Now You’re Speaking My (Love) Language: Part 1

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3c820c84f45d194f9a28db7c5d09843cThe excitement of Valentine’s Day is winding down, leaving many of you wondering “now what”? You’ve spent the last week showering your partner with gifts, affection and fancy dinner reservations; love was in the air. But now it’s back to your regularly scheduled relationship. *sigh*

The way I see it, couples have two choices: surrender to the post-Valentine’s Day slump OR find a way to make every day the day of love. It really is that simple.

Showing your partner affection one day a year is ridiculously easy; keeping it up the other 364 days a year is what makes a relationship (and a sex life) last. Because, fun fact: the more a person feels loved and valued in their relationship, the more likely they are to express love in return—and yes, that carries over into the bedroom.

Valentine’s Day provides couples with a literal script to guide their displays of affection: Hallmark cards, candy, flowers, extravagant dinners and expensive gifts. These expectations act as a blueprint, ensuring that even the most unimaginative lovers can find a way to express their ardor. But come February 15, these romantic gestures lose a lot of their punch…

The same red roses that delighted your partner on Tuesday may now elicit a much different reaction. Instead of feeling special that you surprised them with flowers “just because”, your partner may be wondering why you stopped at the store, but didn’t ask if there was anything you could pick up for dinner. They may resent the fact that you only have a few hours to spend together and you wasted one of them at the flower shop. Or they may see the bouquet as a lovely gesture, but wonder why you didn’t punctuate their presentation with a hug and a kiss.

As I said before, Valentine’s Day is easy. Making your partner feel loved every other day of the year—that takes a little more effort. The reason for this is, we all differ in the ways that we feel and experience love. The secret to relationship (and bedroom) bliss lies in being able to love your partner in the way they want to be loved. And that’s where those wacky love languages come into play!

Unlike most stories that lead to better sex, it all started with a Southern Baptist pastor…

Gary Chapman, a young pastor in North Carolina, frequently counseled couples who were going through hardships in their marriages. After a while, he noticed an interesting pattern of miscommunication.  

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All of their arguments seemed to boil down to one major complaint: “I don’t feel like my partner loves me”. The interesting thing was, these couples clearly loved each other; it just wasn’t clear to them. They seemed to be expressing love in a way that their partner didn’t receive, almost as if they were speaking completely different languages… You see where I’m going with this.

After 35 years of marriage counseling, Dr. Chapman eventually boiled these miscommunications down to 5 core themes; 5 ways that people would express and understand love: physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. From these 5 core themes, he would develop a framework that, 20 years down the line, is still being used to help couples, singles and even *gasp* teenagers learn how to love and be loved.

Whoop-de-doo Madison, you may be thinking, what does it all mean?

Glad you asked. It means that, by learning your partner’s love language, and teaching them yours, you will be able to communicate with, and relate to, each other more effectively. This could lead to a more loving and fulfilling relationship, which could possibly even result in better sex.

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Let’s talk about how those 5 love languages break down…

Words of Affirmation

Nice words. Kind thoughts. Compliments. Encouragements—These are the things that Words of Affirmation are made of. But it can go even deeper than that. See, for the person with this love language, it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it, and how often you say it.

This is the partner in the relationship who says “I love you” whenever they leave for work, when they get off the phone, when they leave a room for an extended period of time… If you do something nice for them, they thank you. If you do something well, they praise you for it. And all they ask for in return is for you to do exactly that, except more. And do it constantly.

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Quality Time

Think about the last time you gave your partner your full and undivided attention… And I’m not referring to the last time they were naked. I mean the last time you were fully present, focused entirely on them; no cell phones or iPads, no TV, just the two of you talking and spending the moment together. This is the true meaning of quality time.

To a person whose primary love language is quality time, Netflix and Chill just doesn’t cut it. They crave your full and undivided attention for as long as you’re able to give it. To them, the fact that you only had 24 hours in a day, and you chose to spend 2 of those hours with them, really shows how much they mean to you. You know what else they like? Fun activities! Anything that involves the two of you sharing an experience will make them feel appreciated, and therefore loved.

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Physical Touch

I read somewhere that if you ask any man what his love language is, he will probably say it’s physical touch. Why? Because he likes sex, and that’s the most physical kind of touch, right? Yes, but actually no. Here’s the difference: Say your partner comes home from work and sidles up next to you, slips their arm through yours and nuzzles against you. For someone whose love language isn’t physical touch, you might be thinking “Sweet, I’m about to get laid”. On the other hand, the person who experiences love through physical touch will interpret those same actions as a sign of affection.

People with this particular love language crave a physical connection, no matter how small or how innocent (this framework was created by a pastor, after all). Even the simple act of draping your leg over theirs while you watch TV can tell them all they need to know about the depth of your love.

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Acts of Service

Every year or so, researchers come out with a new study that declares that men who help their partners out with the housework have more sex. While many men may roll their eyes at these findings, facts don’t lie. Sure, not every woman will become instantly hot at the sight of you with a feather duster. But for a person with Acts of Service as their love language, you might as well be role-playing as Magic Mike—there is nothing sexier than someone showing how much they care by taking care of the little things.

It can be something as simple as folding the laundry, or picking up trash bags on the way home from work; it doesn’t matter how big or how small. To the recipient, your act of service is a surefire sign that you care about them, and want to lighten their load.

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Gifts

If you find yourself in a relationship with a person who experiences love through the giving and receiving of gifts, you may think you got off easy. But be forewarned, these gift-lovers are not impressed by the amount of money you spend.

In this case, it truly is the thought that counts—how much thought did you put into this present? Is it tailored to their specific interests? Is it something you knew they would like? Upon receiving a gift, this person will view it as a symbol for how well you know them and what kind of message you were trying to send. On the bright side, a handmade card or a mixed CD can earn you more love points than an expensive piece of jewelry. As long as it was chosen with care, they will treasure it like it was worth a million bucks.

 

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At first glance, you probably have a good idea of what your primary love language is, but I’d caution against immediately assuming your partner’s. While the above boils down the languages themselves, the dialects (i.e. the way the languages are expressed) can vary from person to person. So instead of guessing and checking, I suggest you both take this quiz and discuss the results. Were they what you expected? How do they match up? And most importantly, how can you make sure you’re showing your partner the love they need?

To learn how to apply the love languages to your every day life, check out the next installment, “Now You’re Speaking My (Love) Language: Part 2”, coming soon! 

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