We've all heard it: communication is the key to success in relationships. Communication is an invaluable problem-solving tool, source of positive and constructive feedback, and outlet for essential thoughts and feelings. However, contrary to popular belief, communication isn't just verbal; we express appreciation and affection for our partners in varied forms. As a result, a lot of important messages get lost in translation, which sometimes leads to confusion and conflict.
In his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate," Gary Chapman outlined five "love languages," or tools of communication we might employ when expressing our love for our partner. These include physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. In a nutshell, Chapman theorized that we each communicate predominantly with one or two love languages, and generally only understand messages from our respective partners when told in our language, ignoring messages that they might be trying to convey in their language.
For example, Alex and Bailey, a hypothetical domestic couple, may express and understand affection differently. Alex likes to express love for Bailey by making Bailey's life easier through acts of service. Alex knows how tired Bailey is when Bailey returns from work, so Alex likes to surprise Bailey with Bailey's favorite meals and sometimes even does Bailey's laundry. Bailey communicates affection through words of affirmation.
Bailey, who appreciates all of Alex's help, assumes Alex is just a generous, helpful person. Bailey doesn't understand why Alex doesn't verbally express love as much as Bailey does, and Bailey begins to feel insecure and unappreciated. Equally, Alex doesn't understand why Bailey never does anything for Alex. From Alex's perspective, Bailey likes to say "I love you," but doesn't show it.
If you think you speak a different love language from your partner, don't be alarmed! This doesn't mean you're incompatible, so don't freak out and break up because some girl on the internet (me) cited a book and told you that your love languages don't line up. However, understanding the inconsistencies can certainly help improve your relationship in the long-term - at least when it comes to communication. You can accommodate your partner's love language by "speaking their language" and recognizing when they might be trying to communicate with you.
You can take a quiz to figure out your love language here.
What are the love languages and what do they mean? Read on to find out:
1. Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation is verbal affection. It quite literally means using words to affirm and encourage others and relying on words for encouragement. People who utilize this love language rely on hearing "I love you" and compliments to feel validated, and they love expressing their feelings verbally. Also, they are especially sensitive to verbal insults. If your partner predominantly relies on words of affirmation and talking about your feelings isn't necessarily your forté, make sure to verbally explain how you typically express affection. Also, make a point to verbally let your partner know that you appreciate them every once in a while.
2. Quality Time
Quality time refers to periods of undivided attention. People who utilize this love language crave spending one-on-one time with their partner. They express their love by trying to make plans with their partner and giving them their undivided attention. They can get offended when plans are cancelled or when their partner seems distracted (like when they're spending too much time on their phone). The perfect gift would be tickets to a concert, a couple's class, or another fun date. If your partner values quality time, make a conscious effort to schedule time for them in your calendar - just make sure to put your phone away!
Some people rely on tangible gifts to express affection and feel loved. This doesn't necessarily mean expensive jewelry or fancy clothes; small, meaningful tokens of affection are usually sufficient. To them, gifts of symbolic representations of your love. If your partner expresses love through gifts, let them know how much the gift means to you because they probably put a lot of thought into getting you the perfect gift. Also, you may have to put more effort into birthday and holiday gifts, but remember it's the thought that counts.
4. Physical Touch
Some prefer to express their love physically, be it through PDA or intimacy. To them, physical affection is validation; it serves as a reminder that they're loved and desired. If you like to go out of your way to hold hands and kiss your partner to remind them of how much they mean to you, this is probably you. If this sounds like your partner, make sure to greet them with a big kiss next time you see them if you want to make them feel special!
5. Acts of Service
Acts of service refer to the completion of nice favors and errands to make your partner's life a little easier. Does your partner offer to drop you off at work, pick up food for you, or fix your broken printer? Does your partner do favors for you without asking? Your partner is probably trying to tell you that you mean a lot to them. Make sure you return the favor every once in a while to make sure they feel like it's reciprocated.
Note: remember that traits of all of these languages are important for relationships - some people just utilize certain languages more than others. By including a balance of all of these languages and paying attention to when and how your partner might be trying to communicate with you, you will master communication in your relationship.