Have you ever had an experience where an act of affection on your part went unnoticed or even unappreciated by another? Or perhaps you’ve been on the other side of this equation…and something someone else has done in hopes of demonstrating affection toward you only served to piss you off?
My lover and I struggled with this one for months when we first got together. He loves to have his ears nibbled, kissed, blown into, etc. I, on the other hand, can’t stand it! Despite my constant reminders that having my ears touched is actually a turn off for me, he constantly reverted back to what he expected me to enjoy…the things that he enjoyed. We also found we have a similar need to be touched. I remember a particular time when he came to visit and when we hugged I touched him in a certain way and he said, “You always know how to touch me.” And I did, however we also had differences in how we wanted to be loved.
This happens a lot in relationships: we expect the other person to think, feel, and react just as we would. This popular misconception can lead to a slew of unfortunate misunderstandings, hurt feelings, even fights! Demonstrating love in the language your partner understand greatly increases the likelihood that your gestures will be well-received.
Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” suggests there are five types love languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Chapman also asserts each individual favors one of the five main languages. And, as you might have guessed, the way individuals like to receive love most often mirrors they way they most like to show love.
Do yourself a favor: get clear on what your love language is. Encourage your partner to do the same and then compare notes. An individual whose love language is “Quality Time” might not be moved at all by some fresh-cut flowers, but would love to have you sit down for 30 minutes and ask about his/her day. Likewise, an individual whose love language is “Physical Touch” may melt at receiving a foot massage while the hours you spent cleaning out the garage go virtually unrecognized.
Once you and your partner are familiar with one another’s love languages you can begin to speak and listen in ways that are compatible with one another. Here’s a suggestion, make a list of specific ways you like to give love (e.g. make dinner, go for a hike together, give compliments) and/or receive love (e.g. help me with the housecleaning, receive a foot massage). Compare notes. You might be surprised.