The most difficult of them all: the love language

love languages 2 halves a soul

The love language is a new way of thinking about love- a curious unyielding occurrence, seemingly without a specific form or shape, but encapsulating more philosophy than philosophy itself, and shaping the history of our planet since times immemorial.

Hundreds-of-years-worth-of-art has tried to define love, epitomize it, and as a result, we now have dozens of exquisite stories, songs, paintings depicting love.

“A purpose of human life” (Kurt Vonnegut), “a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will” (Stendhal), “to love at all is to be vulnerable” (C.S. Lewis), and the list of classics can go on. These were ethereal, deeply romanticized depictions of love.

Now let’s get back to our modern days…

Our modern depiction of love and the world pandemic

Of course, each era has had its own kind of depiction of love. In our modern era, love has been picked up in movies, advertisements, and social media.

In movies, we see how people are “meant to be together” without much effort, just because destiny dictates it. We see people who are so in love they forget about themselves and live only to “serve” the person they love. In reality, this kind of behaviour can lead to losing self-worth, and self-respect, invalidating the self, which, in the long run,  can bring damage to both parties engaged in a relationship.

A wrong, extreme concept of love can make you lose your focus on your own goals, and cause great, almost irreparable damage to your relationship balance. As we were talking in a different blog, finding equilibrium in a relationship means alternating between the activities you do together and those you like to enjoy on your own.

Moreover, borrowing a “love idea” from a movie and applying it to your own relationship can turn totally wrong. We are different people and we have different ways of understanding and expressing love. Although love might be for some a universal language, it is one with many dialects, and showing it can be a really challenging task.

In reality, each and every one of us picks up a sense of how WE want to be loved and if our dream does not meet reality, we are completely and utterly disappointed. The wrong dialect child ultimately spells out the end of a relationship!

This is where learning about love languages and caring behaviours comes into play.

As we tell all our couples in therapy, a healthy relationship is always work in progress; nobody has got it right from the start. Even us, married 41 years this week, are still learning about love languages and discovering new love styles. Confined to our own homes during the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve come to the realization that we make mistakes when it comes to expressing our love to each other, and the ones surrounding us.

All has prompted us to revisit the subject of love languages and love styles, both from history and today. So, let’s start with a short classical language lesson.

Love in Sanskrit

Sanskrit is the base for the modern South and Southeast Asian languages, much like Latin and Greek is to the modern European languages. The Sanskrit language has got 96 different words to express love.

Love in Sanskrit is:

  • Sneha (maternal love)
  • Kama (erotic love)
  • Anurakti (passionate love)
  • Rati (physical love and desire)
  • Priya (darling, or beloved)

People have always sought new and unique ways to express their love. Actually, there are more words for “love” than there are languages in the world. But how about love language?

The 5 types of love language as coined by Dr. Gary Chapman

The 5 love languages as described by Dr. Gary Chapman tells us what it takes for a person to feel loved. The main problem we have also encountered in our years of couple therapy is the discrepancy between what makes the two partners in a relationship feel loved.

love language

We are different persons and we receive and understand love in different ways. Dr. Gary Chapman has encapsulated all these ways in 5 different languages. And here’s what the 5 languages of love look like:

  • Words of affirmation

This type of love language needs a lot of words, words that will make your partner feel they are important to you, like “I love your smile”, “You look beautiful”, or just a simple “I love you!”. If your partner understands and speaks this love language, she/he will need a lot of words of affirmation from you, little messages, notes, telling them they are still loved, still the apple of your eye.

The love language of words of affirmation needs verbal expressions of care and affection. It’s not too complicated, just put what you feel into words and let your significant other hear them.

  • Receiving gifts

For a person who prefers this type of love language, actions are more important than words. You need to surprise them with things you know they love, to show you’ve been attentive all this time, and know exactly what would make them happy.

the 5 love languages

A person who has this love language is not necessarily a materialistic person. Just picking up their favourite ice cream on your way back from work without being asked to do so, will show your partner that you love her, and always care to make her feel that.

  • Quality time

This language is about giving your partner attention. This means leaving the smartphone, Netflix, job aside for their sake, and just spending quality time in each other’s company.

You should take time every day to do this, even just for an hour in which you’re together, sharing meaningful thoughts and ideas, listening to each other, checking up on each other, and making sure that everything is ok.

  • Acts of service

This fourth love language is showing your partner that you can help her vacuum the floor, or going grocery shopping, or washing the dishes, anything to ease the burden of her responsibilities.

This love language can be acquired through constantly sharing your responsibilities with each other, and volunteering to help share your partner’s chores from time to time. 

  • Physical touch

The physical touch love language meaning might escape some people’s grasp. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Physical touch is the most direct way of expressing your love, but it also takes some courage to make it right. People who have this type of love language might feel uncomfortable expressing it, and even afraid they could be deemed “needy”.

However, this is a legitimate type of love language. You could start by holding hands, giving hugs, maybe a pat on the back, and all kinds of small physical gestures to reassure your partner that you are there for each other and love each other.

To make this right, you’ve got to figure out which type of love language you adopt.

In Imago therapy, you can start with a dialogue that revolves around a few important questions. These questions will lead to the imago caring behaviours that we will thoroughly discuss in our next blog post.

Until then, try this little exercise. Each of you should fill in these 4 important sentences:

“I feel loved and cared about when you…”

“In the past, I have felt loved and cared about when you…”

“I would feel loved and cared about if you…”

“I think you would appreciate these surprises…”

Try and have a two-way dialogue revolving around these four simple sentences. You will see it could work wonders if you just opened up to each other.

To kick-start, this dialogue, just book a couples therapy session here, online or in person, your choice! Together we can start exploring your shared love language and how to cross the dialogue barrier into achieving it.