A couple of years ago, I touched on the Love and Apology Languages, but finding myself in a new relationship, The 5 Love Languages** have been once again brought to the forefront of my mind. The philosophy behind Attachment Theory is also quite interesting to me, which is a topic I’ll be covering in another post shortly hereafter.
A relationship is an entity in itself that exists between two (or more) people, but I’m going to be talking specifically in terms of romantic/intimate relationships between two (monogamous) people. Neither individual is solely responsible for the relationship, as it’s built and strengthened through time, trust, communication, and compromise, but both individuals are responsible to the relationship.
As the book Attached describes it, once we become attached to someone, the two people form one physiological unit, as studies have apparently shown (26). Continuing, “when two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being” (27).
In order to relate effectively with our beloved, we must communicate in ways the other understands. Language is a pretty inefficient way of communicating, really. Words can be misunderstood. Unintentional vocal tones can hurt, or a momentary confused expression can be interpreted as annoyance. When we communicate, we must not only listen to words, but also listen to actions and behaviors. It’s when these two match, words + actions, consistently over time that we can build trust. We know our partner is acting with integrity.
Words are still problematic, since we bring an entire lifetime of experiences to a relationship. From childhood socialization to schoolyard survival to previous relationships, those experiences can (almost always do) color the way we hear words, as well as the way we interpret actions and facial expressions.
Imagine two lovers, one who speaks only French and one who speaks only English, try to communicate through words. So very much will be lost in translation, even with a handy translation app. Cultural differences can also influence the way we perceive actions and expressions.
It’s so similar with love languages. If two people deeply love each other but aren’t able to express that love in a way the other can best experience love, their sentiment is also lost in translation, as if they were speaking two different languages…. because they are.
The 5 Love Languages**
- Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention. Spending time together in person, as well (in this technological age) via text, phone, FaceTime, etc.
- Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation. Again, in our technological age, let’s extend this to affection communicated through text and social media as well.
- Physical Touch: This must be done in person. It can be sex or holding hands or hugs or sitting close to each other. With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.
- Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection. Planned or spontaneous gifts, from little tokens of affection to significant, elaborate gifts. Something you make yourself or something you buy.
- Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love. This can be delivering a fresh cup of coffee to you in bed, washing your windshield so the sun’s glare doesn’t affect your view of the road, or making madeleines when your partner is feeling sad.
When we understand how our beloved experiences love, we can deepen the connection with them (which only facilitates communication) by expressing love in the way they best understand it. Often someone shows love the way they best receive it.
For example, my primary love languages are Quality Time, Physical Touch, and Words of Affirmation, pretty much equally spread between the three, but the last one is super important when I’m not physically with my beloved. While I adore Receiving Gifts and am so grateful for (and cherish) them and Acts of Service, spending time with me and telling me you love me or miss me hits me deeper. I’ll often overlook Acts of Service, not because I’m ungrateful but because I see it as being kind or thoughtful rather than the special act of love as intended. (I’m trying to do better with that, one of the reasons for writing this post and revisiting The 5 Love Languages.)
So, when I show love, it’s through a lot of Words of Affirmation. Lots of I Love You and I Miss You and I Can’t Wait To See You via text when I’m apart from them or in person when we’re together. Lots of expressed gratitude and admiration (just see my post!). I can say these things so much that they start to sound rote or meaningless to my beloved, but I mean them with profound sincerity every time.
I also show love through Physical Touch and intimacy, and especially through Quality Time, together or apart. Nothing says I Love You more to me than Quality Time, I think. After being treated as (or flatly told I was) an inconvenience (burden, annoyance) for decades (to the point I habitually apologize for my own existence), when my love spends time with me or tells me they can’t wait to do so again, it means the world to me.
Yet, I’m intensely comforted by touch. Holding hands, sitting close, kissing, and other forms of physical intimacy are truly fulfilling for me. Likely another way to validate my presence is both desired and cherished.
However, if my partner experiences love in different ways, and he probably will, I want to know about the similarities and differences, so I can not only express love in ways that are natural and effortless for me, but I can also strive to express love in the ways he receives it most deeply. It benefits all—me, him, and the relationship entity between us—if he feels fulfilled, special, and loved.
I will strive to be better at expressing love in the way my beloved hears it, and I will strive to be better at receiving love in the way my beloved shows it. To become fluent, as it were, in his love language. I challenge you all to do the same.
May you all find peace.
**Reminder: The 5 Love Languages is written with a heavy Christian slant, which is quite annoying at times for someone who purposely left Christianity nearly 30 years ago and has no interested in returning whatsoever. That said, the philosophy and information beneath the eye-rolling Christian rhetoric is worth the effort to read past the dogmatic BS.