Learning how to communicate in romantic relationships is a full time job, and something you’re going to want to consistently work at within your relationship.
It can be hard to understand what your needs are in a relationship, and it can be difficult to identify your partner’s needs. It can also be hard to be honest and have a difficult conversation. Understanding your love language is a huge part of that. However, knowing and understanding your partner’s love language is equally important, in order to get the best out of them, and ensure they feel heard and understood.
Words by YK Daily's resident life coach Amira Mansour @the_communicationexpert
The 5 Love Languages were developed by Gary Chapman, a marriage counsellor who developed this concept after 30 years of working with couples, and although it isn’t based on science, I believe this is a tool you can keep reverting back to, in order to enhance the way you speak to each other, because ultimately the goal is to be able to speak the other person’s language, not yours.
It doesn’t matter if you have different love languages, this isn’t necessarily a sign that you aren’t compatible, or that you can’t communicate, but speaking their love language is probably going to take some adapting, mainly because your default way of communicating will be in a way that feels good for you, rather than what’s good for them.
Speaking a different love language to each other means there are going to be times where you both may not even realise that the other person is actually giving you their version of love. This is because you’re giving love in a way that you want to receive it, rather than in a way that they want to receive it. As you continue through this article, you may resonate with more than one love language, and that’s totally ok and normal. However, try to spot your predominate love language, and see if you can identify your partner’s.
1.Words of Affirmation
If this is your love language then words matter, which probably isn’t a surprise, given the name. It’s about feeling appreciated and being acknowledged. So if your partner says something such as ‘Thank you for making dinner’, this is going to give you verbal encouragement that makes you feel valued. Regular communication is also another aspect that you may want from your partner, which again reinforces the idea of feeling loved and appreciated.
If this sounds like the love language of your partner, think about the words and language you can use that will uplift them. For example, ‘I’m here when you need me’, or ‘thank you for making time for my family’. This is going to mean a significant amount to them. It’s not only about expressing your love through words, but it’s about remembering to do this often. If this isn’t your go to way of communicating it’s likely to feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but the more you do this, the better it’ll get. You may also find that writing it down, such as leaving a note will be a better way for you to start to express you love in this way.
Something you’ll also want to bear in mind are the negative words you use. This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to say anything negative, or that you need to sugar coat the message you want to get across, but be mindful of the words you choose, as the negative ones are going to carry way more weight for them.
This love language does not just equate to sex, there is so much more to it. Now for some people sex will be a big part of this love language, however if this is your partner’s predominate love language, you’re not going to want to assume this is how they want to receive love all of the time!
The focus of physical touch is about affection and receiving this in different ways, which could include kissing, holding hands or cuddling. If this is your partner’s love language you can get this one very wrong, so don’t be afraid to ask them what works for them. It could be something as simple as lying on the sofa, having their legs draped over you. This physical contact can be exactly what they need.
You’re love language tends to form from the way your caregivers gave you love. So think back to how you grew up. Did you receive hugs and kisses, maybe it was about doing things together, or perhaps eating together was at the centre of your home?
If you’ve seen your partner getting stressed, or feeling nervous about something and this is their love language, words may not calm them down, however a hug or holding them could help to regulate their central nervous system and give them the physical affection they crave. Small gestures such as holding hands is also a great way to show them love in a way they’d appreciate.
3.Acts of Service
If this is your love language you feel loved and appreciated when your partner makes your life easier. Imagine you’ve had a busy day at work and your partner picked up food for dinner on the way home, or even managed to do a few things that you had on your to-do list. If this resonates and makes you feel good, then it’s because they’ve seen what you need and met your need.
Acts of service isn’t about grand gestures, whilst they may also work. The focus is about thoughtful gestures, where your actions speak louder than words. It’s in the subtle moments where you are able to support them and take something off their plate. However, this doesn’t mean make your life harder, it means thinking about how can you incorporate these small gestures into your day.
This love language is probably the most straightforward out of all 5 in terms of the one that people understand the most. Gifts is all about visual symbols of love – not necessarily big extravagant, expensive items. So don’t let the idea of ‘Oh let me buy them something to make them happy’ take over. There’s the physical element of giving them something but what’s the thought behind it. It’s important that the gift reflects their values, and aligns with who they are.
This can vary for different individuals, and it’s not about what you’re doing, but more about how you’re listening when communicating and conversing. Listening can be the first thing that gets dropped, yet it’s the secret to communicating effectively. Being present in the conversation means cutting out the distractions, and in today’s world filled with technology you may find it difficult. Think back to a time where you haven’t given your partner your full attention. How did they react? Now ask yourself how you can be more present in their company, maybe giving them more eye contact and subtle body language?
It's also worth thinking about ways that you can spend more time together, this could look like doing a shared activity such as cooking dinner, or going on date night, but the key is time, not necessarily what you do.
If the dedicated time isn’t being carved out, you or your partner may start to feel lonely or even disconnected from the other person. This isn’t a red flag to get rid of them, or think that your relationship is doomed. Instead, ask yourself 2 questions to make this a focus; How can you avoid distractions when you and your partner are together, and how can you listen better?
Love language is an insightful way to start looking at the way you and your partner communicate. It’s going to take practice and more than one conversation to understand what you partner’s love language means to them, particularly if you don’t have the same love language, but remember, it’s not about having the same love language it’s knowing how you can adapt so they feel heard, seen and loved.
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