In the classic Broadway show “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye asks his wife, Golde, “Do you love me?” She answers with a long list of all the things she has done for him over the 25 years they’ve been married. He asks her again and again, and finally she replies that she does love him. Together they sing, “After 25 years, it’s nice to know.”
In order to make myself understood by a listener, I need to send my message in a way that carries the meaning so that they receive it clearly. For example, if I am trying to explain an idea to a young child, I will have to use simpler words than I would with a college student. If I am speaking with a listener who only understands Spanish, I will need to translate my words into their language.
In our romantic relationships we will only succeed in having our loved ones feel our love for them if we communicate in the language in which they understand and therefore feel loved. This is the central idea put forward by Gary Chapman in his book, “The Five Love Languages“.
People can find themselves feeling very frustrated in a relationship if they send their love in ways their partner doesn’t understand as love.
Let’s say I send my love by doing things to help my partner out such as clearing the snow off her car in the morning. I’m showing my love through an act of service. If she communicates love the same way she will get the message that this was an expression of my love for her.
On the other hand, she may need to hear the words, “I love you” in order to really feel my meaning. If so, my efforts to clear the snow will probably be appreciated, but miss the mark in clearly letting her know I love her. She understands love through words of affirmation.
Mr. Chapman describes five styles of communication that people use to communicate their love and appreciation. We use all five, but have our own preferred style. If you learn your partner’s preferred style and emphasize that when letting them know you care, they will get your message much more clearly.
The five styles include:
- Words of Affirmation: Uses words to affirm other people.
- Acts of Service: For these people, actions speak louder than words.
- Receiving Gifts: For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.
- Quality Time: This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
- Physical Touch: To this person nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.
By taking the time to learn more about your preferred love language, and that of your partner, you can greatly increase the likelihood that your special someone will feel how much they mean to you. They can better let you know and feel their love for you.
With that in mind I’d like to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day!
Learn more about The Five Love Languages at www.5lovelanguages.com or pick up the book.
By Phil Rainer, LCSW-R