The Language of Love

In his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman says what makes one spouse feel loved might not be what makes the other spouse feel loved. He calls the different ways to feel loved "love languages." This is one of the most helpful things I've ever learned about relationships. The five love languages are:

  1. acts of service
  2. physical touch
  3. words of affirmation
  4. quality time
  5. receiving gifts

In the beginning of every relationship, we pretty much stop thinking about anything but our new sweetheart. We communicate our affection with all five love languages. With such a shotgun approach, you hit all the bases, and each of you feels loved.

But as time goes on, normal life creeps back in and you don't spend so much time thinking about your mate. Your expressions of love streamline, and you'll eventually drop out every expression of love that isn't very valuable (to you) and what you'll have left is the one love language that really means something (to you): Your own.

For example, Jason's love language is words of affirmation but Amanda's is acts of service.

It has probably never occurred to Jason that people wouldn't appreciate words of affirmation, so his expression has streamlined to words. When he really wants Amanda to know he loves her, he tells her. Amanda likes hearing it, but words alone don't really make her feel loved. The words are nice, but that's all they are to her: nice. They are "just words."

Meanwhile Amanda has streamlined her expression of love to the one that really counts as far as she's concerned: Acts of service. She goes out of her way to take care of Jason. She makes sure the house is always clean, his clothes are always washed and folded with care, the gas tank of the car is always full, etc. Jason never even notices. What he does notice is that Amanda hardly ever tells him she loves him. She hardly ever tells him she believes in him. Her acts of service fall on deaf ears. He cares very little about how clean the kitchen is. He never even notices the gas tank.

Here's the ironic thing: Amanda is going way out of her way to make Jason feel loved, and he goes around resentful that she never tells him she loves him. Meanwhile, he tries to express himself until he's blue in the face to let her know how much she means to him, and all she ends up doing is complaining about how he never picks up his clothes and never does the things she asks him to do (she is requesting acts of service, and if he did them, she would feel loved).

Of course, the thing to do is to find out what your spouse's love language is, and then learn to express your affection in that way instead of in the way you value most. It feels a little awkward at first, as it would to learn a second language of any kind, but use it enough, and it starts to feel comfortable.

How do you find out what your mate's love language is? First, look at how she normally expresses her love for you. Although it may not be your love language, it is probably hers, since we usually express our love most often in the way we feel is most meaningful.

You can also listen for what she most often asks for. For example, if she is always suggesting you go for a trip together, or go for a walk, or turn off the television and talk, her love language is probably quality time.

If she wants to hold your hand, if she rubs your shoulders, if she asks for physical affection, her love language is probably physical touch.

Find out what makes your mate feel loved, and learn to communicate your affection in that way. And help your mate learn your language. Do this, and you can probably live the rest of your lives feeling loved.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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