Relationships are a tricky thing.
One minute, what might have began as a mutual swipe right has evolved into something more – countless dates, that warm sensation muddling your mind with serotonin-infused infatuation, the mounting realization that you can (happily) tolerate another human for many consecutive nights at a time. You meet each other’s friends, you leave a toothbrush at their place and you even delete all dating apps off your phone – you have officially entered the realm of early-relationship bliss.
Of course, eventually the ‘honeymoon phase’ will naturally run its course, and while that’s not to say everything unravels, it can often be a turbulent adjustment within new relationships. Suddenly, you may realize that this person who could do no wrong a few months ago, actually possesses the capacity to annoy you (imagine that!). You may realize that you make the bed in the morning, and your partner often doesn’t bother. You may even notice that they like to talk (constantly) during movies or – dare I say it – during your weekly viewing of GOT. Maybe they’re a loud chewer, maybe they snore, or perhaps they frequently forget to text back during the day – or hell, maybe it’s you that’s guilty of these things.
The point is, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever been in love (or watched a rom-com), knows that it can be a complicated experience. There is simply no easy equation or formula that can be applied to the continuous marriage of two lives and personalities. And whether we admit it or not, we are (often) inherently stubborn creatures ruled, in part, by habits and tendencies we might not even recognize in ourselves, that can quietly undermine those intimate attachments we form over time.
Over the past few years, I’ve made something of a name for myself writing on topics of dating and sex. I was the happily, notoriously single woman forging a career for herself in the city, going on dates but not necessarily finding something (or rather, someone) that stuck. That is, until I did. And now, almost a year into a new relationship, I find myself on the other side of the coin. My penchant and predisposition for commentary on modern dating culture and sexuality have evolved to include a newly rejuvenated understanding of love, and what it takes to cultivate it long-term. My partner and I are very different people, in many respects, and despite the strong connection and intimacy we share, there are countless times where we may as well be speaking entirely different languages.
Love languages, that is.
“What’s your love language?” I asked him one night in bed a few months ago, only to be met with a resounding blank stare. “What do you mean?” he countered, and I launched into an enthusiastic breakdown of the 5 Love Languages, formerly popularized by author Gary Chapman.
The thing is, when I asked that question, I already had an idea of the answer. I am all words of affirmation (shocking, a writer who likes words) and acts of service, while my partner is decidedly physical touch. But, what does that all mean? What are these love languages, and do they really matter?
Unsurprisingly, the success of long-term relationships can often be whittled down to a shared ability (and willingness) to communicate effectively. Simply put, the longevity of love is never innate or guaranteed. It will always be put to the test. Stress, disagreements, emotional barriers and general set-backs are inevitable truisms of life –, especially in the romantic sense. Ultimately, a couple’s ability to face these moments head-on, with open dialogue and a willingness to meet their partner half way and find actionable compromise or solutions, is where the ‘magic’ happens (if you want to call it that). Of course, much of learning how to communicate effectively ties back to our ability to recognize what our partner needs and how they communicate, in order to bridge the gap, so to speak. This is where those love languages come into play.
As humans, we all express and experience love in different ways. These ways – or rather – languages, are vital to our lives and happiness within the relationships we keep. Oftentimes, we naturally show love the way we wish to receive it, and what makes you feel loved isn’t necessarily the same for your partner. Taking the time to understand your ways of expressing love, as well as your partner’s, will allow you to forge new paths of communication and love each other in the way you both need. So, let’s get down to it… what are these five languages, and what do they say about you?
1. Words of Affirmation
To be clear, those who have ‘words of affirmation’ as their primary love language don’t just want to be assaulted with a daily barrage of compliments. It goes much deeper than that. These individuals need to hear their partner say “I love you”, or use words to express sincere feelings of appreciation, approval and closeness. Those verbal or written sentiments and assurances you share with them carry a great deal of weight and have the potential to build them up (or tear them down).
Little notes, thoughtful messages and open, heartfelt conversations go a long way, in this case. These individuals are also more likely to be communicative in nature, and continued verbal connection and affirmations will help to ‘fill up their cup’ throughout the relationship. In my case, I am a strong communicator and inherently open and straightforward, but that also means I want to talk through, well… everything.
2. Quality Time
In this case, watching Netflix together (or sitting across from the dinner table, glued to your phone) won’t quite cut it. This love language is all about giving your partner your undivided attention. No TV, no buzzing Instagram notifications or distractions… it’s about truly honing in on each other and your connection (whether through conversation, a shared activity, creating something together etc.). In this sense, love is communicated not passively, but assertively through direct interaction and connection – shut out the rest of the world, pause and treat your time together as a precious commodity.
3. Receiving Gifts
This person loves the thoughtfulness and effort that goes into a gift. No, this isn’t a fancy term for a ‘sugar-baby’ relationship or the blueprint for a materialistic romance, these individuals simply feel that actions speak louder than words. Picking the right gift, one that truly resonates and feels special, shows that their partner understands them and invested effort into expressing their love. It’s not about the cost or value of the gift, it’s a symbol of thought “they were thinking about me’, “they remembered me”, “that was so thoughtful”. For many, this an incredibly important and meaningful expression of love, and they will likely hold onto these gifts as an intimate reminder of your connection.
4. Acts of Service
Similar to the ideology behind receiving gifts, those who speak this love language seek out the opportunity to ease the burden of responsibility placed on those they love. In simpler terms, they will go out of their way to help their partner by relieving daily stress, positively contributing to their life in some way, or just making them feel good (and supported). This could include helping out with chores (without being asked), breakfast in bed, packing a lunch, offering to help with work or an assignment. These individuals want to be your ‘ride to die’ so to speak, your ultimate support system, and love providing (and receiving) thoughtful acts of service to those they love. In this case, speaking to affections isn’t enough – they crave a partner who takes the time to get things done that helps to lighten their burdens and positively impact their daily life.
5. Physical Touch
Let the PDA begin. Those who speak the language of ‘physical touch’ thrive on physical connection with their partner. From holding hands to hugs, affectionate contact and displays, a massage or a kiss, these individuals want their partner to be intentional in the way that they express their love physically. This is a rather direct way of communicating love and can speak volumes to many partners. Even simple touches will help to ‘fill up their cup’ so to speak, allowing them to feel content, appreciated, loved and reassured. These partners may struggle with affirming their affections vocally, preferring instead to express their affection through touch.
It is also important to not push these individuals away when they are attempting to make physical contact (of course, this is speaking to a healthy, non-oppressive relationship). If they are reaching for you or trying to establish a physical connection, they likely feel that they need that reinforcement and affection at that moment.