Communicating In Love
When we vow to love and to honour our future spouse, we are making the choice to be in a relationship that is governed by love. We are publicly vowing that we love, admire and respect our partner above everyone else. We agree to this commitment on the premise that our inherent need to be loved will always be met ‘until death do us part.’ After the first few years of the ‘in love’ or ‘honeymoon’ period has subsided, couples are faced with the reality of what real love involves practically. What may have started out as a mutually respectful, romantic relationship can sometimes fade into familiarity which then introduces a slippery slope of boundary crossing and decline in loving communication. This return from cloud nine can often be mistaken as ‘falling out of love.’ But this is where the most fulfilling real love begins! Love is better understood as choice rather than a fleeting emotional state that takes commitment, effort and often a lot of compromise. It stretches us to look beyond our own insecurities/vulnerabilities and perceptions and love our partner selflessly and unconditionally.
So why is it that sometimes we can find ourselves communicating with the person we love the most in a way that we would never speak to anyone else, or feeling unloved or disconnected from them? The joining of two people, each with their own expectations, baggage and learned behaviours who come together to live alongside one another, can be a pressure cooker for some couples! That is why it is so important to learn how to love each other well and keep the love alive. Dr Gary Chapman is an expert on marriage who teaches about the concept of an emotional love tank existing in adults which results in couples feeling loved, fulfilled and secure when full, however when the tank is running on empty, causes couples to feel hurt, disconnected and creates tension. It can become a vicious cycle because when we are feeling unloved and are not getting our emotional needs met in the relationship, we are then less likely to express love to our spouse and so on.
Dr Chapman authors the book “The 5 love languages,” which teaches practical ways to communicate with your spouse in a loving, caring way. Love languages are based on the theory that every individual gives and receives love differently depending on their backgrounds and unique understanding of love. Just like speaking another language limits the depth of communication between people, emotional love languages can be the same. For example, a husband might buy flowers or gifts for his wife from time to time to show her he is thinking of her but she would feel much more appreciated and cared for if he put aside time to spend with her. Or a man feels like he can take on the world when his wife praises and encourages him verbally, but she doesn’t say much and prefers to show love through physical touch and affection. Or a busy working mother juggling multiple responsibilities would feel loved by her husband if he took on some of the evening duties such as bathing the kids or cleaning up after dinner, and then she might feel more inclined to respond to his bids for intimacy.
It is essential in marriage to feel loved in a way that we can understand and also show love in a way our partner appreciates. Often we can put effort into loving our spouse in a way that we would want reciprocated, but the message doesn’t get translated to the other person. We must be willing to learn our spouses primary love language and also our own if we are going to be effective communicators of love. This will set the foundation for a thriving relationship in which we can trust one another, and feel inspired to pursue shared dreams together. The five love languages are as follows:
Words of Affirmation
This approach is all about speaking words that compliment, praise and encourage the other. People who prefer this love language feel most loved when their spouse communicates appreciation and specifies the things that they love about them or are thankful for. It can be in the form of verbal words, messages, emails, letters etc. They especially get a kick out of being publicly commended by their partner. Lots of kind words go a long way in motivating a person with this preference. Verbal criticism and put downs can deeply hurt these people.
Individuals with this primary love language feel most secure, connected and loved when their partner gives them their undivided attention to spend time talking, taking interest and engaging in different activities together. Distractions like phones, tv and even just being in the home environment need to be removed so that they can feel like they are the main focus whether it simply involves being in another’s company or connecting over deep discussions. These people can become easily disappointed by interruptions or if the other seems preoccupied and not present. Because of the time constraint to this love language, it often needs to be planned ahead and scheduled into daily life. Some of the things that people with this preference would appreciate are trying new activities, getting outdoors for walks, picnics, beach days etc and sometimes even just allowing 15 minutes at the end of each day to debrief and connect.
Gift giving as a means of showing love doesn’t mean having to buy presents continuously and be a big expense. Rather, this approach sees gifts as thoughtful tokens of love as it is the thought behind it that counts. A person with this love language feels as though their partner has thoughtfully considered the things they might like and surprised them with something that is meaningful. It’s especially significant if the gift is something that was mentioned fleetingly or almost unnoticeably. It communicates that the things that matter to you, matter to me. Physical presence at important events can also be a gift, the gift of self, especially if the other partner has a prior commitment or is uninterested. Missing birthdays and special events can be a big deal for these people.
Acts of Service
This method is all about showing love through actions. The saying “actions speak louder than words” is paramount to people who receive love this way. It can be things like offering a foot massage or doing house, yard and car jobs, organising for things to be fixed etc. This love language is about doing something to serve the other person, by taking a load off which often reduces the pressure and couples can spend more time doing the important things together. Often stereotypes in gender roles need to be adjusted. The lack of help with duties or taking no initiative can cause a lot of hurt and frustration for people with this preference.
People with this love language feel most loved when they experience physical closeness to their partner and appreciate the small displays of affection throughout the day such as hand holding, kissing, embracing or things like giving back rubs etc. Lovemaking may be of the upmost importance for people who experience love in this way. Lack of intimacy and affection can be a deal breaker for these people.
Learning to understand and apply love languages is one of the many ways couples can practically build on their love for each other and choose to be actively involved in not only staying in love, but fostering a more fulfilling, healthy marriage. For more information on love languages, go to https://www.5lovelanguages.com.