Unfortunately, I somewhat recently ended a relationship that wasn’t going the right direction. While I keep most of those facts and stats pretty private, it feels beneficial to share some of the tips and tricks, learning and mishaps that I’ve experienced while dating in my early 30s.
This guy was a true gem, in all the right ways. A good person, attractive, well-established career, great family, but unfortunately (at a very high level) our goals and what we were looking for in a relationship just didn’t align.
Now dating again, thankfully somewhat out of the confines of COVID (don’t worry, I’m still very germ-aware), I was recently reminded of the concept of love languages and how they can really make or break a relationship. In my experience, I’ve found that you can tell pretty quickly what somebody’s love language might be by the way they reciprocate care towards you. Being able to communicate what you need to “hear” and, more specifically, how you need to “hear” it in a way that speaks to you seems to help a relationship blossom more naturally, opening the path towards open, careful listening and related action.
Also, if you think you naturally gravitate towards one love language or took the related test at some point in the past (test linked at the bottom of the page), I’d highly recommend taking it again. I’ve personally found that my love languages shift slightly across the years, perhaps based on life circumstance and underlying values.
Now I’m going to toss it over to Bridgett Early of “O Magazine” who shared a perfect synopsis of each love language and what they might mean for us as individuals and within a relationship.
It takes more than the occasional great date to keep your relationship afloat. In fact, Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, says the key to a lasting relationship is learning love languages.
Don’t worry, though—the concept of love languages is actually quite simple. There are five of them, each describing an expression of—you guessed it—love. The key, according to Chapman, is discovering which love language you and your partner respond to the most, then regularly putting that into practice.
What are the five Love Languages?
Words of Affirmation
These are verbal expressions of care and affection. Think: “Thanks for putting the kids to bed” or “You looked really nice today.” Conversely, insults can be particularly upsetting to people who favor words of affirmation.
Tangible and intangible items that make you feel appreciated or noticed. Going to your partner’s concert, for example, is as much of a gift as flowers or that new wine decanter you want. To individuals who favor this love language, the absence of everyday gestures or a missed special occasion are particularly hurtful.
Acts of Service
Doing something helpful or kind for your partner. Think: Waking up with the baby in the middle of the night or doing the dishes so your partner can relax. For someone who favors acts of service, ambivalence or a lack of support are more damaging than anything else.
Engaging in an activity together, particularly one you both enjoy, like a walk after dinner or watching Songland with a platter of nachos. If this is your love language, having a distracted or distant partner that makes you feel unseen or unheard is the biggest pitfall.
Physical expressions of love, whether sexual or more platonic, such as holding hands, a back scratch, a hug, a kiss, or intercourse. The absence of such can leave these individuals feeling isolated in a relationship.
Here’s how to identify your love language.
“Knowing your love language can be one of the single most important things in a relationship,” says Robin R. Milhausen, PhD, Associate Chair, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. “Without this knowledge you can miss that your partner is being loving and caring.” Unfortunately, this can result in a vicious cycle of resentment that can ultimately lead to divorce or a breakup.
If you really care and respect your partner, take the time to acquaint yourself with your love language and theirs, says Milhausen. With this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to meet your partner’s emotional needs.
Start by thinking about how you like to give and receive love, says Milhausen. Ask yourself: When I want to show affection, how do I do it? Do you cook a really nice meal? Or maybe you send an appreciative text or buy concert tickets. Often, the way you express love can provide clues about what kind of love you most appreciate, says Milhausen.
Next, think about what makes you feel most loved and cared for. Do you feel closest to your partner when they do something helpful, or do you crave physical touch? Dig deep by thinking back to all your past relationships—both romantic and otherwise, says Milhausen.
You can also take this 10- to 15-minute quiz to help pinpoint your primary love language. And, once you do, communicate your results to your partner to help them better understand what makes you feel appreciated.