With his own marriage still going strong after over 45 years, a successful career as a marriage counselor, and numerous marriage conferences under his belt, Dr. Gary Chapman’s expertise is pretty clearly demonstrated. He is passionate about helping people strengthen this key relationship in their lives by providing more effective tools for communication.
Among other resources, you will find his Five Love Languages (described in detail in his book: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts), which I will focus on in this post. The idea behind his book, is that identifying and defining the different ways that individuals feel most appreciated and connected, is fundamental to high functioning relationships. If you express love in one way, but your partner understands another mode of communicating, you may be sending signals that are not being received. If, however, you understand how to show your affection and appreciation in a way that is clear to your partner, your communication and your relationship will improve dramatically. If you use a language that is meaningful to your partner, your messages will be received and understood.
Let’s look at the five “languages” that people commonly use to express intimacy and affection.
Acts of Service
For some people, the way they understand love best is by the kinds of thoughtful gestures their partners do for them. For these communicators, taking out the garbage or packing a lunch will speak volumes more than telling them how you feel. When acts of service is the language your partner understand best, think of the old idiom: actions speak louder than words. They will understand that you love them most clearly when you do things that they can see as caring. Take them out to a favorite restaurant, run their car through the car wash, rent a movie they have been wanting to see. This may be the simplest language, but if you have a partner who “speaks” it, you will need to be thoughtful and observant to be able to communicate effectively.
If your partner’s primary love language is physical touch, the fastest way to let them know you care is a hug, taking hold of their hand, or even putting your hand on their shoulder while watching a movie. Touch has a great deal of power to convey emotions. For these communicators, the fastest and most effective way to communicate your feelings is by some kind of physical affection. This does not have to mean over-the-top public displays, it can be as simple as putting your arm around their waist. People who crave physical affection respond well to all kinds of touch and you can let them know how you are feeling about them with the simplest gesture.
For those whose primary language is quality time, the most effective way to communicate is by giving them your attention. Let your partner or spouse know you care by scheduling a one-on-one dinner or taking an evening walk and discussing the events of the day. For this type of communicator, your undivided attention is pure gold. For quality time communicators, the best way to let them know you appreciate them, is by turning off the television, putting your phone away and focusing on them (not a bad practice for anyone in any type of relationship).
If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, the best way to express your love and devotion, is through small, thoughtful gifts to them. You need not buy them lots of expensive things thoughtful items will serve to express your feelings. Cards, flowers, favorite snacks are all effective tools for communicating your feelings. If they speak the language of receiving gifts, tokens of your affection will send the clearest signal to them. Recognize their accomplishments with small gifts of things they love, pick up a nice bottle of scotch or a box of chocolates and they will feel valued and adored.
Words of Affirmation
This language focuses on speaking your appreciation aloud to your partner, telling them what you observe and value about them. This can be as simple as “thanks for dropping the kids at school today” or “I really am thankful that you helped me take my car to the mechanic this morning.” You may think that your spouse just knows you appreciate these things, but for those for whom this language is most meaningful, your words are the most valuable currency. This language represents a verbal acknowledgement of the things you notice and treasure about your spouse, and for those whose primary language in verbal, it is the best and easiest way to communicate your appreciation and affection.
If you don’t immediately recognise your own language, will take the quiz. To me, this tool is a win-win, because knowing a little bit more about yourself and your partner can only serve to strengthen the bond. Additionally, Dr. Chapman developed a similar set of languages for the workplace, which can be a very valuable tool for those managing teams. His belief in this methodology does not stop there, he has also written books about the five languages for teens and for children, and even for singles, so if this information is meaningful to you, there are additional resources available.
Dr. Eileen Wynne