I had a big aha moment when I first read the book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. With my husband, I would frequently tell him how wonderful I thought he was and give him plenty of praise.
He loved it, and we laughed that one day he would not be able to get his head out of the door because his ego would be so big.
On the other hand, I also noticed that a part of me felt a little sad because I did not seem to receive the same type of adoration from him.
The 5 Love Languages
The book is based on the idea that we tend to love our partner in the way we want to receive it. In a study conducted on Chapman’s Love Language model, it was found that trend couples having an agreement of love languages were less likely to report distress.
However, problems can arise because the way we want to receive love is not always our partner’s primary love language, hence why we sometimes feel hurt or rejected.
‘The 5 Love Languages’ confirmed to me that I had been using my primary love language with my husband, and this was ‘Words of Affirmation.’
What are the 5 different love languages:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Usually, we tend to have two different ways to express the love that we prefer to use and which come naturally to us.
If you are not sure which of the above love languages is your dominant one, you can get more of a sense of this by reflecting on the following two questions:
What is the main way you tend to give love to your partner?
In what way would you like to receive more love from your partner (that maybe you do not get as much as you would like)?
It soon became an in-joke between myself and my husband. Each time I would pay my husband a compliment, it became a cue for him to say something nice back.
A little contrived perhaps, but at least it was a good opportunity for him to get used to speaking in my language.
Sometimes he would still forget as it did not come naturally to him, so I would give him a nudge & wink as if to say, ‘it’s your turn now!’
Joke aside, this helped to lessen my ‘need’ for him to say nice things to me and thus encouraged me to stop looking to him to ‘save’ me or give me love exactly when and how I wanted it.
When we do this in our relationships, it can be a recipe for constant disappointment and struggle.
How love languages may work against your relationship
Even if you have studied the languages and your partner is fully aware of how you like to receive love, what happens when they fail to give you love in the way you ‘need’ it?
If we are not careful, we can then move into blame and criticism because our partner has failed to live up to the expectation that they should be able to fulfill our needs just because they have the knowledge.
Making our partner responsible for our emotional well-being is a dangerous game to play. In doing so, we are less likely to take full responsibility for our feelings or to love ourselves.
We can then get stuck in a perpetual cycle of looking for love outside of ourselves, which can be a very lonely and painful existence.
The healthy way to use the Love Languages
This is not to say that languages are not a useful tool. It is just important to use them with awareness. If we can do this, they can be used to aid a deeper connection and to help us express ourselves with more honesty and openness.
True freedom in our relationship is where two individuals can feel loved and accepted for who they are through open, healthy communication.
So, how can we use the languages to work for our relationship rather than against it?
Express yourself with honesty and take full responsibility for what you want
Reminding your partner of your love language is not a bad thing. It is easy for life to take over, and if it is not your partner’s default way of responding to you, they can easily forget or get lost in their world.
I recommend stating clearly and simply what it is that you would like. For example, if your love language is physical touch and you are feeling the desire for your partner to be more physical with you, you can say, “I would love it if you could rub my feet or give me a hug.”
Without having to justify yourself or point out their failings; you can then follow up with something like “I love it when you do that it makes me feel more connected and loved, what do you think?”
Always allow them to have a say because they must have a chance to consider whether they can be truly available for you in a given moment.
In this way, you can arrange a time and place, rather than them feeling that they suddenly have to drop everything at a time when they may already be feeling pressured.
Give your own Love Language to Yourself!
During those times, when we notice ourselves feeling hurt or rejected because our partner is not available, either emotionally or mentally, it is important to learn to give ourselves the love we are yearning for.
This is an opportunity to speak your own Love Language and offer it to yourself: speak to yourself using affirming words (words of affirmation) or take some time out to relax and enjoy something that makes you feel pampered (acts of service or quality time).
In this way, we teach ourselves to self-soothe and love ourselves unconditionally, without relying on external sources to feel loved.
Take back your projections
If you find yourself criticizing your partner internally or outwardly for not giving you love according to your love language, know that when you do this, you are projecting your own unmet needs onto your partner.
While there may be truth in the projection i.e., your partner may not be considering you as much as possible; it is very important to ask yourself the question: ‘where am I not being considerate either to my partner or to myself?’
This exercise of taking our projection back can help us increase our awareness of the extent to which we are not meeting our own needs. It also enables us to process and heal our emotional pain, which often stems from past hurts and has little to do with our partner’s behavior.
The Love Languages can undoubtedly be a great tool to deepen the love and connection in our romantic relationships.
However, it is always a good idea to remember that if we use them to compare and thus score points against our partner, we tend to always see their weaknesses rather than giving them space to show up in their own, uniquely loving way.
In my experience, the more we can let go of our partner being perfect, the more freedom we create within our relationship, and thus the more room for growth, acceptance, and real love for each individual.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
I am a qualified Imago Relationships Facilitator, Contemporary Psychotherapist & fully certfied Coach (ACC, CPCC). I choose to call myelf a Relationship Mentor as I draw on all my trainings & use an intuitive, challenging approach to help my clients (men, women & couples) achieve transformational results in a short time frame. I encourage all my clients to take full responsibility in their relationships and teach them how to do this in the form of clear, calm & simple communication. I also bring archetypes into my sessions in order to help clients step into more empowered versions of themselves.