Don’t Be Misunderstood in Love!

rbrs_0213“Te amo.” “Je t’aime.” “Ich liebe dich.” For someone who doesn’t speak these languages, these phrases are just sounds without meaning. But if you know Spanish, French, or German, you know they all express the same sentiment: “I love you.”

Just as different nations speak different languages, different people speak different love languages—some ways of showing love will be more powerful for one person than for another. When two people in a relationship speak different love languages, they don’t always understand the ways their partner demonstrates their love. This misunderstanding can cause frustration or resentment, but learning your partner’s love language can change your perspective and strengthen your relationship. In his book The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman identifies the most common ways that people experience love. Which sound the most like you and your partner?

  • Words of Affirmation—People who speak “words of affirmation” feel love most powerfully through verbal expression—through hearing their partner say, “I love you.” One of the most meaningful acts you can do for a words-speaker is write her a love letter, or leave love notes on his bathroom mirror.
  • Acts of Service—For some, love is communicated through service. For service-speakers, working hard at their job is an act of love for their family, and doing the housework shows how much they care.
  • Receiving Gifts—Some may scoff at this love language as trivial. But it’s not about the size of the gift or how much it cost—it’s about the thought you put into it. A simple flower from the backyard garden will touch the heart of a gifts-speaker, if it shows you understand how much she enjoys having fresh-cut flowers in the house.
  • Quality Time—Some people desire nothing more than to spend time with the people they love. But remember, it’s quality time that these speakers need. As they define it, that means they need their partner’s undivided attention to feel that they are loved.
  • Physical Touch—Just as it sounds, those who speak this language experience love most intensely through touch. Hugs, kisses, and love-making express love more powerfully than any other means.

Need more help identifying your love language? Dr. Chapman’s website offers a free online quiz to help you figure it out. The World Class Marriage course also teaches about love languages. Pillar #10 in the program focuses on “Giving Caring the Way It Matters” through identifying your partner’s love language.

When two partners speak different love languages, it’s easy to misinterpret one another and to even feel neglected. For example, Rachel’s love language is acts of service, while her husband Will’s love language is quality time. When the couple comes home after a long day of work, Rachel busies herself making dinner and cleaning up their apartment. To her, this demonstrates her love for Will. But Will would prefer that she sit down with him and spend time catching up at the end of the day. Both partners feel that they are showing love, but may not feel their partner is reciprocating.

Rachel and Will need to talk about what makes them feel loved. Will may ask Rachel to take a few minutes after work each day to just sit and talk with him, before she worries about dinner or the housework. In return, Rachel may ask Will to help her make dinner every night.

Reaching out to each other in these ways may feel strange at first. When someone tries to learn a new language, her first attempts to speak it probably feel awkward. But all new behaviors come with a learning curve. The change will be worth it. As Patty Howell and Ralph Jones (authors of World Class Marriage) put it, “If you express caring in ways that matter to your partner, s/he’ll get maximum value from it and you’ll get maximum impact from your efforts.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint your partner’s love language. One of the biggest hints is to watch how they interact with you. Is your husband always bringing home little gifts for you after his business trips? Does your wife offer you a back massage at the end of the day? Try doing for your partner what they do most for you, and see what results.

If you can’t guess a love language based on your partner’s behavior, one option is to try them all! Emphasize a different love language every day for a week, and see if your partner responds more favorably to one than to another. Or ask your partner what they liked best during the week.

Learning to speak your partner’s love language takes effort, but the rewards it yields are well worth it. Healthy Relationships California invites you to attend a World Class Marriage course to learn more about love languages, and other key pillars to a successful relationship.

Want to Learn More?

Find Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages in our online bookstore.

Take a free online quiz to find out your love language.

Attend a World Class Marriage course to learn about love languages and other skills to improve your relationship.

Watch a video on the 5 love languages.

Learn 10 Ways to Make Love into a Lifestyle.

Learn how to recognize 5 Big Lies about Love.

We Want to Hear from You!

What’s your love language? Do you and your partner speak different love languages? How did you figure out your partner’s love language? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Written by Shelece McAllister– Copyright (C) 2013 Healthy Relationships California

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