I am a couple’s therapist. Working with couples who are struggling with connection is a rare privilege. Mostly, we all want to feel love and connection. When there is a disruption in our connection then our signals, our acts of love, to one another can be missed or even misinterpreted. For example, in my office a wife or girlfriend may say, “He never… (fill in the blank here).” The translation is often that he doesn’t do the thing that would make her feel most loved.
This couple is missing an opportunity for enhanced emotional connection in their relationship. She says she wants him to “really” listen to her, see all her hard work in the home, sit and watch a movie, maybe a chick flick, notice and tell her that she looks really nice in her new dress and maybe even buy her some flowers every once in a while.
He says, “What do you mean? I just waxed the car, I take out the trash, do the dishes, mow the yard, and I picked up the kids from school on Tuesday last week?” His list can go on…. but she dismisses him by saying, “Yeah, but that is the same stuff I do too!”
That’s when I sometimes say, “Oh, he is an acts of service guy.” She says, “What do you mean?” Or maybe, “Yes, I know that is one of those love language things.” The conversation may proceed with what all those acts of service really mean to him. Within her criticism of him lies one truth.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to please her; he does. He also knows he loves all the little things she does for him and so he wants to reciprocate. These efforts may represent the things he saw his dad do, or maybe never do for his mom. They take energy and effort and, in his mind… it’s for her. He doesn’t know that she isn’t recording his efforts as love driven; she thinks they are life driven. What he may be missing is that, while this may his love language, it is not necessarily hers.
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation are the ways we say, “I appreciate you, you did a great job, thanks for your kindness, you are so important to me, I can see your value in our relationship by the way you did… (fill in the blank) and I love you for it.” For some of us this will make our hearts sing. We will feel seen and loved.
Quality Time is the way we spend time together and what that means to each of us. Perhaps we travel together and talk on our journeys, join in each other’s hobbies as a participant or observer, work on projects together, sit quietly in a room and read or watch television together. We show up in the relationship by doing what we feel makes that time “quality.” A husband might score big relationship points by watching what she wants to watch even if he doesn’t really want to know How to Lose a Guy in 10 days, why Magnolias are Steel, or what a Big Fat Greek Wedding has to do with anything.
Receiving Gifts – how could anyone lose on that one? Some of us love a gift. It says, “You were thinking about me and spent time to choose this gift just for me; I feel special and loved by you.” However, gifts that are given as a substitute for time spent on the relationship or as an “I’m sorry” for act that has caused pain may not meet love language criteria. If flowers are purchased and they disrupt the budget, they may not be viewed with the intent they are given.
Acts of Service is the love language of action. I want to show you my love by doing things for you. This gift can be underestimated by the receiver and over estimated by the giver. If he is an “acts of service guy” and you don’t get it, there will be a miscommunication. When I understand the true meaning, I may choose to adjust my view and my response to this love language.
Physical Touch is just that. Touch is linked to brain development in infants. It connects and grounds relationships. Perhaps you enjoy being touched, holding hands, giving or receiving hugs, being kissed hello or goodbye. Many clients talk about touch as the glue in their relationship. This is often especially true of men who express and receive love through physical connection.
In my practice, I have found that many people have one or two primary love languages and that, often, we show others our love language and miss the opportunity to know or demonstrate their love language. I often talk about ‘participating in the happiness’ of others, and one way to do this is by learning about their love language. Here are some ideas:
*Read the book: The Five Love Languages
*Take an online survey https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
*Identify your love language
*Identify the love language of your person
*Talk about love languages
*Make intentional efforts to love your person using their love language
Relationships are hard work. To maintain a sense of connection and closeness requires purposeful focus. Speaking the love language of our person is one way to stay connected and add value to our relationships. It’s worth a conversation, and once you know what makes the heart of your person sing, you will be even more inclined to honor them in their love language.