Different people express love differently. They also tend to crave those same expressions of love from their partners, and often find themselves disappointed.
In Dr. Chapman’s best-selling book, The Five Love Languages (over 7 million copies have been sold since it debuted in 1992), the now-73-year-old Southern Baptist pastor and author identifies five primary ways that we tend to express, and consequently interpret, love:
Words of Affirmation : Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you; insults can leave you shattered and deeply hurt.
Quality Time : Really being present (TV off, fork and knife down, all chores and tasks on standby) makes you feel truly special and loved; distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen are especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts : The perfect gift or gesture makes you feel seen and cared for; a missed birthday, anniversary, a hasty or thoughtless gift, or the absence of everyday gestures make you feel lonely and hurt.
Acts of Service : Easing your burden of responsibilities speaks to you above all else; laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for you make you feel your feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch : Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face make you feel loved and cared for; their absence leaves a gaping hole; neglect or abuse is unforgivable and destructive.
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Identifying and recognizing that partners speak different “languages of love” allows us to think about our relationships in new ways.
- We can begin to notice that our partner — whom we may have come to believe is totally neglectful in expressing love and caring — is indeed doing so, but in ways that are more difficult for us to notice or take in.
- At the same time, each partner can work at becoming more attuned to the “love language needs” of the other. This requires a good deal of pushing beyond our comfort zones, and expanding the ways in which we convey affection and connection.