What are the 5 love languages and what do they have to do with your marriage?
You probably already know that it takes more than a great night together to have a good relationship. After all, a good marriage or long term relationship takes more than just the fun and the physical – it takes patience, commitment and most importantly, communication. In fact, many experts will agree that communication is the most important factor in your relationship.
Enter: The love language.
What is a love language?
The author Gary Chapman defined love languages for us in his wildly popular book: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.
The concept is simple. There are five “languages” and each of them describes the way each person shows love. According to Chapman, figuring out what love language you and your partner respond to the best, and putting it into practice, can be the key to a lasting marriage.
Do you know the 5 love languages?
Here’s a quick rundown.
Words of Affirmation
This language is as it sounds. You or your partner need to hear words that affirm you or build you up. People who respond to this love language need to hear the words “I love you” or what you love about them because it affirms your commitment to the relationship.
People who respond to this language appreciate receiving gifts as a symbol of love and affection. A gift says, “I know my partner is thinking about me”.
Acts of Service
This is doing something helpful or kind for your partner that you know would mean a lot to them. This could mean something like cooking a meal, doing the dishes or changing the baby’s diaper.
This means giving your full, undivided attention to a partner who responds to this love language. Put the phone away and look into her eyes, she wants all of you. Quality time could mean both quality conversation and shared activities.
The love language of physical touch is more than having sex. It could mean a hug, holding hands or a shoulder rub. This touchy-feely person responds the best to their partner when they are shown affection through touch.
Are the 5 love languages killing your marriage?
The 5 Love Languages is a decent book. The whole thing about learning to communicate in your partner’s love language is an interesting idea and used properly, it can strengthen a marriage.
But far too often, people use it to blame their partner for a bad marriage rather than accepting responsibility for their own mistakes and shortcomings.
And you know what?
It’s killing their marriage.
Here’s what happens…
First, someone starts to feel unloved and neglected in their marriage.
Then, they learn about the five love languages.
Finally, they “realize” that it’s not their fault that they feel unloved. It’s their partner’s fault for not using the correct love language.
This allows them to discharge responsibility and make themselves feel better, and as a result, this pushes their marriage closer to divorce.
Here’s a question for you:
Why is it your partner’s responsibility to use your love language?
What about your responsibility to notice all the ways your partner expresses love towards you already?
Hey, so maybe he doesn’t use “words of affirmation” or “physical touch” as much as you like.
But I bet he does a bunch of other stuff, whether it’s mowing the lawn, fixing things around the house or cooking you dinner.
Perhaps he buys you little gifts.
Maybe he showers you with affection and attention.
Or listens like no one else.
Look, the specific things don’t matter.
The point is that he (or she) is probably already doing stuff that expresses love towards you, but you won’t notice it if you’re only looking for your preferred love language.
And if you don’t notice it, you’ll feel unloved and neglected, even though your partner loves you dearly.
So whose fault is it?
Is it your partner’s fault for not using your love language?
Could it be it your fault for not noticing all the things they do already?
Now, the reason I bring this up is that avoiding responsibility and blaming your partner is absolutely NOT the way to save your marriage.
In fact, it’s one of the fastest ways to destroy your marriage and drive your partner away.
I mean, think about it…
If you keep ignoring all the things your partner already does to express love towards you, how do you think that makes them feel?
Consequently, do you think it makes your partner want to express more love to you or less?
Where do you go from here? How to apply the love languages
There is value in The Five Love Languages and it CAN help your marriage, but ONLY if you take responsibility for your share of the problems.
So take time every day to notice how your partner expresses love towards you already, even if it’s not your preferred love language. Make a point of noticing it and tell your partner that you notice it.
Then, once your partner feels validated and understood, you can have a relaxed conversation about love languages and how to make sure you both get what you want.
But don’t do it from a place of blame because it simply doesn’t work.
Do it from a place of love and understanding.
That’s how you’ll make your marriage work.