In his bestselling book, The Five Love Languages (Moody Publications, £9.99), relationship counsellor Dr Gary Chapman identifies five different ways that we can express love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Without even realising it, many of us show love in ways which others find hard to receive. For example, no amount of beautiful flowers will do it for a woman who really longs for undivided attention. And for a man who just wants to hear some encouraging words, a home-cooked dinner – however tasty – is no replacement.
So, Chapman’s concept is simple but very effective. If you can learn to recognise your partner’s love language, and help them to recognise yours, you will both feel more loved and understood.
Chapman describes these ways in which we express love as ‘love languages’, as at least one of the five will communicate love to you in a way that you immediately understand. Some of us will be bilingual and have two ‘love languages’ that resonate for us. Don’t be surprised if you speak love differently from your partner because in many couples that is the case.
The best way to work out someone’s love language is to think about what they do for you, because people often tend to show love in the way they most like to receive it.
Another clue is to listen to what they complain about when they are feeling unappreciated. Do they get upset because you fail to help out, for example, or because they feel you don’t spend enough time with them? Some people think their partner should automatically understand how they show love.
But that’s a bit like thinking the French should understand English if you just speak slowly and loudly enough. If your beloved has a different love language, it helps to learn it. And like any foreign language, it might seem a bit strange at first, but it will get easier with practice.
Write down the last 10 things your partner did for you that made you feel loved. Ask them to do the same. Which love languages came out top for you both? Every day this month, show love to your partner in a way that corresponds with their top one or two love languages. Here are some ideas:
- Words of affirmation: Text them explaining why you appreciate them, write them a poem or compliment them in public.
- Quality time: Go for a walk together, watch a film of their choice or go out for coffee, just the two of you.
- Receiving gifts: Buy them tickets to an event they’d love, turn a treasured photo into a gift or next time you go food shopping, buy a treat you know they’d like.
- Acts of service: Bring them a drink without being asked, cook them dinner or do a job on the to-do list without being prompted.
- Physical touch: Hold their hand in public, give them a shoulder massage, or initiate sex.
Sarah Abell is a relationships coach and the author of Inside Out – How To Build Authentic Relationships With Everyone In Your Life (Hodder, £8.99). Find out more at nakedhedgehogs.com. To buy her LifeLabs Practical Wisdom online course How to Save Your Relationship, please click here. You can try a free 3-day taster trial first too.