What Your Spouse Needs to Feel Loved: Understanding The 5 Love Languages
During our first 2 years together, my husband and I found ourselves having the same conversation over and over. And it always ended with us (okay, usually me) in tears and both of us reassuring one another that we really did love each other.
The problem was that we were having a hard time adjusting to the other’s love language.
(Even though most of the drama is over, this is something we are constantly working to improve!)
You might be experiencing some difficulty speaking each other’s love language if:
You feel like you’re spinning your wheels trying to connect with your spouse and make them feel loved. You’re discouraged because no matter how hard you try, it seems even your best efforts seem to fall flat.
You’re confused about why you feel emotionally “empty”, because logically, everything in your relationship seems to be going so well! It’s obvious they love you, but somehow, you don’t quite feel loved. You feel dissatisfied, and disconnected.
Your idea of what qualifies as “meaningful” and their idea of what qualifies as “meaningful” are waaaay out of sync. You argue about what a romantic date “should” be like, or what a thoughtful gift “should” be like, or what constitutes meaningful connection, gestures, or experiences.
Do any of these sound familiar? They sure did to us for a while!
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of love languages, don’t give up- keep reading!
I promise, I will explain the whole idea below.
If you are familiar with the 5 love languages, I'd like to challenge you to read through this post anyway. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are made differently, and we need some encouragement to continue loving others according to their love language. I've also included some thoughts about how this might be reflected in our relationship with God near the end. So even if you've read the book 100 times, it's my hope that this will give you a little boost of encouragement to keep loving God and loving others!
What is it?
In a nutshell, The 5 Love Languages is a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman that suggests 5 main ways people experience, and express love.
Finding out your spouse’s love language is probably one of my highest recommendations for engaged and newlywed couples (alongside getting to know the 4 habits that can kill your relationship, and talking through these 10 important topics.)
Just from a realistic standpoint, there’s no sense in spending all your time, money, and effort on some kind of expression of love that says “I LOVE YOU!!!” in your opinion, but just says “meh” in their opinion.
And how can you have a happy, fulfilling marriage if all you communicate to your spouse is “meh”? Personally, I don’t think you can!
I know that many couples read the book The 5 Love Languages, or take the quiz as part of their premarital counseling, and I think this is a great idea! It’s a fairly easy read, and is a great way to set your relationship up for success. In my opinion, every couple should read this.
The 5 Love Languages:
The basic idea behind the 5 Love Languages is that each person receives love in a specific way.
What speaks “love” to your spouse, or makes them feel loved, may be different than what makes you feel loved.
For the most part, we intuitively “speak” the love language that is the most meaningful to us. This means that what you do to show love, is usually what you look for from others. If quality time and love go hand-in-hand for you, that will be true if you’re receiving love, or sharing it. So look for what you innately do to show love, as well as what says “love” to you.
Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean you can’t speak other love languages! Of course you will get the warm fuzzies when someone gives you a thoughtful gift, but it may mean MORE to you had they completed a big task for you, or told you specifically what they love about you.
Your love language is simply whichever makes the most emotional impact. It doesn’t mean the others are meaningless.
Here are the 5 areas or “Love Languages” that Dr. Gary Chapman identifies:
1. Words of Affirmation
Words are powerful! If this is your love language, then you know that better than anyone else. For you, compliments and positive feedback from others go a long way. To feel loved, you need to hear the words “I love you”. You don’t really feel that you’re appreciated, cared for, or admired unless someone actually says it. You desire praise and recognition from the one you love, and verbal reassurance that they care. Knowing they think and speak highly of you makes your heart soar! Telling you what they love about you, using kind words, encouragement, and avoiding criticism is how you know you are cherished. Sentimental notes, praise, and declarations of love mean the most to you. Harsh words and criticism are very hurtful to those whose love language is words of affirmation.
2. Quality Time
*This language has two different dialects , meaning different ways to speak this language.
Quality conversation To you, spending quality time together means you have the other person’s focus and attention. You feel deeply loved and understood when you engage in heartfelt conversation and dialogue. Talking about life’s ups and downs, and sharing feelings, thoughts, and emotions makes you feel connected and loved. Opening up your heart and sharing that with another person is the ultimate act of love to you, and you know you are loved when others pursue meaningful conversation with you. Having your spouse enthusiastically engage with you in deep, meaningful conversations makes you feel cherished, and valued.
In your opinion, quality time means doing things together. You connect with people by sharing experiences. Whether that is working together on a project, watching a movie, running errands, or playing games... loving someone means doing life together. You don’t even need to speak or talk, as long as you are both engaged in doing the same thing, and are enjoying the moment. Going on adventures together, and sharing hobbies is important to you. Spending time with one another in meaningful ways, and setting aside time for meaningful activities together is the most profound expression of love, in your opinion.
3. Physical Touch
Touching doesn’t have to be sexual to make you feel loved. A familiar touch on the arm, holding hands, cuddling, kissing, or a relaxing back rub all make you feel so loved you could burst! Sexual touch and physical pleasure is also a gateway to your heart. You feel emotionally connected when you are able to share physical space with someone, and when they want to be close to you. Reaching out to another person with a hug, a kiss, or a caress is a way of saying “I love you”, “I’m comfortable around you”, “I trust you” and much more. To you, being physically connected is the best way to show that you are emotionally connected. Withholding physical affection, and physical abuse bring huge amounts of pain to the physical touch person’s heart.
4. Acts of Service
If your opinion of love is that “actions speak louder than words”, you may be an acts of service person. For this person, it means the world that someone would give them a hand to make their life simpler, less stressful, or more enjoyable. Taking out the trash, washing your car, cooking dinner, and getting up from their comfy seat to bring you a glass of water are all small actions that have a big impact. For this person, demonstrations of love are the most important. Sharing life’s burdens, doing things for them "just because", and seeing to their needs before before your own speaks “I love you” louder than any words could. For this love language, refusing to help, adding more “to-do’s” to their list, or otherwise making life more difficult for them is extremely hurtful.
For the gifts person, it the thought that counts. You know you are cherished when people find the perfect thing that acts as a physical reminder of their love for you.A thoughtful gift can be handmade, or purchased; expensive or cheap. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were on their mind, and they went out of their way (and sometimes spend hard-earned money) to show you they care. A thoughtful gift shows they truly know who you are, that they listen when you talk, that they understand what you need/want, and that they appreciate your presence in their life. Sometimes, people’s presence can feel like a gift to those with this love language. You may not have to interact very much, but just being near and available to them communicates love. Thoughtless gifts, reluctant giving, or forgetting special occasions can be particularly hurtful to this type of person.
Unfortunately, sometimes our expressions of love get lost in translation because we're speaking different languages.
This is exactly what happened to my husband and I when we were first starting out, and I've seen it happen plenty of times in marriage, dating, and even non-romantic relationships.
What was difficult for us was that we technically both had the same love language (quality time) but we were speaking different dialects! In his opinion, watching a movie was quality time, whereas I needed his attention, and I wanted to talk. Our ideas of what quality meant were very different, and it took us both a while to figure out how to value and speak a different kind of quality time.
Sitting quietly side-by-side during a movie, or reading, or working on a project does not exactly scream "I love you" to me. (Would he even notice if I was gone?!) But according to him, we were doing something meaningful together, so I had to learn to engage with him through shared activities. And likewise, he had to learn how to show me love through his focused attention and conversation (not an easy task for him!).
When one person speaks one love language, and the other speaks a totally different love language, they miss each other, and their words and actions don’t have their intended effect. They may be speaking love, but just not in a way that makes sense to their spouse.
This can drastically affect a couple's ability to share fondness and admiration, and communicate their love for one another.
That's why it may feel like you are spinning your wheels.
This topic always reminds me of a scene in one of my all-time favorite movies: A Knight’s Tale where the knight compares the princess to his horse's flanks.The sweet lady-in-waiting tries to reassure the princess... but they're both uncertain...
Sometimes, things really do get lost in translation. And the most sincere heart can go misunderstood.
That’s why it’s so important to learn to “speak” your spouse’s love language!
The Divine Reflection:
I’m inclined to think that if this is how God has designed us to feel and perceive love, he would have a way to speak that kind of love into our lives as well.
So that begs the question… how does God speak your love language?
How does God speak words of affirmation to you?
How does God engage in quality time with you?
How does God speak physical touch to you?
How does God complete acts of service for you?
What thoughtful gifts has God given you?
How do you use these love languages to love God and his people?
How do you speak love through words of affirmation, or praise?
How do you spend quality time (activities and conversation) with God?
How do you speak physical touch to God, and his people?
What acts of service do you perform out of love for God?
What gifts do you give to God?
What is your love language? Do things get "lost in translation" in your relationship, too?
How can you grow closer to God by applying the love languages to your relationship with him?