might actually be human and possess feet of clay.
Ladies and gentleman, love and infatuation can hold us enthralled in its grip, overwhelm our senses and then leave us writhing in confusion on the sidewalk, scratching our heads once we move beyond the honeymoon phase. Now that you’ve set the butterflies from your tummy free in the garden and come crashing back down to earth with a resounding bump, there is also the little matter of understanding each other and what motivates the other one to act, think/tick that is critical in driving the relationship forward. Let the real work begin.
If you have been truly fortunate and blessed to have found that amazing relationship, one of the most critical aspects of understanding each other is to ask the question: What is your love language? Too often we get to a place of darkness and find ourselves deeper and deeper at loggerheads with the people we love instead of simply trying to mirror how the other may be feeling before we take a moment to react. Before we get in too deep, let us first define what a love language is before exploring just how it is that couples can navigate this tricky area effectively.
What is a love language?
So we keep hearing this buzzword out there on talk shows and other types of media. But exactly what does it mean to talk about a ‘love language’?
It begins early. Essentially from the time that we are little children to the time that we become teenagers our view of the world and how we interpret it is based largely on the type of family love that we receive. We learn early in the equation from our primary caregivers and family structure how to demonstrate a range of emotions through basic communication. Of which love and care would be the most critical and important. There are many shades of emotion that are communicated in a family but some of the most identifiable ways of showing love would be nurturing, caregiving, words of praise and affirmation, giving time and energy through acts of service. No one method is right over and above the other, however how one family provides love to their child may be vastly different to how another does and therein comes the challenge, when those two children grow up and find themselves attracted to one another, in a relationship and then suddenly unable to deal with how to communicate with each other.
Many authors have written about the types of love language that exist. Author Gary Chapman in particular has written a book called The 5 Love Languages in which he outlines them to be the following: (Note: this is a summary of understanding of mine, based on the points that he has raised in his book)
Words of Affirmation
How this looks. Essentially this boils down to praise and encouragement. Perhaps your significant other likes to hear often that they look amazing – give this to them.
Acts of Service
You go out of your way to find your girlfriend the right kind of popcorn spice at the delicatessen. Or you’ve made sure that you stayed up all night to be there to receive your boyfriend from his all-night working arrangement. If you’ve had these or similar, you may very well be showing your love through acts of service.
Some people are pretty receptive and have no issues with being able to take or rather accept gifts. This may sound bad on the outset, but is it really? By allowing yourself to receive you open yourself up to one of the key tenets of love and reciprocity.
This is when people actually crave time to connect with each other face to face and celebrate doing things with each other and for each other.
Probably seen at the very base level as the most common level of connecting to another human being: is physical touch. We’ve all seen these couples who simply have no concept of where they are and the people around them, who seem so intently absorbed in each other in touches, smiles, cuddles and eye language of sorts.
Now most people would fall into a particular category of love language, however there are areas of overlap when it comes to the love language expressed in different people. But more importantly at the heart of the matter is how two people relate.
Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments where we have got along with our romantic partner like a house on fire and the passion has been electric and unimaginable. But even still, there might be moments where you look at them from across the room and wonder, how on earth is it that we relate or that we are even still together. Let me state upfront this is not the nagging doubts of needing to leave a relationship, far from it. It just might feel in moments like you simply have no earthly compunction of how you two got together based on your reactions in situations that are based on your love language and beliefs.
While you look at each other from across the room in bewilderment, consider that you might just be able to learn how to understand each other, receive what the other is saying and even meet the next person’s requirements by way of their love language. Here are some ways to get you started:
Be flexible and considerate
There is nothing more powerful and compassionate than being able to be flexible and considerate towards your loved one. In all other places in life we are told to cut the next person to the chase, to withhold, be selfish and attack or be attacked. Yes you may be required to be ‘cut-throat’ in the business world, and other dealings but ask yourself why am I doing this in my relationship? Ladies and gentleman, a relationship is not a place of destruction and annihilation. Testing your partners intention may be something you have to do at first, just to make sure that they are on the up and up, but when it comes down to it, the spirit of a relationship is one in which we ought to grow, learn, give to the other and try to see life from the other point of view. Br flexible enough to know that there is more way than one in which people give, feel and experience love. More importantly still be willing to meet a person in a space where you are willing to give them love in a some of the manner in which they receive it through their love language.
Make a conscious decision to meet in the middle
So your husband is the type that values affirmations of your affection. Perhaps to you love looks more like him being able to show clear boundaries to the world about your relationship. Your husband may crave words of affirmation and be enriched by social interaction with others, whereas you love nothing better than kicking up your heels to enjoy a nice reclusive bowl of pasta in your living room on a Sunday afternoon. First off, take the pressure off yourself for being so different. Now decide if the relationship is important to you and take a conscious decision to meet in the middle. Set amnesty moments in the relationship, where you ask the next person how they are feeling, what could be better and how you could meet each other in compromise. The boundary driven woman might do with letting her hair down and heading out with her husband for a change. Likewise gregarious Greg could also mellow out, knowing full well that one missed social gathering is not the end of the world if time spent with his sweetheart is on the other side of it.
Are you receiving what your partner is saying?
Are you listening to respond? Are you stepping in the way of your own happiness by being deliberately obtuse and playing to your agenda instead of listening? So often in life all we hear and interpret is another person’s tone of voice and upset and react to it, instead of understanding that the other person is coming from an emotional space and may well be going through challenges of their own. Take a moment. Breathe. In order for your usually calm other half, to share their heart and soul and angst with you, they are in fact crying out for acknowledgment
Take a walk on the wild side
If you find that your conventional methods of understanding each other are simply not working, why not try to step outside of the box for a change? Maybe you have talked to each other until you’re blue in the face, or mirrored each other’s behaviour and stood in each other’s shoes for as much as humanly possible, what next? Have the courage to jump outside of the box. Instead of sitting down to a serious conversation about love language and how you expect to feel and receive love from your partner, why not try to take them out to have an experience that they’ve never had before? If your love language is ‘acts of service’ for example- why not take them along on a soup kitchen drive to show them how much this means to you and how it feeds your soul? In that way your partner can see you come alive whilst engaged in acts of service and get first-hand experience in how this means so much to you and the fact that you like to receive love in this way.
Let’s face it, we all look at life and love in our very own way. Each of us are shaped by thoughts, feelings and experiences that are uniquely our own and no matter what a person may try to do or say we still find ourselves stuck in a loop of our own fears when it comes to relationships. If we think about it though a human relationship is a space in which we ought to realize our highest selves. It is a place where we should drop all pretences and allow our realest and truest selves to emerge without the subterfuge of ego and vying for personal goals over and above the common goal of the union. This is where understanding what makes the other tick in terms of each person’s love language makes things much better.