We all seek to feel understood by the people we are close to. We express ourselves and absorb information in unique ways, but they are all with the goal of connection. We often feel that we are being very clear because we communicate in ways that make sense to us. It can be difficult to remember that we have our point of view, influenced by everything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, as well as some of our inherent personality traits and behavioral preferences. When trying to connect and communicate with a partner, these different styles can become a major factor in how successful we are.
There are 5 Love Languages described by Gary Chapman that help us understand and communicate how people like to receive and express love in a relationship. Knowing your partner’s love language and sharing yours with them can help you foster a relationship that makes you both feel loved and appreciated. It can also help you have perspective when you feel disconnected or confused about something being communicated to you or your partner’s response to something you are communicating to them.
What are Love Languages?
Does it sometimes feel like you and your partner are speaking different languages? Maybe you are! We see examples of this often providing couples therapy here at our Woodland Hills practice. Your love language can tell you how you experience love in a romantic relationship. There are five love languages observed and written about by Gary Chapman: words of affirmation, acts of service, gift giving, quality time, and physical touch. Learning more about your partner’s love language can strengthen your relationship and help you attend to their needs more effectively. Knowing your love language(s) can help you to ask for what you need and want in your relationship. You may also find that you have a love language you “speak” (as in the ways you show your love) that is different from the language you “understand” (as in the ways you feel that love is demonstrated to you), or some combination. You might enjoy quality time and want to prioritize it for both your sake, but then also enjoy giving gifts but not receiving them. You might prefer to have your partner communicate their affection through physical touch or acts of service. All of it is valid, provided you can be open and honest about your needs and receptive to your partner’s needs as well.
3 Ways Your Love Language Influences Your Communication Style
1) It can strengthen the connection and friendship in your relationship:
In their research, The Gottman Institute found that solid friendship is a great indicator of a long-term relationship. In a relationship, the work of cultivating friendship through what they call “rituals of connection” pays off as you and your partner remain connected and experience space and safety to grow and explore. These rituals of connection are done intentionally and can be experienced through physical choices (hugs and kisses, for example), verbal habits (a conversation about the other person’s scheduled day ahead before leaving in the morning), quality time (making sure to eat supper together), or anything that makes you feel close to your partner and aware of their state of mind. But by utilizing your love language and knowing your partner’s, you can maintain that friendship connection in your relationship, as well as curate rituals of connection for you both to enjoy.
If your love language is Gift Giving, for example, this is a ritual of connection that involves time for yourself and time for your partner. It begins with the thought of the gift, whether you make an intentional plan to go find something specific or see something that inspires you. From there, you carefully choose a tangible gift that can represent your relationship and seek it out. Finally, the act of giving the gift involves your partner receiving and experiencing it. All of this is an investment of your thoughts, time, and energy. It’s not about the financial expenditure, which can be whatever makes the most sense for you in your situation. It’s about everything that goes into it. You can also utilize Gift Giving to come up with adventures to go on together. Sharing new and fun experiences is a great way to maintain a friendship in your relationship.
If you find that you like providing and receiving Acts of Service, do for your partner what you would like to be done for you. Doing so can set an example for how you’d like to be treated and create a new standard in your relationship. This also means you share with your partner if you don’t feel your efforts are reciprocated. Your partner may not be an Acts of Service person by nature. They may be more of a Words of Affirmation person who is happy to cheer you on when you succeed and thanks you beautifully for all you do for them. Too often, we want our partner to be our “perfect match” in every way; to have certain things in common with us, and also have the exact differences that complement us. In actuality, none of our relationships are like this; it’s impossible. Our friendship with our partner allows us to see them as unique individual just like we are, who is doing their best to be on our side and understand us. We can help them out because we care about them rather than seeing what we are giving as a sacrifice of some kind.
2) Improves communication and conflict resolution skills:
Knowing your love language allows you to provide a road map to your partner, and knowing your partner’s love language provides the same to you. You can utilize your love language to communicate with your partner, support your partner, and help you both recover after tough times or conflicts. The truth is that no relationship will be without disputes, arguments, misunderstandings, and bumpy times. In fact, a relationship with zero arguments is actually cause for caution. What matters is how your communication enables you to avoid unnecessary disagreements and/or confusion and how you can recover when you go through something challenging to deal with.
If your love language is Quality Time, you may find that it works in your favor. Quality time provides us with access to our partners. Communication isn’t about sending a text message here and there to update where you are or what you had for lunch, though those daily details can certainly add to strong communication. True communication is both verbal and non-verbal; being in the same space and paying close attention to one another is the best way to deepen your understanding. The basis of quality time stems from giving your partner your undivided attention. By doing so, you can show them how important they are to you and that nothing will distract you from them. This is how partners can feel seen and understood; it’s hard for a bad day to go unnoticed if you’re paying attention. It’s hard to miss that you’ve hurt your partner’s feelings if you’re making a point to watch and speak to them. This doesn’t mean that Quality Time takes the place of speaking up for yourself and being honest when something is wrong. But it provides an environment where you are more likely to feel that open communication is the best way to go.
Quality time doesn’t only facilitate conversations. It facilitates coming together to nurture one another and heal after a tough time. If you’ve butted heads about something small, a quick date or just sitting down with tea and unpacking the situation can make a world of difference. If you’ve been through more of a trial or are going through something challenging (like job loss, family illness, or a stressful life decision), taking time away from that to be together and share experiences can make the situation more bearable. It shows your partner that you are invested in connecting with them and in continuing to strengthen your bond in the relationship.
A love language like Words of Affirmation is a stellar method of communication and a secret weapon in conflict resolution. Encouraging and affirmative verbal communication demonstrates love and improves our brain functioning by increasing cognitive reasoning and activating the motivational centers of the brain. If you find it easy to cheer your partner on, tell your partner what you like about them, and communicate what aspect(s) of the relationship makes you the happiest and mean the most to you, your partner is in a perfect position to absorb how you feel and understand you. You can also rest assured that you have been direct about your feelings. If your partner isn’t as verbose as you are, it may take some practice on their part to remember to communicate their feelings and affection. It may never come naturally to them, and a different love language may always be their go-to. But being able to vocalize ongoing appreciation, approval, and comfort helps to subvert emotional hiccups, as well as making resolution easier when necessary, so this is a great tool to have!
3) Repairs each other’s attachment wounds:
In trusting relationships, there is also an opportunity for corrective experiences. If, in the past, you have experienced abandonment, criticism, betrayal, or just general poor communication and avoidance of emotions, you can experience healthy communication, resolution of conflict, dependable support, and a safe environment to express emotions. You may have received these attachment wounds in your family of origin or with previous romantic partners and be able to heal in your current relationship through the expression of love languages.
Let’s be clear; it is no one’s job to “fix” you. Taking responsibility for yourself and your healing is paramount to overcoming past hurt and harm. But a strong partner can create an environment in which you feel safe to be vulnerable. When it coincides with personal work, this emotional support can be incredibly restorative.
You may find that you gravitate towards whatever love language you didn’t receive in the past or that those feel foreign at first. Working through how you feel about each love language can also help you come to terms with what you had to content with in the past. If you were maligned or told you weren’t good enough by your parent, for example, you might feel uncomfortable with Words of Affirmation at first but then grow to experience them as a healing medicine for your inner child. If your last partner never made one-on-one time for you, you might discover that Quality Time becomes your highest priority in your new relationship. You may have gone your whole life without being partnered with someone whose love language is Acts of Service, and in experiencing it for the first time, you realize it means the world to you to have help or even just have someone around who is willing to help.
Physical touch can establish and strengthen your romantic relationships and take them to another level, whether that touching is sexual in nature or not. Non-sexual physical touch is a way to create closeness with your partner throughout the day and to establish both physical and emotional intimacy. A hug, for example, can reduce blood pressure and stress and increase oxytocin (the “love” chemical) if it lasts for at least twenty seconds. What can seem like a simple gesture, such as hand-holding or resting your hand on your partner’s leg when you’re sitting together on the couch, can go a long way to making your partner feel particularly present with you. It is a simple message: “I know you’re here. I can feel you.” Being physically connected to your partner can stave off feelings of isolation that might have been used against you in the past.
This habit can also aid in conflict resolution, as physical affection makes it easier to resolve issues within your relationship. If you never touch, then a hug after a fight isn’t necessarily going to feel familiar and comforting; however, if it is normal and natural to embrace your partner, that will translate in the tough times, too.
Knowing your and your partner’s love language is a great starting point toward fostering mutual nurture, respect, support, and communication. Love languages are a tool for connection and understanding you can revisit as needed. Enjoy your love language, and enjoy your partner’s! Don’t be afraid to let yourself evolve; you may find that you change your mind about how to express best your love and care or how to receive the same from your partner. That’s a perfectly natural part of life, and one of the positive outcomes of all interpersonal relationships is growth and new experiences. When you take the time to learn how your love language influences your communication style, you are in a great position to connect on a deeper, more vulnerable, and more rewarding level.
Couples Therapy at Embracing You Therapy
You are not alone if you are feeling unhappy or alone in your couple’s relationship! All relationship starts with a shared interest and attractiveness, but throughout the relationship, there can be changes to the season where there are conflicts, disconnection, and sadly betrayal; here at our practice in Woodland Hills, CA, Couple’s Therapy is about identifying where things went wrong and turning towards each other with empathy, curiosity and long-lasting solutions to help you and your partner be more vulnerable, emotionally open, and flexible.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.