Monday, October 13, 2008

Part II: The Love Languages

Giving back massages is good metaphor for love languages. Most folk deliver the “amount of pressure” during a massage in proportion to the amount of pressure they like to receive. If you have a large frame, the pressure you like to receive is likely to be painful on someone who is smaller. A good massage is always determined by the response of the recipient.

The needed actions for communicating love are similar. One person who was an extreme extrovert, threw a “living loud” surprise 40th birthday party for her husband. He was much more reserved and introverted. Imagine his reaction, when he entered his home to a crowded room full of friends shouting “SURPRISE!” He was able to smile his way through the evening. Yet, his wife felt disappointed by his muted response to her efforts. His idea of the correct “amount of pressure” was a quieter evening with a few friends.

Gary Chapman’s book identifies five languages of love (The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate). He writes about the actions couples can take to meet each other’s emotional needs. Here is a brief outline of his five love languages that lead to re-igniting a relationship of excitement and desire.

1. Words of Affirmation - Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation.
2. Quality Time - is about needing and wanting attention, giving undivided attention and focus to your partner.
3. Receiving Gifts - A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me” or “She remembered me.” Gifts are visual symbols of love.
4. Acts of Service - doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. You seek to please him/her by serving and expressing your love by doing things for them.
5. Physical Touch - is a powerful vehicle for communicating love. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, and sexual intercourse are all ways of communicating emotional love to one’s partner.

Reflect on our preference. Usually our primary language is discovered in looking at our most frequent manner of expressing affection to our partner. On the flip side, also look at what it is you most frequently request from your partner (affirmation, time, gifts, doing things or touch). Determine your partners preferred language by asking the same questions but in reverse.

Check in with each other and find out if you are both on the same page. Then make a commitment to focus on increasing the acts of affection for your partner’s primary preference. Do something each day for one week and see how it changes the “feel” of the relationship. Does it shift your perceptions and attitudes? Your partners?

Like the fuel gage on your car, using the love languages is helpful for assessing your sense of connection. Are you both running on empty, low, medium or high? Is your partner’s perception different? By checking in with each other and making adjustments, you can avoid running on fumes and supply the needed amount of affection.

There is a time when outside assistance is needed. Couples Therapy is helpful for partners that have been running on empty or low for an extended period of time. Some couples come to therapy to prevent deeper problems. Others come when they are stuck and feeling helpless to move their sense of connection and love forward.

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