A fun and practical book I like to use with couples is The Five Love Languages, written by Dr. Gary Chapman. The book describes five unique ways in which people give and want to receive love in a partnership. The languages include Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. The test can be taken online, free, here:
I like how he explains that love can be shown in so many ways. We may know how we want to be loved, and so often we show love in the way we would like to receive it. Maybe you are a woman, and words of affirmation are important to you. You think your wife would love a beautiful, five page, heart-felt, deep and insightful love letter that poured out of your soul. But then you find out she might just as much love for you to take out the trash more, and pick up the kids from school on occasion. So, you can still write your note if you choose, but you can do it with the awareness that she might want something different, too. This is where we can feel unappreciated or not understood. You and your spouse may love each other deeply, and be on a totally different page with how you show it. His love language is words of affirmation, and maybe her’s is Acts of service.
Another example. Maybe your wife is working 50+ hours a week, maybe even for years, and she tries to make this up to you through frequent presents. If your love language is gifts (and you enjoy a lot of independence) this may work out quite well. If you like a lot of quality time together with your partner, it might not. But, if she makes an effort to have a greater work/life balance, or goes on vacation with you, or maybe even a date night with dinner and a movie, that might mean something more to you.
When possible, think of how to show your partner love in a way that is meaningful to him or her. Does that mean that we can’t have appreciation for something our partner does for us, even if it’s not in our language? No. Maybe you can learn to appreciate a heart-felt love letter, or a thoughtful gift. The lesson to learn through the five love language is that in a partnership, it’s helpful to be more aware of how to love each other.
Don’t assume that your partner knows your love language, and don’t be so sure that you know theirs. The test works best if both people take it and discuss afterwards. You may not be fully aware of how you like to receive love, and how your partner likes to receive love. This could be a fun way to connect with and understand your partner more. More information about the different styles of love languages is available on the website, or in the book.
To figure out how you can apply your new knowledge of love languages to your life and your relationships, contact Laura Novak, LCSW, CADC at x151.