E#12: Relationship Advice That You Should Know - The 5 Love Languages
In this episode I talk about how we communicate in our relationships and how love and connection has a language of it's own. This is one podcast you should listen to. It can will change the quality of your relationship with your partner.
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
I want to share with you a concept that a good friend of mine, Anthony Cheam, taught me I was so glad that I knew this information before a couple came in to see me. They were both in their 60’s, had been married for over 40 years and were thinking of separating.
They were both civil and kind enough to each other, but felt they needed to divorce each other because neither of them felt that they loved each other any more. I didn’t expect to hear this from them, since for all the year's I knew them they seemed like a lovely couple that got along well. Now, this scenario of couples not loving one another, because they feel they have grown apart is not new and happens quite often. Depending on where and what age cohort you look at, about 40-60% of couples are getting divorced and there is a rise of older couples who are getting divorced.
There is a rise in divorce in older couples
I’ll tell you what happened with them and the interesting details soon enough, but in order to understand why they didn’t love each other, it’s important to understand the concept of Love Languages.
Specifically, I’m referring to the work of Dr. Gary Chapman who wrote the book ‘The Five Love Languages’. This is powerful information that helps couples or individuals that come into the clinic, and it is also is invaluable in our own personal lives and how we deal with our loved ones. Personally speaking, I learned so much from the concepts from Dr. Chapman’s work. This podcast is worth listening to the very end. Not too many people I’ve come across have heard about this concept and yet it makes all the difference in how well a couple will get along. And in some cases if they will even stay together.
In Dr. Gary Chapman’s book he talks about the importance of language. You know as well as I do, if you are trying to communicate to a person who has a language different than yours, it can be very challenging. You can get frustrated and so many things get lost in the communication process. Sometimes, even when people speak the same language there are misunderstandings.
There are many types of languages, but there is are languages in ways we may not typically think of: verbal language, body language, and love/connection also has a language of it’s own. Not something I had necessarily thought about until I came across the concepts of the “Five Love Languages”.
Dr. Chapman explains that in the beginning of a relationship there is the honeymoon phase where a couple is in love, like the obsessive, romantic kind that can clouds their judgement and ....
A quick comment about the word love. Having love/connection is a fundamental human need that we all have. It’s a known fact that babies, children, need love to flourish. Babies that don’t get love will die or not develop properly. Love, or human connection, is important to people’s emotional well being. If your health account is filled with meaningful connections, you will thrive and be healthy and it’s that simple.
Dr. Chapman explains that in the beginning of a relationship there is the honeymoon phase where a couple is in love, like the obsessive, romantic kind that can clouds their judgement and they may not be making wise decisions.
Psychologist Dorothy Tennov studied hundreds of couples and she discovered that on average, couples whose relationship was centered on romance only lasted a mere 2 year's!
The reason this occurs is because the novelty of romance wears off and the reality of life sets in. If neither individual is paying attention to one another’s emotional needs, then things break down in that relationship. And if any relationship is to last, both individuals have to learn to understand one another and there is a certain level of compromise and adjustments that must be made.
Frankly, how to communicate emotionally and effectively is something that is not taught well. We don’t learn it in school and most of us learn whatever we’ve seen from our parents or caregivers and they are not always the best role models either. So let’s talk about the love languages.
We all express and receive love in different ways.
We all express and receive love in different ways. Dr. Chapman says there are 5 Love Languages, and most likely couples differ in the way they are giving and receiving love. I’ll run through the five love languages and I’ll tell you how you can figure out your own. I’ll also tell you what happened with the couple I opened with as well and why they were falling apart.
So here they are:
1) Words of Affirmation - This is where you give your partner a compliment, praise or words of encouragement, you don’t have to be elaborate with words either. Small things such as
“You look nice in that jacket”
“I really like how you handled that situation”
“Thank you for taking out the garbage”.
“You’re very thoughtful with the way you do ….”
In my experience with dealing with couples, men, or the masculine energy, LOVE IT when their partner gives them words of affirmation. Too often, men don’t hear this and are too shy, or believe they shouldn’t be asking for praise. It’s kind of difficult for men to ask for that.
A few female patients of mine have said they’ve noticed a huge difference when they thanked their partner and stopped complaining or nagging them to do something.
Men like to know they are doing well in keeping their partner happy. This is a bit of a generalization but quite true if you look at the work done by John Gray, who wrote Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus...but I’m digressing a bit.
2) Spending Quality Time - Giving undivided attention to your partner. I can tell you, this was something I was very poor at doing with my wife. I’d think we were spending time together when we’d be in the same space, and I was working on the computer or reading something, but the reality was I wasn’t giving her my full attention.
I’ve learned that for my wife, this is her primary love language. I didn’t know that, and I would buy gifts or flowers. While she liked them, it didn’t even compare to the way it made her feel if I simply spent time with her and gave her full my full presence. Frankly was also cheaper too, so I was thankful in some ways...I digress again.
Receiving Gifts - This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.
So, spending quality time can be doing something that both individuals want to do, especially if this is your partners primary love language. And spending quality time means just that: ‘quality’ - without phones or distractions and being there with an individual. This can become harder in our fast paced world where so many of us are moving at rapid speed and multitasking many things that don’t always fit into the more important moments of our lives which, in my opinion, is to foster good relationships with our partner, family and friends.
3) Receiving Gifts - This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. If this is your love language, you feel special that someone took the time to make or get you something. The gift is a symbol of love.The reason people who have this love language behave this way is because that specific item reminds them of that person or the situation.
One way to know what your partner likes, is to keep track of the things you or other people have given him or her. You’ll also know if this is your partner’s love language if they cherish items or things made for them more the average person. Can you think of someone, whether it’s your partner or not, who really enjoys the gifts or cards people give them? They really keep good care of the item that is given them; they keep the birthday cards forever. Now if this is not your partner’s love language, this doesn’t mean you should forget your partner’s birthday, valentine’s day or anniversary if you know what I mean…. those things are still important in maintaining a great relationship. If you don’t think so, just try forgetting your partners birthday and see what happens...again I digress.
4) Acts of Service - Examples of this include: helping out around the house, bringing groceries in, taking out the garbage, watching the kids etc. But this is not something you would/should demand from your partner if that’s your way of receiving love and connection because that’s not effective.
This is actually my love language. For instance, when my wife makes me tea, or my kids do something that I asked them to do, or get something for me… (especially when I’ve only had to ask them once), then I feel they care for me.
I remember my grandmother and my mother would always made me chai - tea whenever I asked them, and although I’d often I’d take one or two sips of it and I wouldn’t drink the rest, I felt that they cared enough to make me chai tea and that gave me a sense of belonging or connection with them.
She retaliated with, “Really, you need that? I thought you’d be too macho for that kind of stuff”.
5) Physical Touch - Appropriate mutual physical touch: Holding hands, embracing, kissing and other forms of mutual intimacy. This love language helps a person literally feel that they are wanted. Dr. Chapman even gives some good advice to couples that may be physically distant, who can connect with each other by wearing an article of clothing or photos that connect them. If this is your partner’s form of connection, remember that they really dictate the level of touch that’s acceptable and pleasurable. Physical abuse is obviously inappropriate.
A good pneumonic I use to remember this is TASTE
T - Time
A - Appreciation
S - Service (acts of)
T - Touch
E - Expend Gifts (not ideal but not the worst either).
So, how do you know which one is yours? The key is to ask some questions. Ask yourself:
What you would like from your partner?
What makes you feel good?
What has made you feel special in the past?
What makes you feel loved when your partner intentionally or unintentionally express the way care for you?
The reverse is also true; think about the things that bother you or hurt you.
Do negative words or nagging really drive you crazy?
If they don’t give you a gift does that make you sad?
Do you wish your partner would spend more time with you?
Also, take a look at your childhood and see how your parents expressed their love to you, or didn’t express their love to you. What did they do that you always remember fondly and what would you have liked them to do more of?
Spend more time with you?
Give you a hug, give more words of praise?
Take a moment to write them down and think about this carefully. Even stop right now and ask yourself what is your love language and what would your partner’s be?
So let's go back to this elderly couple:
When I talked to the husband and asked him “Why don’t you feel loved when she right now says she does care for you?”
He said, “Well she never says it, it would be nice to hear it. I can’t remember the last time she said that she loved me.
She retaliated with, “Really, you need that? I thought you’d be too macho for that kind of stuff”. With further exploration, she also admitted that the word love was not something she had grown up with and it felt uncomfortable for her to say.
She further added that she felt he never loved her. He was surprised and said “I can’t believe you are saying that, I say ’I love you’ all the time!!! I say it at least three or four times a day!” Which she didn’t dispute. He, by the way was expressing the love language that he would to have received himself.
He didn’t realize that he needed to speak a different language with her. He needed to speak her language of love (which was to receive gifts) and not his (which was words of affirmation); which is a very common mistake that couples make.
Often, we use the love language that we would want for ourselves, as the primary form of communicating with others. It’s like speaking French to a person who only can understand Mandarin...you’re just not going to get very far even though you may know what you are saying, however they won’t.
I then explained Dr. Chapman’s Five Love Languages and she identified that she liked to receive gifts. She said that this was one of the things that made her fall in love with her husband of 40 years. So he learned that he needed to do more things like that for her again.
She admitted she was a quiet individual and needed to be more expressive to him. So she practiced saying things like “You mean so much to me” or “I really care for you”. She said she needed to practice saying “I love you” because that was a bit uncomfortable for her.
So, now they know one another’s love language. They then took tangible approaches, made an action plan, to make sure that they carried out those things.The reality was that they both loved each other but neither one of them were receiving love in the way that they felt was significant for them.
That’s an important step in any learning, which is to create an actionable plan that is doable. So she said she would say “It’s great to be with you” or “I love you” in the morning and at night (anything more was a bonus).
The husband said that he would make a list of gifts and crafty ideas to surprise her with on Wed, Friday and Sat. He said he would also help her around the house more by taking out the garbage and doing the dishes so she could have the gift of quiet time which she needed to recharge herself. He admitted he’d be to intrusive with her personal space and she really was more of an introvert than he was and he needed to respect that too.
They would then report back to me in a month and so on. I’m happy to say they kept up with that practice, and the last I heard, they are still together.
The big take home point here, is that there are many languages and love has its own language. Thankfully there are only five of them. So start speaking to your loved ones in an emotional language that they can understand, otherwise your relationships will crumble. In my opinion, fostering and nurturing good quality relationships is really the purpose of our lives and the better we get at it, the more we will benefit in all areas of what we do, whether it’s at work, or the way we play.
Thank you so much for listening, Here is a Summary of the Podcast:
1. As there are languages in the world of conversation, there is an emotional language of love and connection - called Love Language.
2.Healthy relationships continue when both partners know what type of love language their partner has and how to speak their language.
3. There are 5 main Languages as outlined by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book:
T - Spending quality Time with your partner
A - Expressing words of Appreciation/Affection
S - Acts of Service
T - Touch-Appropriate and mutual physical touch
E - Expending Gifts, it doesn’t have to be expensive
4. Once you know your partner's love language, you need to make sure you act on it. Schedule it, send yourself a reminder. Create date nights, think of daily things that speak to your partner. Relationships don’t end overnight, they take time, so does nurturing and growing a relationship - it takes time, so make sure you water your garden by not neglecting what you can do.
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I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you so much for listening. Let's together make a greater more effective community and inspire people to live with Greater Harmony, Joy and Magic in their lives.
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(A special thanks to the talented William Brown who edited the above transcript)