Love Language Differences In Relationships Aren’t Easy To Deal With, But These 5 Adjustments Can Help
You may have heard of the five love languages, the theory that we all express and interpret love differently. The concept, created by Dr. Gary Chapman, a former pastor who, through his decades of marriage counseling, deduced that everyone has a love language. According to him, they are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
All of these terms are pretty self-explanatory, but Dr. Chapman's theory suggests that compatibility between love languages can help determine your relationship's chance at a long-term future. For example, if you express love by leaving love notes around your apartment (words of affirmation), while your partner prefers to show love through quality time, you might not feel like your emotional needs are being met (even though both of you are expressing your love for the other in your own ways).
“People do not need to speak the same love language to succeed as a couple, rather they need to understand the love language their significant other speaks," senior matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin tells Bustle. "That is not easy; it not only requires understanding the person and how they are different from you, but that what is important to them is different from what is important to you and being able to separate your wants and needs from theirs ... If it happens to be you speak the same love language, that is significantly easier!”
But the problem is if you're someone who thinks this love language thing is a whole boatload of absurd, but you're with someone who adamantly believes that love languages are an important part of every relationship. Then, you might find yourself in a pickle.
"For many of us, we often don't know effective ways of expressing love to our partners or dealing with disagreements and disappointments," Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition, tells Bustle. "The love language books fortify empathy, understanding, appreciation, and caring — all good things IF you have made a wise choice of partner. And that's a very big IF." In other words, figuring out you and your partner's love languages — and if your feelings on them are aligned — can help you figure out whether you and your partner can work for the long haul.
So can someone who scoffs at love languages be with someone who 100 percent believes in them? It depends on how adamant and flexible each of you are. Here are five ways you and your partner an explore that whole love language thing.
1. You May Need To Examine Your Past
Because being able to understand what your love language is is based so deeply on who you are, in every way, shape, and form, it involves some serious psychological self-examination. Not everyone is willing to do that in general, let alone to discover what their love language is.
"[In order to deal with the difference], you must be able and willing to withstand psychological self-examination and the emotional pain of learning about you, your caregivers and your caregivers' upbringing," Dr. Wish says. "It is no picnic to delve into your unhappiness and to assess your behavior. You weren't hatched — so your childhood, parents, and other issues have a powerful impact on you."
If your love language is acts of service, you need to figure out why that's the case. Why is it that you express and interpret love by, for example, by lending a helping hand to your partner and expecting them to do the same? What were the circumstances that brought you to this being a sign of love for you?
"Psychological self-examination is a tough road," Dr. Wish says, "but once you get through that bottleneck, the prize is happiness and freedom to be your best you — even if it conflicts with how your family thinks and values."
2. You May Need To Rock The Boat With Your Family
As Dr. Wish says, your past, which of course includes your family, plays a huge role in who you are today. For some, to dig deep and unravel what you were taught, and how you were raised in terms of how you express and receive love based on that, can be tough.
"You must also be willing, if necessary, to go against your family or origin's rules and values," Dr. Wish says. "You need to know that you might risk feeling emotionally abandoned by your family members who regard you as a rebel who exposes their problems."
In evaluating how and why your love language is receiving gifts, for example, it could mean being deeper in touch with your family's relationship to gifting (which might change, for example, the way you celebrate holidays together). You're born into families; you don't get to choose them. Because of this, you don't always get off scot-free when it comes to the people who raise you.
3. You May Need To Be More In Touch With Your Emotions
Not everyone wants to dive into their emotions and feel all their feelings, and that's fine! You're under no obligation to do so. But to learn what your love language is, you need to wrap yourself up in your emotions and explore them. If your love language is quality time, maybe it's because you're hungry for quality time because you didn't have it much growing up. Or maybe that's how your family expressed their love, so it's familiar to you.
"You must also be able to be highly aware of your emotions, fears, behavior, and tendencies to choose partners who 'fit' into your family," Dr. Wish says. "And the flip side of that coin of love is that you 'over-correct' your choice of partner who is too opposite of your family."
4. You Might Examine How You Are In Your Relationship
For some, love languages carry a lot of weight, and it's those people who rely on them when things aren't going smoothly in their relationship.
Dr. Wish suggests you ask yourself what it is about your partner that makes you fall in love with them, why are you with them, and what reasons got you into this relationship. If their love language is physical touch and they constantly need cuddling, kissing, and hugging, how is that working out for you?
"Make sure that you 'Like-the-You-Who-is-You' in your relationship," Dr. Wish says. That's an important factor and something that doesn't necessarily come from knowledge of love languages.
5. You May Need To Agree To Disagree
While you can try these ways of understanding your and your partner's love languages, sometimes it's best to cut to the chase. As Dr. Wish says, you can try to make sense of love languages if your relationship needs something extra, but even in mastering love languages, there's no assurance that your relationship is good for you.
"How could that be? Well, you might be able to be kind, helpful, and caring to each other — but still realize that this person is not a good match for you," Dr. Wish says.
Conversely, you and your partner can agree to be mindful of the difference in your love languages. Maybe your partner isn't going to cuddle up next to you on the couch, but they will clean the entire kitchen without being asked and that's definitely something. It's about finding a happy medium so you can have a healthy and happy relationship.
Ultimately, it is true that people love differently. But just because your partner can assign themselves a love language (through an online test) and stand by this belief, doesn't mean you can do the same, should do the same, or that it's a saving grace for relationships. The best part about relationships is that you have two separate entities who have come together to create a partnership. Great relationships don't necessarily mean you have to be on the same page about everything and believing in love languages is perfect example of that.