That’s Men: Finding your partner’s preferred language of love
It’s an all-too-common scene in the world of relationships. One partner complains that the other doesn’t love them any more, or doesn’t show their love. The other partner asserts that working to support the family is love, to which the complaining partner counters, “You love your work more than you love me.”
And so it goes, around and around, in circles. What’s unfortunate is that each may indeed love the other but both speak different languages when it comes to love. This is worth knowing if you’re running into flak in an important relationship.
Luckily the “love language” approach is very easy to grasp, and it’s a shame that more couples don’t know about it.
“The five love languages” is a phrase coined by a US marriage expert, Dr Gary Chapman, who has worked with couples for decades. The “love language” concept is about the way we want to experience love. The five love languages are:
Words of affirmation
If this is your language, you want to be told, often, that you are loved, appreciated and regarded with affection. If you are married to a person who wants words of affirmation, and if you last told them you loved them on the day you got engaged, then expect your spouse to be unhappy about this.
The person who sees gifts as an expression of love isn’t being greedy. It’s just that if you give them a thoughtful gift, they feel loved; and if you don’t, they don’t. They’re not necessarily looking for diamonds, but for tokens of affection.
If this is what you want most of all, then gifts or even words of affirmation won’t win your heart: you want your partner to be with you. Time is scarce these days, so if your partner really wants quality time, you may have to work hard to make this happen.
Acts of service
This is about cutting the grass, minding the kids, doing the washing up, giving lifts and all those services that may not come to much in cold economics but that mean a lot if this is what your partner needs.
Some people need hugs, kisses and hand-holding. If you’re not the huggy, kissy, hand-holding type, you may need to train yourself into this way of relating. But physical touch is good for your emotional health as well as theirs, so it’s worth the effort.
It’s important to understand that these love languages are not deliberately chosen by any of us. Our preferences could be down to anything from genetics to upbringing but we are stuck with them.
Once you understand this, then you begin to see the value of expressing love to your partner in the way that works for them. The hope is that they also will see the value of expressing love for you in the way that works for you.
Of course, each of you may have a different love language and that’s where the work comes in.
It may take just a little reflection to work out your partner’s love language. Even your fights can give valuable clues. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the love language behind, for example, “You never do anything around the house” or “Why don’t you ever tell me you love me?” Yes, I know “you never do anything around the house” can be a reflection of an unfair division of labour, but it can also be seen as a withholding of love.
If you have children, think of love language in relation to them, too.
One child might want hugs, one might want you to help them with their homework, another might want words of affection, another might want presents and another might want you to spend time with them.
It’s worth figuring this out, as it can make for a happier childhood and a happier relationship between parents and children.
See 5lovelanguages. com
Padraig O’Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and is the author of Mindfulness on the Go – Peace in Your Pocket. His mindfulness newsletter is free by email.