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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Five Love Languages

It still surprises me that some people haven't heard about Gary Chapman's five love languages. I almost feel that things this basic to human relationships should be taught in schools. It helps us to connect with other people and understand them thus reducing conflict, pain and hurt.

None of us in a relationship want to hurt the person we are with. We love them and want what's best for them - or we are supposed to - if not why would we choose to be with them. Sometimes we can forget that we are on the same team - and that this person isn't saying or doing (or not saying or doing) something to upset us deliberately. We all know communication is the key to a relationship - any relationship.

We want the other person to know that we love them and care for them but we all have different ways of expressing love and different ways we need to receive love. Gary Chapman broke this down into 5 basic love languages.

1) Words of Affirmation:
This person needs verbal appreciation to feel loved. It speaks volumes to them. It doesn't have to be grand words - simple things like "You look great", "You're the best cook", "I love the way you do ...." can be enough for this person to feel truly loved. Offering encouragement is another way eg. supporting a difficult decision, praising progress they've made on a project etc. If words of affirmation are the primary love language then offering encouragement will help them to overcome insecurities and develop greater confidence.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment” - Mark Twain

2) Quality Time:
Quality time is about focusing all your energy and undivided attention on the other person. Quality conversation involves sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a loving, uninterrupted situation. Often they are just wanting a sympathetic ear, to feel that they are truly being heard - not someone to solve their problems.

People feel most loved when they spend physical time together, doing activities that they love to do. Spending time together brings people closer and give you things that you can reminisce over in the future. Quality time and communication is a necessary ingredient to happy relationships.

3) Receiving Gifts:
Some people treasure gifts as an expression of love and devotion. They feel a lack of gifts represents a lack of love. Fortunately this is the easiest love language to learn. However, if you are a saver it may be difficult for you to understand spending money as a way of showing love - remember this is not about investing money in gifts but in your relationship.

These gifts don't need to be every day or even every week. They don’t even need to cost a lot of money. If the persons primary love language is receiving gifts then any visible sign of your love will leave them feeling happy and secure in your relationship.

4) Acts of Service:
Sometimes doing simple jobs around the house can be an expression of love as it requires time, effort and energy. This can be a very powerful expression of love and devotion.

It's essential to understand what acts of service will show that person you love them to avoid conflict in this area eg. if you spend the day washing the car and walking the dog but your partner feels that the washing and dishes are more important then they may feel unloved, despite the fact that you did many other jobs throughout the day.

It's also important that these acts of service are done out of love and not obligation. If these are done for the wrong reason than the partner doing these acts may feel resentment - they need to come from the kindness of your heart. These little sacrifices will mean the world to your mate, and will ensure a happy relationship.

5) Physical Touch:
Many people feel the most loved when they receive physical contact. Sex makes many partners feel secure and loved in a relationship. However, it is only one aspect of physical touch. It is important to understand how your partner not only physically responds but also psychologically responds to various touches. Some touches may be irritating and uncomfortable for your partner. Physical touch can be big things like back massages or lovemaking or little acts such as a hand on the shoulder or stroke of hair.

All relationships have crises and in these times physical touch is very important. A hug can communicate your huge love for that person. A person whose primary love language is physical touch would much rather have you hold them and be silent than offer any advice. Remember though that what type of touch makes you feel secure may not be what makes your partner happy.

We need to understand what it is that makes the other person feel loved. And what it is that makes us feel loved. There is no point us expressing our love to a person with gifts if their primary love language is words of affirmation. It won't matter how many gifts they get they will not feel loved. They may understand that you are showing you love them but they won't necessarily feel loved.

If we are not feeling loved in our relationship then we need to explain this to the other person - not as an attack or a criticism. Remember this may all be new to them to - they may be mortified to find out that you aren't feeling loved by them despite the things they may be saying or doing.

We often express love to our partners using our primary love language - this is a common trap we fall into - we know what we need to feel loved so give that out. But we need to make sure that that is what the other person needs.

To find out what your primary love language is

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