The Love Languages framework helps you be more introspective about what you need from a partner. Here’s another way you can consider them.
When I was married to my first wife and we started struggling, we both read The 5 Love Languages by pastor and marriage counselor Gary Chapman.
Chapman’s book states that there are five different ways that individuals best understand and express love. When a person’s love language is “spoken” to them regularly, they feel truly loved by their partner, or their “love tank” is full.
The 5 love languages are
Gifts (thoughtful tokens, not just expensive diamonds but can be),
Physical Touch (hugs, hand-holding, touches, caresses, sexual intimacy, etc.),
Quality Time (having connected, active time together),
Acts of Service (such as cooking a meal, cleaning the bathroom, filling up your car with gas), and
Words of Affirmation (verbal praise such as compliments).
Even without taking the assessment offered in the book and online, I knew my love language was Words of Affirmation. I’ve always wanted to be praised, complimented, and assured by my romantic partners.
When I met my current wife, we discussed each of our love languages and how best to “speak” them to one another. We were both divorced, and we were intent on not repeating the same mistakes of our first marriages.
Her love language is Physical Touch.
One day I put my hand on her lower back as we were walking out of a store, and she said to me, “I really appreciate how much you touch me. My parents were never affectionate with me growing up, and it’s so nice to have a partner who’s comfortable doing that for me.”
When she said that, I realized that my love language, Words of Affirmation, was also what I hadn’t had as a child.
I played soccer when I was in high school, and I was a pretty damn good player. My parents wanted me to succeed, so when my dad attended my matches, he’d sit in the stands and record the game.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t recording the game because he wanted to praise how I’d scored 4 times. He was recording all of the times where I’d messed up. His intentions were good. He wanted me to be the best I could be, but he did that through critiquing and criticizing everywhere I fell short, and it wasn’t just in soccer either.
It didn’t matter how near-perfect I got, there were places I fell short. There were areas of weakness, places I could improve, and he was certain to let me know what exactly those were.
Growing up, all I wanted was to be praised for the 99% I was doing right, instead of being criticized for the 1% I was doing wrong. I ended up feeling like what I did was never good enough. I never even was able to take the time to celebrate my successes because I was always looking at the areas where I could have succeeded more.
The more people I’ve spoken to about this, the more I’ve realized how right this is.
Whatever your love language is, is likely what you did NOT get as a child.
If your love language is Gifts:
You likely didn’t receive many gifts, or the ones you got weren’t what you wanted, or weren’t thoughtful or meaningful in some other way.
If your love language is Physical Touch:
Your parents or siblings didn’t often hug, cuddle, or otherwise be physically affectionate with you. You may have also received touch you didn’t like, if, for example, you and your siblings always wrestled with or hurt one another.
If your love language is Quality Time:
You may have spent a large part of your childhood alone, whether because you were an only child, had different interests than the rest of your family, or because you faded in the background due to having multiple siblings.
If your love language is Acts of Service:
You may have had to always do things for yourself or had to start doing things for yourself and others, common with latchkey kids, or older siblings when the parents work.
If your love language is Words of Affirmation:
You were often criticized or critiqued for your failings and/or didn’t often hear verbal praise for your accomplishments.
I loved reading Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages all those years ago because I felt like I finally understood something about myself, and, more importantly, how to express what I wanted and needed to my romantic partner.
With this realization I understand even more about myself and why I am the way I am. I hope that’s true for you as well.
Originally published here.