How often does one hear a friend expressing dissatisfaction with their partner for not meeting a certain need? And how often does one find themselves in a similar situation?
In the intricate dance of love and relationships, communication plays a pivotal role. Understanding one another’s emotional needs is one of the most important factors in building a solid foundation for a relationship. One of the ways you can achieve this is through the knowledge of love languages.
The concept of the five love languages was introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman, a renowned marriage counsellor and author, in his book titled “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” first published in 1992. Dr Chapman’s motivation behind developing the theory was rooted in his extensive experience counselling couples over several decades. He observed that individuals often express and perceive love in different ways, which could lead to miscommunication and unmet emotional needs in relationships.
Dr. Chapman identified five primary love languages, each representing a distinct way that people prefer to give and receive love. According to his theory, individuals have a dominant love language that influences how they feel most loved and appreciated. These love languages are:
- Words of affirmation: Involves expressing appreciation and affirmation through verbal means. It includes giving compliments, words of encouragement, and frequently expressing love verbally.
- Quality time: Centres on dedicating focused attention to someone else. Whether engaged in meaningful conversations or participating in shared activities, spending uninterrupted time together signifies love and care.
- Receiving gifts: For individuals with this love language, gifts symbolise love and affection. The value does not necessarily lie in grand or expensive gestures, but rather in the thoughtfulness and effort put into the gift.
- Acts of service: People with this love language value actions over words. Performing tasks or chores that alleviate the other person’s responsibilities are considered expressions of love.
- Physical touch: Emphasises the importance of tactile expressions, it can be holding hands, hugging, kissing, or simply being physically close. For people with this love language, physical touch serves as a direct and powerful means of conveying emotional love.
The idea behind the love languages is that understanding one’s own love language, as well as the love language of one’s partner, can significantly improve the quality of a relationship. By recognising and actively expressing love in the way that resonates most with their partner, couples can enhance emotional connection and satisfaction.
Dr. Chapman’s concept has gained widespread popularity and has been widely embraced in the fields of psychology, counselling, and relationship education. The Five Love Languages has since become a popular framework for individuals and couples seeking to strengthen their relationships and improve communication in matters of love and affection.
So, what if you and your partner have incompatible love languages? Well, contrary to expectations, differing love languages can actually enhance relationship harmony. It can prompt the exploration of alternative communication methods to express needs and acknowledge different ways of showing affection.
Sejal Barden, executive director of UCF’s Marriage and Family Research Institute elaborates on this in a UCF Today article titled “UCF Relationship Expert on the Five Love Languages”. Barden shares, “I think oftentimes our love languages are different from our partner’s. And so, I think the way to kind of balance that is to have the conversation.” She emphasises that sharing the knowledge of our preferred love language helps to maneuver the negotiation of how to spend time together. “A classic example might be one of the partners has quality time as a love language and another partner has physical touch as a primary love language. You can easily put both of those together of having quality time, watching a movie, and making sure that you’re not sitting on separate chairs, but you’re choosing to sit on a sofa where you can also have physical touch associated together.”
Barden adds on, “I’ve also seen couples organise their weekends really using love languages as a way to schedule their time. Let’s say quality time and acts of service, where the two of them are like, “What’s one thing this weekend that we can do that will be quality time-related? What’s one act of service, one household thing that’s really been on like the to-do list that we can knock out?” Maybe they do it together. Maybe they do it separately. But at the end of the weekend, they would both have said they invested some time in areas that are meaningful to both of them in the relationship. So I think if there’s intentionality behind the way that you spend your time, then it shouldn’t really be too much of a challenge for couples to compromise and navigate that.”
I prompted this topic with Martin, a friend from France who’s been living in Indonesia for over four months now. He admits that he knows of the concept, but has never really considered it nor took the time to find his preferences. A quick online quiz revealed his priority list, with quality time being the most important and physical touch the least. He also expressed never having had discussions with his past partners regarding each other’s love languages, “sometimes my partner gave hints of her preferences, but we didn’t talk about that directly. Because I don’t think we can or should put words to such complex feelings.”
Regarding how getting to know a partner’s love language affects a relationship in any way, he believes, “Of course it does, but maybe not always for the best. You might tend to focus only on that preference and start to act mainly to please that specific love language. So you kind of miss the bigger picture of the relationship.”
I then inquired about his personal observations having lived in Indonesia for a while, specifically if there were any differences in how prominent the conversations surrounding love languages are between here and his home country. “Absolutely!” He added, “Indonesians are very open when it comes to these kinds of things, not just love languages, but also religion and beliefs. I can’t explain why, but I assume it’s their way of getting to know someone.” In comparison to France, he found that “at least in my groups of French friends, we give almost zero importance to this notion of ‘language of love’. So we never really bring it to the table.”
Understanding and embracing the concept of love languages can be a transformative journey for couples, enriching their relationships with deeper understanding and connection. While differences in love languages may initially pose a challenge, they provide an opportunity for growth and compromise. Through open communication and intentional actions, couples can navigate their differences and create a shared language of love that strengthens their bond. So, whether it’s scheduling quality time or performing acts of service, investing in each other’s love languages fosters a relationship where both partners feel deeply valued and cherished.