Are you even speaking the same language?
There’s a famous saying I’m sure everyone has heard: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” It would seem to be some good advice to take but for relationships, your goal should be to treat your partner the way THEY want to be treated. If both people in a relationship could learn to do this, I can almost guarantee your connection, security and love would deepen!
Happily ever after isn’t simply given, it is earned. However, it can be earned in simple ways, such as learning and understanding WHAT our partner needs and HOW they need it shown. This is key to a long lasting, mutually beneficial and growing relationship.
One of the most simple, yet powerful ways of earning your ‘happily ever after’ is to learn both your own and your partner’s ‘love language’. If you haven’t heard this term before it might sound a bit strange! Let me break it down for you. Someone could spend every second of every day with their partner but if their partner does not make them a cup of coffee, pick them up from the bus stop or offer to go out to get the groceries, they can genuinely feel that their partner does not love them. We all hear “I love you” in different ways.
The different love languages were created by Gary Chapman. He explores them in his book “The Five Love Languages”. The different love languages Gary outlines are:
Words of Affirmation
These are verbal expressions of care and affection. It involves using words to build up the other person. Unsolicited compliments mean the world to someone with this love language. Conversely, insults can be particularly upsetting to people who favour words of affirmation.
This is giving your spouse your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off – talking and listening. If this is your love language, having a distracted or distant partner that makes you feel unseen or unheard is the biggest pitfall.
Tangible and intangible items that make you feel appreciated or noticed. Going to your partner's concert, for example, is as much of a gift as flowers or that new wine decanter you want. To individuals who favour this love language, the absence of everyday gestures or a missed special occasion are particularly hurtful. A gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”
Holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse are all expressions of love. The absence of these things can leave these individuals feeling isolated in a relationship.
Acts of Service
Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service. For someone who favours acts of service, ambivalence or a lack of support are more damaging than anything else.
This isn’t just important for new relationships to be aware of either. After many years together you might find yourself not fully understanding or communicating well with your partner. This might make you think there is something wrong with the two of you or even make you question if you should be together. You are both speaking the same literal language, but when this disconnect happens between partners, you aren’t speaking the same love language. So the actual problem your relationship could be experiencing is just a difference in ways of communicating and expressing love!
Eventually, the way you show or express love to your partner is not acknowledged or even received as that. To avoid this you should have a calm, in depth discussion on how your partner likes to be shown love. Try asking open ended questions on what words or actions indicate love for your partner or how they like to show it. When you start to explore this I’m sure you will have moments were you think “wow, why didn’t I know this before”.
Being loved in a way that you appreciate and understand is very important for a relationship. So it is in interests of both partners to learn each other’s love language. I’m sure doing this will leave the two of you feeling more connected, loved and secure in your relationship. The thing is though, this doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact reading something like this can feel quite overwhelming to some people. So for those of you that feel that way from reading this, set reminders for yourself! Think of one small think that you can do daily and make it a a habit and also put an alarm in your phone that goes off every month that reads “do something in my partners love language” to remind you to do something that takes a bit more thinking and planning. It might take a few talks or months of reminders until eventually you feel like you aren’t speaking different languages anymore. And the connection, security and intimacy that will come from this will be well worth the effort.
Another reason why it is important to understand how your partner shows love is to avoid your partner feeling they are doing everything and anything to make you feel loved and you still doubt their love. This can cause a lot of tension in a relationship so understanding how your partner shows love can help you on a number of levels. Let’s say someones love language is words of affirmation, however their partner's is acts of service. If we are feeling low we may start feeling unloved thinking they haven’t written me a love note or explicitly said to me how much and why they love me. Acknowledging in that moment that my partner’s love language is acts of service and thinking about all the ways in which he/she expressed love through an act of service in the last few days can be a healthy way to appreciate your partner and still feel they are expressing love to you. This dual level of understanding each others’ love language is incredibly important to not only meet your partner’s needs but also in order to appreciate and value your partner’s efforts a lot more even during times of miscommunication.
From knowledge love is born, but not only that, knowledge creates fortitude to weather marital storms! It would be great if we all came with a little handbook we gave our new partners when we first met with a guide on how we like to be loved and cared for- but we don’t! (The team at Better Together Relationships has actually developed a handbook and is part of our three session education pack). But you can make time with your partner to sit down and learn these things about each other in order to build a strong connection with one another right from the start. Positive relationships and their interactions require intentionality and understanding. This might get you thinking, “but I already have a positive relationship in my life, so why can’t we just go along with what we already know? If things are good enough why improve?” Relationships wax and wane and it is important to know how to ride and conquer each phase and stage of the relationship and the best way to do this is for two people to be armed and ready with the tools needed to “win the battle of love” so to speak, on a daily basis!
I’m sure everyone can relate to how wonderful and loved you feel when you have someone pay attention to what truly matters to you.There are countless areas and ways in which we should better understand our partner and this quest for understanding should never stop! Throughout our lives what we need and how we need it might shift and change.Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work. Its an active choice each day to love your partner and to make them feel loved!
If you want to find out what your love language is and get your hands on our "Personal Road Map" to your partner, get in touch with the Better Together Relationship Team.