4 Things To Do When You And Your Partner Have VERY Different Love Languages
Quick one: How do you show love to your partner? Cuddles? Quality time? Compliments?
Because as you might already know, according to The 5 Love Languages by marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, there are some very different principles of communicating love.
This means how we express and receive love might be totally opposite to how our partner displays love to us, which can cause some… difficulties.
But just because you and your S.O. speak different love languages, it doesn’t mean everything is going to go to s**t. Nah. It just means you have to work a little harder in communicating what you both need from each other.
If you’re wondering where to start, we asked couples counsellor Lissy Abrahams for everything we need to know about coping with different love languages.
What are the different love languages?
Woah! Hold up. Before we get into it, it’s probably worth giving you a quick rundown on what the different love languages actually are, right?
Abrahams said, “These love language categories offer a helpful structure for capturing the differences in partner-to-partner caring gestures and loving behaviour.”
“Many of us would fit into many categories, and some of us have one dominant category. They add a dimension to couple relationships that explain why some couples have a smoother or bumpier ride together.”
But don’t worry, figuring out your partner’s love language is actually a lot easier than you might think. Seriously, it is! All you have to do is pay close attention to what they do and say, and you’ll be able to suss it out.
Below are the five different love languages, and what they mean –
1. Words of affirmation
First up? Spoken and written forms of affirmation. “Written forms can be notes, texts, social media posts,” said Abrahams. “These words allow them to feel appreciated, valued, desired, admired, loved or cared about. They never tire of receiving these messages.”
2. Quality time
This second category obviously relates to partners wishing to spend time together. “This could be quality time on a date or even conversing where both partners have focussed attention and are present without distractions,” said Abrahams.
“Chapman calls these the ‘visual symbols of love,’” said Abrahams. “The one offering the gift has had their partner in mind throughout the experience and made them a priority. Gifts can differ in size or monetary value.”
4. Acts of service
“This category of love language is for people who like to show their love by helping their partner or by making life nicer for them in some way,” said Abrahams.
“They take an action as a gesture of love. These acts are performed to acknowledge one’s partner and their value. People who do acts of service see themselves as a resource and are able to offer themselves up as part of the solution to problems or situations. They don’t need to be asked.”
5. Physical touch
In this category, Abrahams said partners feel love and connection through the physical and sexual realm and want this prioritised in the relationship.
“Physical touch is a primitive response for animals with their offspring, and this can be comforting, protective and bonding. Many of us use this love language from childhood, adding the sexual dimension into our couple relationship,” she adds.
What to do when you and your partner have different love languages
First off, you need to be aware that it’s common to be with someone who speaks a different love language to you. You don’t need to speak the same language in order to have a successful relationship.
It is important, however, to know the differences.
“Without understanding these differences, partners can easily become resentful, lonely, or frustrated. They can even destabilise the relationship,” she said.
“Sometimes the differences can feel as if one’s partner is not truly in the relationship. If we don’t register our partner’s love gestures or words of affirmation, then our ego may construct narratives of how unloving or uncaring they are.”
“Tragically, when these feelings take over, it can even lead to separation and divorce. This is why it’s important to acknowledge and register each other’s gestures of love.”
If you and your partner have different ways of showing love and affection and if it’s creating a rift of misunderstanding in your relationship, here are a few things that can help…
1. Listen to your partner’s comments on the relationship
While it’s normal for partners to have different love languages and express feelings differently, the key is to communicate openly with each other about what you need.
Without this, they don’t know what you want from them and you don’t know what they need from you.
So, how do you know if you’ve been missing important information they need you to know?
Abrahams outlines the below signs –
– “Do they tell you they feel lonely or bored in the relationship? They may miss having quality time with you and truly feeling connected,” she said,
– “Do they comment about the lack of physical intimacy in the relationship or that it’s one-sided? Do they comment that physical intimacy has gone and is only there when you want sex?”
– “Do they want you to surprise them with gifts? Are they feeling you don’t think about them in your absence? Do you? If yes, how do you convey this to them?”
– “Do they want you to say the words, ‘I love you’ or ‘You look beautiful’? Do they want to hear how special they are or your positive feelings about them? Are you assuming they pick this up day-to-day?”
– “Does your partner feel resentful of making the effort and doing things for you? Are you missing their acts of service?”
2. Ask your partner about their love languages
Again, if you don’t understand how your partner shows love, you’re going to have a bad time.
“You may be missing many loving gestures as they are not on your radar,” said Abrahams. “You may also become dismissive or resentful of your partner if you don’t put these gestures into the equation.”
“I’ve been guilty of this as my partner shows love through acts of service. On the weekend he brings me a cup of coffee in bed, which I love. He also does a huge grocery shop which I dislike doing.
“It’s easy to take these for granted as they can become part of the normal chore distribution in a household, however, he started them to support and care for me.”
3. Share your love languages with your partner
“They need to become aware of your love languages, so they understand you better. It’s important they understand you and your gestures,” explains Abrahams.
“For example, many people like to cook a meal for their partner. This takes thought, effort, and time. It’s easy to overlook this gesture of love. Maybe they are not aware of yours.”
4. Be respectful of differences
This one’s important, you guys. While we can learn to communicate and compromise, you shouldn’t necessarily try to change a person’s love language.
“No one’s category of love language is right or wrong, just different,” said Abrahams.
“Be respectful of their way and take care not to diminish their gestures as not relevant or not good enough for you.”
Why it’s important to support each other’s love languages
When we don’t receive the love the way we want it, Abrahams said we can become dissatisfied or hurt and even controlling to get what we want.
According to Abrahams, there are a few negative things that might happen if you choose to ignore each other’s love languages –
- – “For partners with a dominant love language of words of affirmation, without these acknowledgments, they may feel unloved, unlovable, or lonely.”
- – “For partners who value quality time, they can easily feel slighted or distressed if their partner doesn’t support this. If their partner is easily distracted or unfocused, this can be experienced as not caring. They may conclude their partner may not want to be with them.”
- – “If partners have a love language of offering gifts to show love, without their partner being similar they may feel not thought about or not valued by their partner. This can be distressing.”
- – “If partners who value physical touch are left too untouched, they can feel lonely and undesired. This can be experienced as personal and hurtful.”
- – “For partners strong on acts of service they may appear selfish and unsupportive. This can harm the relationship.”
Importantly, Abrahams notes that a lot of how we communicate love stems from our past experiences and our childhood.
“So, it’s important to remember that it’s not our partner’s job to ‘fix’ our need for cuddles or how we feel loved up by receiving gifts,” she said.
“There is also no way they will meet all of these needs and we need to be careful not to blame them when they can’t or don’t meet them.
“If you sense you have childhood needs that still hurt you then it’s important to heal those, potentially through therapy, podcasts, or books. This means your relationship won’t be burdened by these unmet needs of the past being imposed in the present.”