When we think back to past, failed relationships, it’s easy to attribute blame to the –ex, negative circumstances, and/or poor timing. Oftentimes these memories are long-lasting and impact subsequent relationships. It is clear that we are all different people, with different life influences, different values and beliefs, and different coping mechanisms. Couples’ differences are generally the cause of degenerating or failed relationships. In considering ALL the differences couples may have, the misinterpretation or inconsistencies of one’s love language is also imperative to understand.
What is a love language? Author Gary Chapman stresses the importance of being able to express love to your partner in a way that he or she can understand. He calls this type of communicating love languages. He posits that there are 5 main love languages that we speak: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. Imagine your attempt to communicate love in a relationship, but you speak it in Spanish and your partner speaks it in German. More specifically, imagine that, throughout childhood and adolescence, love was communicated to you through physical touch (e.g., hugs, kisses, pats on the back) and your partner’s was through receiving gifts (e.g., flowers, new clothes, money). Then, in your adult relationship, a gift may be meaningless when all you want is to be held. For your partner, a passionate kiss could be misconstrued, if he or she is expecting a token or gift that represents love. Though you’re genuine in your communication and you strongly desire to convey, “I love you and I’m committed to you,” your partner hears a foreign language and may rely on your actions to do the communicating.
Without understanding each other’s love language, an individual’s actions, or lack thereof, can be misconstrued or disregarded. After years of unhappiness, arguments, and dissatisfaction, many couples counselors often find that the problem isn’t love, it’s the love language. Amongst many valuable reasons, counseling is an opportunity for individuals and couples to build healthy and long-lasting relationships. Not only can counseling help clients understand their and their partner’s love language, it also can help protect against the consequences of these languages not being understood or respected. These might include anxiety, depression, anger, arguments, and even, divorce. It is a worthwhile investment to help couples navigate life and love in a healthy way.
For more information on love languages, read Gary Chapman’s (2004) book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.