For most of my youth, I was riddled with anxiety and frustration, which would later become unleashed towards my intimate partners, wanting them to ‘read my mind’ on what it was that I needed. I complained that I could intuitively feel that something was missing, but I struggled with my ability to pinpoint what it was. When I came across the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, the lightbulb went on.
Let me just clarify that it is crucial to fill up our own tank first before we seek the love we crave from our partners. We must have a full tank ourselves, otherwise, we’re asking someone else to fulfill us completely, which is neither possible nor fair. I do believe we choose partners whom we desire to be tender and loving with our wounds, which are what create our preferred Love Language to begin with. Our partners help us in our journey to becoming more whole and spiritual. True spirituality consists of everything in life being our mirror, and our relationships reflect our truest selves back to us!
The 5 Love Languages
The Love Languages are universal in all relationships, but we’ll focus on intimate ones today. We all identify strongest with one Love Language; however, all the languages are present in our lives. The distinction is recognizing the one that is most significant, and without it, would be difficult in fully receiving the other languages. You often also identify with a close secondary one.
Gary Chapman's book is brilliant in breaking down the various ways in which we express and receive love. See which of the following resonates the most with you:
1. Words of Affirmation express verbal appreciation and admiration for a partner. This may include speaking fondly of your partner in the presence of friends (which is a big one for people that identify strongest with this language) and other statements of affection.
2. Physical Touch can involve hand-holding, long warm hugs, sexual intimacy, and even sitting in close proximity with a loved one. In my experience of working with children, soft physical touch such as rubbing their upper back was very soothing while the child was experiencing a tantrum or uncomfortable emotions.
Within intimate relationships, someone with physical touch as their main Love Language may want to hold hands even in the middle of an argument as a soothing way to stay engaged and connected. In my experience with working with men as well as within my own intimate relationships, there is a strong resonance for men with this love language. So many men I have spoken with feel safe to be able to express their love and tenderness through physical touch as their way of expressing themselves. This is not so surprising as it has generally been massively discouraged for most men to fully feel safe expressing their feelings.
3. Quality Time involves doing activities together where both partners are engaged, present and connected. (This one is my personal Love Language! It is very painful for me to be with a partner and not feel his energy as present and genuinely caring toward me.) However, simply being in the same room with one's partner does not satisfy someone who resonates with this Love Language. It involves designating specific time to connect deeply and joyfully with one another.
4. Acts of Service is the language of someone who greatly appreciates kind acts, such as planning events, participating in chores, or supporting you with a project. If you have ever adoringly watched your partner in deep admiration while they do your dishes or vacuum your floor, then this is probably your Love Language!
5. Gifts can be in the form of material objects and has a deeper layer than might first come to your mind. A handwritten card, an engraved piece of jewelry, or sentimental teddy bear all have deep meaning in this category. A small present can mean the world. What is important, though, is the thought that goes behind the giving, not merely the object itself—a very important distinction.
You may feel indecisive in deciding on your own Love Language. I went back and forth for a long time until it became clear, not to mention experienced many frustrated arguments trying to figure it out!
What I am inviting you to do is simply be present in your intimate interactions with your partner and pay close attention to the specific moments that touch you the most from their behavior.
What are they doing?
What are you experiencing?
What is sincerely stirring your heart from their actions?
Ask your partner to pay attention to the way that you like to give most – often, that’s the same way we prefer to receive it!
And don’t forget to have fun! I can't tell you how liberating and exciting it is to be able to see yourself in a deeper way and then to be able to articulate what it is that you need.
~How wonderful to fill up our own lives and then create space to show up more deeply for our loved ones ~