I remember when I first heard about The Five Love Languages. It seemed to explain everything to me, and I immediately wanted to apply it to my life. Maybe I could finally understand how to love my husband and other important people in my life in a way that they would know how much I love them. Relationships have never been easy for me. Early in my marriage I didn’t understand how my husband didn’t seem to get that I loved him so much, I was always telling him "I love you," so why wasn’t it clear to him??? The Love Languages seemed to explain where the disconnect was coming from. His love language was just different than mine. Now that I knew that, everything would be perfect!
Boy was I wrong.
If you haven’t heard of Dr. Gary Chapman and The Five Love Languages, let me break it down for you a little bit. The doctor has spent years counseling couples, and through that he has found that a lot of people don’t feel like they are loved, even if their significant other is diligently working to show them love and appreciation. In his book, he explains this disconnection usually occurs due to a difference in the way they communicate their love.
One person might be showing love through physical affection when the other person might need them to demonstrate their love through acts of service like doing the dishes or running errands for them. Even though there is love being shown, their partner is not getting it.
I think a lot of times people unknowingly want to apply things to their life to better things for themselves but still miss the point about bettering things for the people around them. The theory of the love languages forces you to ask yourself what makes other people feel loved, instead of just assuming that everyone has the same preferences as you. If you know that someone else has a different love language, and you can figure it out, then you will be able to communicate better to them how you feel about them. I became a little obsessed with figuring out the love languages of my family and friends; I was so excited. I thought that if I knew their love languages that it would quickly remove most if not all conflict and confusion from my personal life.
Deciphering my loved one's love languages did improve some of my relationships. I found out that what my sister and my father cherished most of all was quality time.
Gift giving and acts of service just seemed to make them feel guilty about me doing things or buying things that they could provide for themselves. Quality time is an easy one for me, so that worked perfectly. My problem came with the people who received love in ways that I am not so comfortable giving. For instance, my mother-in-law loves to hug and is big on physical affection. That one isn't so easy for me, and I have struggled. The even greater problem is my husband's primary love language is words of affirmation, which is even harder for me than physical affection.
When I first started learning about the love languages, I thought the hard part would be figuring out what people's love languages were. I didn't even think about how difficult it would be when theirs didn't match up with my own. I didn't realize that in communicating to my husband how he could better love me, that I would also be challenged to better communicate my love to him. There were a lot of times that I can remember telling my husband about my own love language and how he should be treating me, but I wasn’t considering HIS love language.
I found myself in a rut, where I wasn't showing him love in the way that I knew he wanted, and he knew it. I found myself getting frustrated. He was aware that words of affirmation were hard for me, so why did he keep pushing for it? Then I realized, of course, I couldn't ask him to do the work and try and change how he was showing me love if I couldn't do it for him as well! I also couldn't get mad at him for calling me on it.
Realizing my wrongdoing didn't feel so great, but it was eye-opening, and it needed to happen. Love isn't easy, and it's not about your partner bending to your will and going out of their comfort zone while you do whatever you want. It's hard to learn to love someone in ways that you're not comfortable with, but the journey is worth it. Love is also about growing and making yourself vulnerable, and not being selfish.
The love languages are not a failsafe, and they're not going to solve all of your relationship problems. But they do remind us that everyone is special and different in their own way, and one of the most loving things we can do for others is to care for them in ways which show them that we understand how they're feeling; by accomplishing this, they will hopefully be able to return the favor.
Love is an important and fulfilling part of life, and at some point, it's going to force you out of your comfort zone. It will command you to put someone else's needs ahead of your own, and it's not going to matter if that person's love language is different from yours. I found out that my husband's love language being something that is hard for me to do has been a blessing in disguise. It has taught me to be more empathetic and compassionate. It has taught me how to be more selfless, and in the world we live in today, that is a gift.