‘If I am speaking to you in German, and professing my undying love for you, if you do not also speak German, my words will have no impact on you’, says Savannah Steinberg, a Cape Town-based relationship coach. ‘We each have a specific way in which we receive love, and normally, we assume our partner receives love in that way too.’
But they don’t. If after showing love, your partner doesn’t respond the way you wish they would, you can both end up feeling you’re trying so hard and doing so much but nothing you do makes a difference, which leads to resignation and resentment. Dr Gary Chapman, an internationally recognised relationship counsellor and author of the book The Five Love Languages (Northfield Publishing), has written about the importance of being able to express love to your partner in a way they can understand. He calls this using the five love languages.
Take Dr Chapman’s 30-second assessment, which he uses on his website FiveLoveLanguages.com, and find out which love language you speak. Which sentence do you agree with most?
Love Language #1: I feel loved when the people I love show they are grateful for the things I have done for them, even the small things.
Love Language #2: I feel loved when the people I love give me small gifts that show they are thinking of me.
Love Language #3: I feel loved when the people I love make the effort to spend a lot of one-on-one time with me and give me all their attention.
Love Language #4: I feel loved when the people I love do things to help me, especially when it’s done out of their own accord.
Love Language #5: I feel loved when the people I love give me physical attention, such as a hug or kiss.
Now find the corresponding love languages below:
Love Language #1: WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Everyone likes to receive a compliment or hear encouraging words once in a while, but to feel loved you need to hear ‘I love you’ every day.
If this is your man’s language… Use words that inspire and encourage, says Steinberg. ‘These can be in the forms of verbal compliments "You look gorgeous today" or "You are the best" or words of encouragement where you applaud him for how he is dealing with things.’
Love Language #2: RECEIVING GIFTS
Receiving even the smallest gift, it doesn’t have to be expensive, sends a message of love to you.
If this is your man’s language… Give of yourself. ‘The gift of self is an important symbol of love,’ says Steinberg. ‘Sometimes all your partner desires is for you to be there for them, going through the same trials and experiencing the same things. Your body can become a very powerful physical symbol of love.’
Love Language #3: QUALITY TIME
You feel loved when you spend time with the people you love, have in-depth conversations or even just play fun games together.
If this is your man’s language… Steinberg suggests you share experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. ‘Giving your partner your focused attention is a powerful emotional communicator of love. Quality conversation is very important in a healthy relationship.’
Love Language #4: ACTS OF SERVICE
You need your loved ones to put aside their personal wants and selfish ambitions, and help you with your daily responsibilities.
If this is your man’s language… Do things he would like you to do for him. ‘It is important to do these acts of service out of love and from your heart and not obligation, and also that you find the gestures that would make the most impact to your partner,’ says Steinberg. ‘Examples could be making coffee or tea in the morning, or taking the car to get fixed when there is a flat tyre, doing the laundry or making dinner. Here it’s not so much about what a man’s role is or what a woman’s role is, but doing things for your partner that help them.’
Love Language #5: PHYSICAL TOUCH
You want your loved one to literally touch you as an expression of their love.
If this is your man’s language… Steinberg says you need to discover how your partner not only physically responds, but also psychologically responds to your touches, and where he wishes to be touched and how. ‘So it may mean being stroked on the legs, rubbing his back, giving him a shoulder massage to touch and connect with him, and it is about finding out what works best for him. Physical touch is a powerful communicator of love. Sexual intercourse makes many partners feel secure and loved in their relationship, however, it is only one aspect of physical touch.’
Learning your partner’s love language can significantly improve your relationship, but you need to put these specific behavioural steps into practice.