We can often feel that we are not “on the same page” as our partners, or that our friendships don’t seem fulfilling or that we can’t understand our kids. It can be difficult to pinpoint where things dissolve or what can be done to salvage relationships. Especially right now, when we are all so disconnected from others physically, open, active communication is key to maintaining our strong relationships.
In the book, the 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman breaks down how relationships can experience challenges based on how one best receives messages of love. He identifies five “Love Languages,” Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch and Quality Time. The notion is that, while your partner may be attempting to show you that they love in one way, that might not be a way that makes you feel loved, so the attempt does not make you feel more connected to them. Dr. Chapman has since expanded the concept to singles, teens and children.
There are some quick, easy quizzes on “the 5 Love Languages” website where one can identify their own preferred Love Languages and your partner (or teen) can take the same quiz and the two of you can compare. These can be good conversation starters with your partner, teen or friends for recognizing your needs and being able to communicate those to others.
For example, your partner comes home with a necklace they bought you for Valentines Day. You made them a nice dinner and wrote them a meaningful message in a card. You then notice yourself getting frustrated and irritated with your partner and you can’t understand why. Your partner gets upset that you aren’t more impressed by the necklace that they spent time choosing for you that they thought you would love. If you were aware that your love language is Quality Time, you might identify that you didn’t want jewelry, instead, it would have been more meaningful if your partner had spent the same money on a night away. If your partner’s Love Language is Receiving Gifts, they might not recognize why someone might not appreciate being given a gift. This can lead to both partners feeling slighted and less connected to one another.
In examples like this, considering Love Languages may help you and your partner, friend or teen avoid emotional missteps and feel more understood.
In similar situations, we encourage you to pause and take time to be curious and determine what is happening to make you feel negatively about the other person. Try asking yourself the following questions:
- What am I telling myself about their actions?
- What meaning am I putting on their behavior?
- What did I truly need or want to happen in that moment?
- What was their intention behind the behavior?
- Is there another way of looking at the situation?
We often get caught up in negative emotions and strong feelings, which can then lead to disagreements and miscommunications with others. By taking the time to pause and reflect in the moment and do homework regarding identifying our needs (such as taking the 5 Love Languages quiz), we can be better equipped to articulate these needs to others and ideally have stronger relationships.