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, whereas 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 favourite meal?
We love getting gifts. And Valentine’s Day is the time when many couples give each other a gift to express their love. Sometimes it is hard to know what a partner really wants. And we have all received a gift that was disappointing. This disappointment often arises from our partner not understanding what truly tells us that we are loved or what we like. And our partner is left feeling unappreciated despite their best efforts.
Gary Chapman coined the term “Love Languages” to help minimize these strains. He postulates that there are five basic languages (or preferences) that are spoken and the key is to know which one(s) are your partner’s predominant ones, so that you can spend your efforts on showing them 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 handsome, attractive, smart, good with the kids, creative 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!”
A diamond is supposed to be a woman’s best friend, and in some cases it is. A beautiful piece of jewelry, the latest electronic device, or admission 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. Getting what they will enjoy is more important than the size of the price tag.
Acts of Service
People who speak this language appreciate the time and effort you put into “taking care” of 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 may 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 lit, their favourite music playing and a warm towel nicely placed next to the tub. The extra little indulgences communicate your love more passionately.
This language is about offering physical contact on a regular basis, day and night , not only during sexual encounters. It is about holding hands when walking together, rubbing your partner’s back when they are doing the dishes, a foot massage during a movie, a sweet kiss and lingering hug on the way out the door. It is 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 feel loved. This might look like tidying up the basement together, knocking down the old shed, going to the Island by bike 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 is about offering each other your undivided attention doing something productive or fun that your partner enjoys.
Perhaps by now you have a sense of your own love language(s). Do you know your partner’s? I recommend my clients take an evening to discuss what their “love languages” are and to give examples of what that might look like. (In advance you can take the test at www.5lovelanguages.com.) It is 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 to. Putting a little effort on a regular basis in the language that you use to communicate to each other is a very effective way of sustaining the love that will keep your relationship alive for years to come.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality s hop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you hae questions or comments she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com