The Language of Love
It's the universal language, but some expressions of love say more to one person than another. Which one is yours?
Remember when you and your partner first got together? That period of endless time, energy and attention for each other, lots of sex and touching, feeling that you would do anything for one another ... According to US marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, you can get these aspects back into your relationship by learning to speak your partner's love language. It may sound a bit touchy-feely, but the idea is that each of us has a way that we like to give and receive love.
Chapman identified five major "languages" - words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch - and said that we all have one major language and one or two secondary ones. Queensland-based psychologist Dr Peta Stapleton says Chapman's concept can help men and women understand each other better. "Even if they have to try all five to get the right one, people can only benefit from learning their partner's love language," she says. "They'll have a more responsive partnership and understand each other better. And it doesn't just have to be in your romantic relationship. You can understand your mate or boss better, too."
Interpreting your partner
There are a couple of ways to work out which love language your partner speaks. The first tactic is to try all five and see which gets the best response. If you want to take a more scientific approach, look closely at what your partner complains about.
If they say, "You never listen to me", maybe they want quality time. If they harass you for never helping out, they might be an acts-of-service speaker. If you get kudos for a Christmas present, gifts might be the way forward. And if you can't remember the last time you gave your partner a hug or a compliment and things aren't great, you could take that as a clue that you need to learn to use physical touch or words of affirmation.
Getting your own back
By the time you've worked out your partner's love language, you'll have a fair idea which one is yours. And as you head down the path, you might realise that your primary language is not the one you first thought it was.Chapman says that once you start speaking your partner's love language, you'll find that yours is also being fulfilled, even if it's different to theirs.
Dr Stapleton agrees: "It really does work. I've had non-believers give it a go and they've been amazed at the change in their relationship. I've never come across a couple who had the same love language - after all, opposites attract."When we're first dating, we tend to do all five love languages.
We spend plenty of time devoted to each other, we give each other little gifts, help each other out with tasks or chores, have plenty of physical intimacy and say nice things. As time goes on, we slide into our primary love language, the one we're most comfortable with, and the others drop away. Then there are the complaints. I know that my husband's love language is quality time and I only have to spend one or two times a week doing this, then he will do anything for me, which is perfect because my love language is acts of service."
The five love languages
Here are the five love languages, as identified by Gary Chapman, and how to speak to your partner with the right lingo
1. You're the best
The first love language is words of affirmation. People who speak this language thrive on compliments and being told they're appreciated. They want to hear you say they make the best Thai beef salad or how lucky you are to have a partner who picks up the kids every afternoon.
Key phrases Try a different form of compliment every day for a week and watch your partner fall in love with you all over again. Send a text message saying, "You look beautiful this morning." Write a poem or put a post-it note in their book with a simple "I love you". Tell their friends and family how great they are; it will filter back eventually and you'll get double points. Write a list of their strengths and stick them on the fridge.
2. Hanging out
For some people, nothing shows love more than quality time. And, no, watching TV together doesn't count; quality time requires undivided attention with no distractions. That doesn't mean you have to sit there staring into each other's eyes. You can do something you both enjoy, but the activity is merely an excuse for being together.
Key phrases Have a quality conversation: really listen to each other and ask questions to learn something, not for the sake of hearing your own voice. Do something you know your partner loves, even if it is shopping.Go for walks, try new restaurants, go through old photos together. Make space for quality time at least twice a week.
3. You shouldn't have...
Perhaps your partner's love language is receiving gifts. Financial advisor Nick Penn gives his partner Sarah Tremarco a card every week to celebrate their weekly anniversary - and they've been together for six years. The mind may boggle, but as Chapman points out, visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others. What it says to the receiver is: "He was thinking about me."
Key phrases Unless you're loaded, get used to picking flowers and making cards to give along with other little trinkets. Be aware that birthday and Christmas presents are very important and must be well thought out. Try giving your partner a gift every day for a week and reap the benefits.
4. Yes, master
The next love language is "acts of service". This means doing things you know your partner would like you to do. And here's the hard bit: you have to do them out of love. If you make dinner because you feel you should, it's a chore - but if you do it because you know it makes your partner happy, it becomes an act of love.
Key phrases Wipe the white spots off the mirror, vacuum the floor or clean your partner's car and leave a note saying, "Just because I love you". Ask your partner which acts of service would mean the most to them and then do them as often as you can. Regularly ask your partner what you can do for them that day.
5. Touch me, baby
For those who speak the language of "physical touch", love is a very handson experience. On the one hand you have sex and foreplay, which most men don't have trouble with, but don't underestimate the implicit touches such as a kiss on the head while your partner is on the computer, holding hands or sitting really close together. These touches are all just as important.
Key phrases Never leave your partner without a hug and a kiss. Be affectionate in public, even if it's just a hand on the small of their back. Learn to give a good massage. Bathe and shower together occasionally. For every sexual encounter, aim to have two non-sexual touches.
Read The Five Love Languages (Northfield Publishing) by Gary Chapman.
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