For the past few weeks, my wife and I have been able to carpool to work. Yes, it’s been as cool as you’re imagining. In that time, we’ve been listening to audio books – most recently, The Five Love Languages. If you’ve already read it, you can move on to the special cat photo awaiting you on today’s Internet joyride. But if you haven’t, this might just improve your relationship at the least, and best case scenario, it helps you find the love you thought was lost.
To begin, here’s a shocker: people need to feel loved. They need it as much as the food they eat and the air they breathe. The funny thing about feeling loved is that most of us don’t even know what, specifically, does it for us.
Let me tell you a story. I grew up in a family that hardly spoke to one another. We didn’t spend a ton of time together. From the outside, it might not have looked like love took residence in our house. But there was a little Korean woman that was always there working. She was always cleaning. She was always making a terrific meal (yes, including bulgogi). She was always doing laundry for us. She was, and still is, a real workhorse. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m not talking about a maid.
Consider that she grew up in the Korean countryside with no electricity or running water. She woke up in the dark and climbed up a mountainside to get water each morning. She worked from before dawn to after dusk. Her parents never told her they loved her; not even once. So within my childhood, my mom loved us in the way she knew how.
Now consider my wife’s upbringing. She spent loads of time with her parents. They talked about how they were doing and feeling each day. Her mom gave her consistent encouragement and praise. I’m not saying it’s better than how I was raised; I’m saying it’s different.
Fast-forward to our marriage. My wife compliments me. Like a lot. I’m still not used to it. It might sound cruel, but the words don’t have as much effect on me as I would like. The same holds true when we fight. If she were to sling some nasty words my way (which doesn’t happen), they wouldn’t affect me much. But the opposite is true for her. Verbal appreciation means something to her, just as verbal condemnation is like a knife through the heart. To her, words really matter, something that was influenced by her upbringing. It’s how she feels loved, and consequently how she gives love. In the book, this is called Words of Affirmation – one of the love languages.
I also want to show my wife how much I care about her. So I do things like take care of our finances, cook and take the trash out. I open the door when we leave and wait behind to lock it. Little acts matter to me; they are how I feel loved, and consequently, how I give love. The book calls it Acts of Service.
The fog is starting to lift now, isn’t it? We both love each other. We both express love to each other. But she is speaking Mandarin and I’m speaking Hindi. We’re not communicating our love. Can you see how two people can love each other greatly and give love freely, but still feel like they’re not being loved in return?
You might be wondering if you can only have one love language. Sometimes you have a primary and a secondary language. Though my wife’s is Words of Affirmation, remember all that time she spent with her parents? Hers is also Quality Time; sitting together, phones off, talking about how we’re doing and feeling. She needs both (in fact, Quality Time is actually her primary language, with Words of Affirmation taking second place).
Something funny is that my family didn’t hug much. We didn’t pat each other on the back or punch each other on the shoulder. But for some reason, I still feel loved when my wife massages the back of my neck or holds my hand. My secondary love language is Physical Touch. So your love language doesn’t always have to do with the way you were raised.
Now, the book makes a good point. Males, when asked to identify their love language, will often respond “physical touch, especially the sex act.” (Do you like that? Sex act. I added that for dramatic effect.)
However, this is often stated because of the biological need to have sex, not because it truly is their primary love language. When probed further, many find that it’s actually affirming words or something else that they really couldn’t live without. So guys, don’t immediately go there. As every dad of boys has said once, think from up here, not down there.
I know that right now you’re counting on your fingers and realizing that there’s still a love language I haven’t mentioned. Well, it’s sex act. Um, I mean Giving Gifts. And no, they don’t have to be the expensive, purchased kind (collective sigh of relief from dads the world over).
So what is the secret to feeling loved by your partner? Well, it has a few parts.
- #1: Figure out what your love language is
- #2: Figure out what your partner’s love language is
- #3: Start speaking their love language to them
- #4: Communicate your love language to them
It’s not always easy, especially if your relationship is in a precarious state. It takes being the bigger person sometimes, the more compassionate one. But almost always, love eventually returns love.
You may have to do some digging to figure out how best to speak your partner’s language if it’s one you don’t share. You can ask, “how can I fill your love tank?” Man, that sounds kinda dirty.
One thing I started was doing “five appreciations” at night, since my wife speaks Words of Affirmation. Each night, I tell her five different things I appreciate about her. You can just see her love tank filling.
So, what’s your love language? Not sure? You can take a quiz on the website.
Now get out there. Love your partner the way they need to be loved. Soon, you’ll be feeling loved as well. Good luck.