Several years ago I read a bestselling book called The 5 Love Languages that dramatically changed my view on relationships. In the book, author Gary Chapman posits that human beings express (show) and experience (feel) love in 5 main ways: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.
So, while some of us feel loved when acts of service or devotion are performed for us, others prefer to experience love through quality time spent with loved ones.
Out of the 5 different ways, Chapman explains that each individual has only one primary and one secondary way of experiencing love. Yes, the other 3 love languages may be welcome (who doesn’t love kind words (affirmation) and intimacy (physical touch)?), but it is only the primary and secondary love languages that truly make an individual feel loved.
He therefore argues that in relationships, you shouldn’t use the love languages that you like the most on your partner. Instead, you should use the love languages that your loved one can receive. In other words, never assume that your partner receives love the same way that you do. We are all different. Find out what makes your partner feel loved, then do it.
This book blew my mind! I had never thought about what specific things make me feel loved, and how those might differ from my partner’s.
My boyfriend at the time expressed love towards me primarily through acts of service e.g. running errands on my behalf, and wonder why I would still seem unsatisfied with him at times. It was simply not my love language! Similarly, I learned that although words of affirmation are not very important to me, they were a very big part of how he received love.
That book grew my maturity in the context of relationships dramatically. I realized how important it is to understand and acknowledge your emotional needs as well as those of your partner. I also realized that this learning – of each other and self – takes time and openness.
My love languages are quality time and physical touch. Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts too (keep em’ coming, please!) but my absolute mandatories in any relationship are quality time and physical touch. Without those, I waste away and the relationship will not survive.
Unraveling the emotional complexities of someone else can be challenging! You might find that you have to adjust the way you love in order to love them better. You might be shocked to realize that it’s not all about you (haiya!). You might even get to a crossroads of your burgeoning relationship where you determine that the two of you are just fundamentally incompatible and call it quits!
Whether or not you’re in a relationship though, taking the time to reflect and discover how you best receive love i.e. what your love language is, is still a worthwhile introspective exercise. Because ultimately, knowing beforehand what you need in any relationship is a great first step to getting what you want out of it.