We often speak to our partner in the love language we want to receive instead of understanding how they receive love. It’s important for the foundation of the relationship to understand the different ways we can give love.
5 Love Languages (Developed by Gary Chapman)
Words of Affirmation
It’s about the “why”. Speaking to your partner’s strengths, their experience, their needs, is even more affirming than just a simple “thank you” or a compliment.
Actions to avoid: Insults and criticism. To someone who feels love in words of affirmation, insults and criticism can hurt on an even deeper level.
Acts of Service
Take something off your partner’s master to-do list. Focus on ways you can help them make the most of their time.
Actions to avoid: Making more work for your partner. If you offer to help with something, but then create more of a mess or a more stressful situation for your partner to deal with later, this can be more hurtful.
It’s more about the meaning behind the gift. This isn’t a superficial or materialistic love language. It’s about the thought behind the gift that can make your partner feel loved.
Actions to avoid: Thoughtless gifts, and the missing of birthdays, anniversaries, and other special dates.
Undivided attention: it’s about putting distractions away and doing a shared activity. Focus on active listening and connection. It doesn’t even have to be a date night out. Find time at home to show up for each other and spend time together.
Actions to avoid: Being on your phone or other distractions when it is set aside quality time. If you need to be engaged in other things, communicate this and be sure to still have focused quality time.
Physical touch can be reassuring, secure. You can find small ways to connect with small, meaningful touches. It can also be an emotional lifeline in your relationship. It is not just about sex. It can start with holding hands, welcoming each other at the door, hugs.
Actions to avoid: Getting into a tit-for-tat mentality and withholding affection or love until your needs are met. Instead, just focus on the small, meaningful moments to begin rebuilding connection.
Applying love languages and building connection in your relationship
- We don’t all fit squarely into one love language. We change over time. Sometimes our love language is strongest where our need is most.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Each of you can explore what makes you feel loved, and share that with each other.
- Find bids for connection, a way to give attention to each other. Find opportunities to turn in to each other.
- Trust is important in building foundational work. Trust can be broken in big ways, like infidelity. It can also be broken in smaller ways, like asking for your needs and your partner not showing up in that way. When this happens, trust erodes and resentment builds.
- Tune into what your partner needs. Pick up on cues and choose to engage and connect when they need you.
Gottman’s 4 Horsemen- Predictors of Divorce
Feels like a pointed finger, attacking.
Antidote: Use a gentle start-up. “I feel…”
Takes criticism to a deeper level, attacks values and character of your partner.
Antidote: Build a culture of appreciation with speaking to each other’s love languages.
Choosing not to take accountability or ownership for your role, “It’s not my fault.”
Antidote: Take responsibility for your part in a situation. “I’m sorry for my part in how you feel.”
Space for the sake of space, going away without a plan to come back and work through an issue together.
Antidote: Take space to self-soothe and calm down, and set a time to come back and talk.
If you’re noticing these in your relationship, it doesn’t mean you’ll get divorced. You can use it to build awareness and work through issues together.
Remember, it takes time to implement these changes, rebuild trust, and build connection. Give yourself and your relationship some kindness.
Gary Chapman developed the idea of the 5 love languages. You can learn more at the 5 Love Languages website.
John Gottman has researched relationships and developed insights into what makes relationships successful and lasting. You can learn more at https://www.gottman.com/
You can also find more information about the books Bridget mentioned in my Book Recommendations.
Connect with Bridget
Bridget is a Licensed and Independent Clinical Social Worker in Massachusetts with over 12 years in the field. With specialties in relationship issues, life transitions, and anxiety, Bridget has worked with a wide range of clients. Her skills include tailored treatment approaches to work with those who may be experiencing depression, self-esteem concerns, life threatening illness, stress, parenting concerns, trauma and abuse, loss, and infertility and pregnancy. She has coached many individuals and couples through their processes of growth and has helped them to create a better life space for themselves. Her experience has allowed her to work across the United States as well as internationally and with a wide range of ages, backgrounds, diagnoses, socioeconomic classes and the barriers that come with each. Her counseling style is kind, interactive, and down to earth. At her core, she believes in treating everyone with empathy, kindness, and compassion. Change your worry into hope and fears into strength while cultivating healthy connection and communication. Bridget provides therapy and coaching for individuals and couples who find themselves in a challenging time and are looking for a Bridge to healthyself.
Psychology today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/profile/434412