Love. One word that packs so much meaning, and yet still gets misinterpreted and misunderstood. I often see couples who appear to miss the mark when it comes to giving and receiving love. I hear things such as “I don’t feel loved” from a client, as their partner then looks confused next to them saying, “But I do things that show my love all the time.” How is it that we miss each other when it comes to this feeling that we all desire? Herein lies the problem in relationships. I interpret love as abc, while my partner might interpret it as xyz. We have different perceptions and different expectations.
Often, it seems as though we express love to others in the same way that we want to be shown in return. For example: Let’s say that I feel the most loved by my husband when he tells my how nice I look and when he approaches me with hugs and affection. In my mind, this might tell me that he loves me. So, when we are together, perhaps I will give him compliments or an encouraging word, and initiate a hug or physical touch. I desire these sentiments from him, so I therefore act in a way that is consistent with my own desire. What happens here is that my husband might not pick up on this and will fail to meet my need (so long as I’m not directly asking for it). If we asked him, perhaps he’d say that he expresses love by providing for our household, cleaning, shopping, etc.
I’d like to introduce the 5 Love Languages. Developed by Gary Chapman, the 5 Love Languages help us understand that we all have a different way of receiving and feeling love. When we discover our love language, we can communicate this to our loved ones and start getting our needs met. We can also learn the love language of our partners to form more connected intimate relationships.
The 5 Love Languages:
- Words of Affirmation - getting validation in the form of verbal expressions
- Acts of Service- performing household duties, chores, taking care of errands, etc
- Quality Time- spending enjoyable time with one another is the primary need
- Receiving Gifts- feeling loved by way of receiving a gift from partner
- Physical Touch- affection (hugs, kissing, holding hands), physical intimacy
Let’s look back at my original example. With the information given, it appears as though my love language might fall within words of affirmation and physical touch. My husband’s love language might be acts of service. It’s OK that we do not have the same love language. Oftentimes, we don’t share the same love language with our spouse. This gives us information to understand each other more and start responding to one another in a different way. When I can acknowledge that my partner receives love by acts of service for example, I can apply more of these behaviors by maybe lending a hand at home or running some errands for him. I can then identify my primary love language and express my desire for more affection or words of affirmation.
There is so much more to learn! Visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com to explore resources and to take the free assessment to determine your love language! The assessment will give you a score for each love language to determine your primary language. My suggestion is for both you and your partner to take the assessment to get the most information about how to best reach each other. In the meantime, start exploring the ways you express love to those around you to help you gain some insight. If it feels as though you are not connecting enough in your intimate relationships, consider seeking counseling for additional support and encouragement.
Kimberly Vitolo, MS, LMFT
Adolescent IOP Co-Facilitator