Learn how to recognize what makes your partner feel appreciated
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How do you communicate your love for others? How do others communicate their love for you? We give our love to family, friends, and those in need, but many times they can fail to feel our love because we don’t effectively communicate. Why? The way in which we wish we were loved is the way in which we tend to love others, even when others can’t recognize our style of loving.
Let’s take Amy, for instance. She is a woman who loves her husband dearly. She tries to demonstrate her intense level of love by showing him little acts of kindness—doing his laundry, ironing his dress shirts, and hanging them up in his closet. She often packs his lunch for him and picks all his favorite foods. She always has a hot meal on the table when he comes home from work. She even helps him in the yard on the weekends. However, Amy feels like her love goes unnoticed. Her husband, while he loves her, does not say thank-you for the many things Amy does for him, and at times he even comments, “Do you really love me?” Amy was baffled by these comments until she read the book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman.
In his book about the five love languages, Gary Chapman writes about how we tend to love others in the way we want to be loved ourselves. Amy was communicating love to her husband in a style she recognized, but that did not fulfill her husband’s needs. She was showing him her love in the way she wished he would show his love for her—by acts of service. Chapman lists five different ways we can show our love to others: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
1. Words of affirmation
Communicating love through words of affirmation means telling people how much we appreciate them and how important they are to us. These words let people know they are loved and supported. When you give verbal compliments and encouragement, you are helping another person to experience your kindness. Furthermore, being humble and asking instead of demanding when you would like someone to do something for you goes a long way for someone who enjoys words of affirmation. Lastly, writing little love notes or encouraging letters verifies your love with someone who likes words of affirmation.
2. Quality time
Spending time with others is the second love language. What you are doing with the person you love does not matter as much as the fact that you are doing it together. Giving your undivided attention is important so the other person feels like the center of your world during the moments you are spending together. Furthermore, listening for the other person’s feelings in conversation is important; it communicates that you are truly listening intently to what the other is sharing with you. When you think about what kinds of activities the other person would enjoy doing with you, and then organize those activities, you are expressing love in a way that person will understand and feel.
3. Receiving gifts
We can communicate our love by giving gifts to others, either material presents or the gift of ourselves. Even a little note in a person’s lunch bag is felt deeply. If you give the gift of yourself, your presence will be cherished as a sign of your love. Bringing home a small, “perfect” gift when you were out shopping all day or while out of town for work or vacation is a great way to give a gift of love.
4. Acts of service
When you serve others by completing chores or activities for them, you are practicing the fourth love language, acts of service. Completing work for another person makes that person feel a sense of companionship, and he or she experiences the joy of a lighter workload. Accomplishing jobs that you are not asked to do—or even hiring a handyman to fix little things around the house—are all ways you can demonstrate your love. The more you are able to do these tasks with love and without complaint, the more your love will be felt.
5. Physical touch
The fifth love language is demonstrated when you affectionately touch someone to show your love. Communicating through physical touch involves small gestures of affection, such as holding someone’s hand, putting your arm around a person, or giving a hug. Providing physical comfort when someone is upset, crying, or in crisis is especially important in love communication. These little signs of love will be felt more deeply when you initiate them. Reaching out to hold someone’s hand when you are walking through the parking lot at church is a great way to show your desire to love through affectionate touch.
Let’s go back to Amy. After reading about the five love languages, Amy learned that her husband’s primary love language was words of affirmation. So, while Amy continued to provide acts of service for her husband, mainly because it made her feel good about herself, she also began speaking encouraging words to him. She often thanked him for all he did for her. She began saying “I love you” before he left for work each day and again when he returned home. She made a point of complimenting his strong work ethic, his accomplishments at work, and his performance when serving others. Her husband started thanking Amy for the many tasks she performed for him and stopped asking if she really loved him. In fact, he began to feel more confident and secure in himself. He felt so good about himself and their marriage that he also learned about the love languages so that he could show Amy his intense love for her.
Loving others, not only in the love language we understand best but also in the love languages they appreciate, is important. The five love languages can be applied to any relationship, not just marriage. When people feel loved, they become more secure and confident, and their desire to love others increases.
The next time you are feeling as though someone does not appreciate your loving gestures, stop to consider how he or she might want to be loved. See if expressing your love in a different love language gets a different response and strengthens your relationship. No matter which love language you choose to use, let your love be genuine, and let it shine like the sun.
* If you are interested in learning more about the five love languages, read Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, and check out this video.
* If you find yourself thinking that it is difficult to express love for others in any of these “languages,” or you find it difficult to allow yourself to be truly loved, Hiding from Love: How to Change the Withdrawal Patterns That Isolate and Imprison You by John Townsend can be a helpful book. This book shows people how to leave behind the patterns of isolation that make it difficult to express and feel love.
Dr. Lisa Klewickiis a licensed clinical psychologist with degrees in clinical psychology and theology. She has appeared as a guest on Relevant Radio’s On Call program. She maintains a psychotherapy practice in Falls Church, Virginia. This article was published in Catholic Digest and is reprinted here with permission.