If you have not read this book, you should. Theo and I both read it, and it has changed so much of how we view loving each other. Dr. Gary Chapman is a Christian, but I would recommend this book to everyone, regardless of their religion.
I want you to read it yourself, but the premise of the book is that everyone has a love language. Your language is the way that you feel loved the most, or the way that you love to love the most.
The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
Each title is pretty much self-explanatory, but I will describe them a little bit more.
Words of Affirmation: Words are used to affirm. These people thrive off of compliments and positive affirmation. A sweet note or a quick compliment can uplift them greatly.
Acts of Service: Actions speak louder than words for these people. They feel loved when someone does the dishes, they feel loved when they are served a dinner or someone goes out of their way to DO something for them.
Gifts: These people feel most loved when they receive a gift. A gift is something that someone GIVES (such as a new notebook, or a nicely crafted card); it does not have to be bought with money.
Quality Time: These people feel most loved when someone is giving them their undivided attention. Quality Time is not just time spent with someone, it is intentional and focused time.
Physical Touch: These people feel loved the most through appropriate personal contact. These people are the “huggers” that we all know so well.
So how do you figure out what your love language is? You might think that you would feel loved in all of these circumstances, but most of us have one or two that are much higher on the list than the others. If you are unsure, you can take a short test here. Also, if you have not read the book you need to get your hands on it!
After reading about love languages and clearly defining what I was, Theo and I talked to each other, and listed the order of our love languages. So fun! So exciting! We did this way back when we were dating, and it was endearing to learn that we were DIFFERENT! And, oh how cute! that was. And oh, how much fun we would have loving each other throughout the years.
And then three years later we are learning that our love languages are very, very different. VERY. Take a look at our list:
Theo: 1. Quality Time 2. Words of Affirmation 3. Service 4. Physical Touch 5. Gifts
Suzanne: 1. Gifts 2. Words of Affirmation 3. Quality Time 4. Service 5. Physical Touch
Well, we have a couple things going for us. We both love and needs words of affirmation. It’s a huge thing, and it’s so very important. Neither of us are touchy-feely (not to be confused with beautiful marital intimacy!), so we don’t really struggle with fighting over that one. Unfortunately for Theo, quality time and words of affirmation are not high on my list of showing love. And unfortunately for me, gifts are NOT his primary way to show love. In fact, my husband has a spiritual gift of frugalness and my #1 love language is gifts.
So what do you do when you find out that your love languages are so different? Sometimes we get stuck. I feel like I’m loving Theo by buying him an extra candy bar and some new undershirts at the store, but when he sees the receipt he doesn’t feel very loved. He tries to love me by sitting down together one evening (quality time) and I’m thrilled with the chance to sit and browse Instagram on my phone (not Quality for him). And then we get into a frustrated fight about how we are not feeling loved, when the other person is completely flabbergasted because they actually were trying very hard to be loving!
1. Remember that sometimes your love language for showing love is different from you love language for receiving love. Theo’s favorite way to love me is through acts of service, which you might notice is different from his primary way of feeling love. Knowing this could change of lot of ways in which you chose to intentionally receive love.
2. Learn your partner. Take the quiz, list your love languages. Then have your husband/wife take the quiz and list their love languages. Now remember point #1 and go back through the list and see if anything has changed. For Theo, it changes drastically. For me, it’s pretty much the same. Here’s the thing: if I had made a list of Theo’s love languages and then thought I had totally learned my husband, I would have completely missed point #1. Things can be different. Also, continue to learn your partner as you go through life stages. My primary love language might be gifts, but at a time of financial strain and staying at home constantly with kids, I might need some acts of service instead. Constantly learn your partner! Never stop.
3. Take a step back and evaluate. When you are involved in conflict in any relationship, it’s always important to take a step back and evaluate. We get so huffy and puffy and are so quick to take offense. I think the best marriage advice I ever received was from my Mom (duh! of course it was!). She said, “Always assume that Theo is not trying to hurt you”. That has really stuck with me. When we are in the heat of things, it’s hard to realize that he is not trying to hurt me. But in the end, he truly isn’t.
But we don’t just need to take a step back and evaluate when we are fighting. We also need to step back and evaluate in those moments that we plain old aren’t feeling loved. For example, Theo might go to the store and return with nothing for me. NOTHING! But what I completely lost sight of was the fact that he went to the store for me so I could stay at home and take a nap or work on my blog. If I just took step back and evaluated, I would realize that he was loving me! He wasn’t forgetting about me or neglecting to show love to me, he was in fact doing all that.
It is also important, like I noted in point #3 that we constantly reevaluate. Things might change over time and depending on the situation, a re-evaluation might be necessary.
4. Create a list of how to love them best. Once you have armed yourself with the idea that your partner might be loving you in the way that they know best, you can both sit down and create a list of ways to love them best. Theo and I have had conversations like this, and we will leave wondering why in the world we didn’t talk about that sooner. It would have made it so much easier. So sit down. Ask your husband/wife HOW you could love them best. Maybe you need to do this on a weekly basis. Sometimes we think that we are loving our partner to the full, only to find that something else would speak to them much, much better.
Make a list. Hang it on the fridge. Put it on the dashboard of your car. Make it the home lock screen of your phone. I don’t know…whatever it takes to learn how to love your partner best.
5. Intentionally receive their love. The last part? Intentionally receive their love. I can’t get offended when he returns from the store without a gift for me. Instead, I can say thank you and remind my heart and my head that he just did the greatest act of love with pure intentions. Also, communicate. He thinks he is loving me while I feel slighted that he didn’t pick up something extra. Instead, I can communicated that I appreciate his love and receive it.
Trust me, it will make a huge difference.
So what about you? Are you and your spouse completely opposite like we are? Or are you on the same page? How do you handle your love languages being different?
P.S. You can also check out The Five Languages of Apology and The Five Love Languages for Children. And again..let me reiterate that these love languages are not just displayed between spouses (spice? hahahaha), but can also apply to friendships and family members.