Love is a Decision, Not a Feeling!
When someone says ‘my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what does he or she want?”
One can theorized that each of these unhappy people had a dominant mode for experiencing love and wanted to experience it in that particular way. He also realized that those modes of emotional expression fell into five categories:
- Words of Affirmation (To be verbally acknowledged)
- Quality Time (To enjoy companionship)
- Receiving Gifts (To be given tokens of love)
- Acts of Service (To have their partners do tasks for them)
- Physical Touch (To be in contact via the body)
For anyone who has had a “lost in translation” moment when it comes to love, the concept is almost instantly clarifying. Aha, you think to yourself, I finally get why he’s always digging for compliments, why I just want to hang out together, and why neither of us ever feels understood.
Initially, the challenge is determining the other person’s chief love language, and perhaps identifying a strong secondary preference. After all, who doesn’t like all five on some level: praise, companionship, getting presents, getting help with tasks, and a nice hug?
Finding the dominant language is key, though, and worth a bit of trial and error. If your main love language is Quality Time and your partner neither spends much time with you nor touches you much, you’ll miss the companionship a lot more than the touch. And if your partner simply begins to happily hang out with you, you’ll feel like the whole relationship is back on the rails, even without more hugging.
To figure out another person’s primary emotional language, try a three-step approach:
First, look at how your partner most often expresses love to you and others. By volunteering for tasks? Speaking kind words? Finding or making thoughtful presents?
Second, what does he or she complain about most often? “You’re always telling that story that makes me sound dumb!” — affirmation trouble. “Why can’t you feed the cat once in a while?” — service complaint.
Third, what does he or she request most often? “Couldn’t we get away for a while, just the two of us?” “Would you give me a back rub?”
The same goes for discovering your own major love language: how you mainly express love, what you complain about, what you request. You can also use the process of elimination. Ask yourself, “If I had to give up one, which would it be?” and go down the list until you’re left with the last one you’re willing to relinquish.
One’s primary language seems to remain roughly the same through life, first appearing around age 3 via love-me-this-way signals like “Look at what I can do, Mommy!” (a request for Words of Affirmation) or a delight in making and giving small gifts. In the big transition of the teenage years, however, the way a parent speaks the love language of a son or daughter may have to change, from hugs and trips to the ice-cream parlor to pats on the back and attendance at soccer games.
Of course, if receiving gifts means little to you, it may be difficult for you to shower another person with presents. But remember, that speaking a partner’s love language is an act of — what else? — love, which is an escape from selfishness and calculation of cost-benefit. And love freely given prompts love in return.
SPEAKING LOVE: THE FIVE LANGUAGES
- WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
These are compliments and words of appreciation and encouragement directed at the other person. “You look so gorgeous in that blouse.” “I love how you’re always on time to pick me up.” “What a great daughter you are — helping your mom at your busiest time.” “You’ll make the business work — I know how determined you are.”
Words of Affirmation are not flattery designed to manipulate the other person. “The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love,” he notes. Words of Affirmation are true statements that you speak from the heart.
- QUALITY TIME
By ‘quality time’ it means giving someone your undivided attention. It doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and watching television together. Quality Time is time spent in real connection with the other person, making eye contact, and practicing attentive listening to what he or she is saying.
When you sit with your partner and give her 20 minutes of my undivided attention, and they do the same for you, each of you are giving each other 20 minutes of life. We will never have those 20 minutes again; we are giving our lives to each other. It is a powerful emotional communicator of love.
- RECEIVING GIFTS
In nearly every culture around the world, gift giving is part of the love-and-marriage process, and the most familiar symbols of this tradition are engagement and wedding rings. The wedded person whose primary love language is Receiving Gifts will often place a high value on his or her ring, perhaps never taking it off.
These gifts can be called “visual symbols of love,” and emphasize that the monetary value of the present is rarely an issue. You can buy, find, or make something for your loved one; it’s the thoughtfulness, and the intention behind the gesture, that means the most.
- ACTS OF SERVICE
This love language is based in the nitty-gritty routines of daily life. Making beds, changing diapers, taking out the trash — they’re not the glamorous gestures of romantic love, but for the person whose primary language is Acts of Service, they’re the bedrock of committed, mature love.
In learning to speak this love language, stereotypes can get in the way. For heterosexual couples, either party may tacitly believe that domestic chores are “women’s work,” depriving male partners of the opportunity to show love by helping with those tasks. Similarly, fixing the furnace may fall into the (anachronistically) off-limits category for women. Same-sex couples can run into a version of this scenario: Those chores are your responsibility and these are mine. Keep these stereotypes in mind, since helping out, no matter the task at hand, speaks volumes to the Acts of Service person.
- PHYSICAL TOUCH
“A lot of men think their main love language is Physical Touch because of their desire for sex,” “But that could just be their testosterone talking. Sexual contact is an important part of Physical Touch, but touch probably isn’t [men’s] main love language unless they also like back rubs, holding hands, and being hugged as an affirmation.” And that’s the keynote here: Nonsexual touch is the prime conveyor of love for “native speakers” of this language, and its absence can almost feel like abandonment.
LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE
Once we learn the main love language of our partners, lovers, friends, or children, we may be faced with resistance to “speaking” it for any number of reasons rooted in childhood traumas, buried resentments, or simple aversion.
Start with a simple and limited list of tasks you can do or help with. Make the most basic kind of card to give — maybe just a folded piece of paper with a heart on it and a simple declaration of love. Spend five minutes of quality time together and work up from there. Hold your partner’s hand on your evening walk. Sweep the kitchen floor.
Love is a decision, not a feeling
Making that decision daily, come what may, and supporting it imperfectly but sincerely, will help your relationships flourish.
Health and Wellness Associates