February is defined as the “month of love” and seems to get us thinking about our relationships and marital wellness. Are you familiar with the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman? This concept has been transformative for many relationships.
Oftentimes, couples come to counseling because they are not feeling loved. The 5 love languages help to bridge the gap between why a person may be feeling unloved and their spouse saying they love them. Did you know that most people aren’t even aware that we have love languages? And on top of that, most people have a different love language than their spouse. When love languages aren’t met, it can lead to hurt, misunderstanding and miscommunication.
What are the 5 Love Languages?
- Words of Affirmation—you feel most loved by your spouse when your spouse gives you words of encouragement, affirms or validates your experience, actively listens to you, and expresses appreciation.
- Acts of Service—you feel loved when your spouse helps you, or better yet, notices that you are overwhelmed and takes something off your to-do list.
- Quality Time—this is your love language if you feel most connected to and loved by your spouse when you spend intentional, one-on-one uninterrupted, distraction free time together.
- Physical Touch—the language of physical touch does not always mean sex! This is the expression of love through touch and body language. If this is your language you may feel most loved by your spouse when they use non-sexual touch such as holding hands, hugs, back rubs, or kisses.
- Receiving Gifts—gifts are a tangible way to let someone know you are thinking about them. If you feel most connected to your spouse when they surprise you with a small gift, pick you a flower, or make you a special card, this might be your love language.
Ways to Communicate your spouse’s Love Language
Now that you have an idea of what your spouse’s love language might be, take time to learn how to speak it. It might feel foreign because often your love language is different, and you tend to show love to others in the language that you feel most loved. Be intentional in your marriage and CHOOSE to love your spouse in a way that communicates love to them.
- Words of Affirmation—encourage your spouse often by going out of your way to express appreciation, practice active listening, write an encouraging note, and/or offer verbal compliments.
- Acts of Service—notice when your spouse is overwhelmed and ask how you can help; complete a household chore, cook a meal for your spouse or run an errand for them.
- Quality Time—turn the tv and/or phone off while you are spending time together. Create opportunities for one-on-one time together, include quality conversation, and become curious and learn about your spouse.
- Physical Touch—engage in intentional non-sexual touch/body language; hold hands, snuggle, hug, kiss.
- Receiving Gifts—small things matter; it’s the thought that counts! Gifts do not have to be expensive; pick a flower for your spouse on the way home from work, surprise your spouse with their favorite treat and make big events special (i.e. birthdays/anniversaries).
Things to AVOID
Look at some things to AVOID when it comes to communicating your spouse’s love language. You can unintentionally cause hurt by engaging in some of these behaviors. When you know better, you do better, right? Become curious about your own behavior and seek ways that you can make improvements in the relationship regardless of what your spouse does.
- Words of Affirmation—avoid not recognizing your spouse or expressing appreciation. Avoid non-constructive criticism.
- Acts of Service—avoid lack of follow through on tasks that you say you will complete. Avoid making other’s requests a priority over the requests of your spouse.
- Quality Time—avoid distractions when interacting with your spouse (i.e. phone, tv, gaming). Avoid long periods of time without one-on-one time together.
- Physical Touch—avoid physical neglect and abuse, as well as long periods of time without intimacy.
- Receiving Gifts—avoid forgetting about important life events such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Using the Love Languages After Conflict
You might be wondering, what happens if we have an argument? The love languages are still in play! First and foremost, pray with and for your spouse over your marriage. Keep God at the center of everything. Then, think about your spouse’s love language and identify ways that you can communicate through the process of forgiveness and restoration. Look at these few suggestions to get you started!
- Words of Affirmation—verbalize responsibility for your part of the conflict and offer a sincere apology. Use language that builds security and confidence.
- Acts of Service—follow through with behavior changes.
- Quality Time—utilize active listening, and empathy skills. Make good eye contact and do not interrupt your spouse.
- Physical Touch—sit knee to knee, holding hands, and making eye contact while communicating.
- Receiving Gifts—write an apology to your spouse. Give a small gift to show them you are thinking about and love them.
I do think it is important to note that your spouse can’t be your source of life or solely responsible for your happiness (that’s God’s job), however with the love languages as a tool, it can make a significant difference in marital satisfaction and happiness. Love is a CHOICE, not a feeling. By learning the love languages, you are choosing to love your spouse in a way that communicates love to them. Go take the FREE 5 Love Languages test to learn more about yourself and your spouse!