How do you express and receive love in your relationships? This might seem like an odd question, but is an important thing to consider, and something I work on with most couples I see. In 1995 a relationship counselor; Dr. Gary Chapman released a book that detailed what he called the five love languages. His book has been wildly popular and the concept of love languages has been widely accepted and used by therapists around the world. The idea behind love languages is this: we all have different ways we perceive that we are loved and we tend to express love in those same ways. This means that what one might think would make their partner feel loved might actually not mean much to them. In this way, some couples speak very different love languages, and just like if they spoke two different verbal languages, they may not understand and receive the intentions behind their partner’s communications.
The book identifies five distinct love languages: physical, gifts, quality time, acts of service, and words of affirmation.
I hear this so often in therapy: “if he/she loved me then he/she would know to do _______” or “why don’t you ______? I feel like you don’t love me”. Often times the problem in these situations is mostly that the two are speaking different love languages. Maybe she buys him gifts to express her love but his love language is physical touch and he doesn’t feel loved unless there is physical intimacy in the relationship. It is important that we discuss our love languages with our partners so that we can both express love and not feel rejected when we make attempts to express love that are not received as such.
I had to work through some of this stuff myself in my own relationship several years ago. My love language is gifts but my wife’s is not. I used to feel hurt and rejected when I gave her things and she really didn’t seem to care. through talking about our love languages, now I know how to better express love ways that she will receive, and I know that if I give her a gift and it doesn’t seem like a huge deal to her, its not because she doesn’t love me or that she’s rejecting me. She just doesn’t speak that language.
Sometimes in troubled relationships I have to talk with couples about using love languages to reignite intimacy and closeness. A common example is physical intimacy. Most couples who are in a hard place with each other don’t want to be physical, but the partner who’s love language is physical touch will not be able to feel attached and intimate with his/her partner if they are not making physical contact. In this way, if a couple is trying to repair their relationship, gifts and kind words might be exchanged, but the physical partner will feel left out and unembraced. Obviously in extreme cases, when partners don’t feel safe with each other, safety must be established first, but when things start getting better, the physical intimacy should be addressed. I should also note here that the love language of physical touch does not mean sex. It can include sex, but should be seen as any form of intimate touching that expresses affection: massage, holding hands, hugging, etc.
To find your love language visit Dr. Chapman’s website and take his love language quiz. It sorts the love languages by your preference for them and helps you identify your top 2.
Just because I always include a video in my blog, check out this talk about love languages by the youtube channel Good Mythical Morning.
Also, this is a really sweet song that talks about love languages:
If you are having trouble in your relationship you might want to consider counseling. One of the primary ways therapy can help couples is through improving communication and removing barriers to intimacy and connection. The most important thing in any relationship is for you to feel safe, supported, and loved, and therapy helps increase that connection.
Joe Borders, MFT
Counseling and Therapy in Roseville and Sacramento
1722 Professional Drive,
Sacramento, CA 95825
775 Sunrise Ave., suite 110
Roseville, Ca 95661
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