The secret love hack to healthy & lasting relationships

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City Church Christchurch

You’re not speaking my language!

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Updated: 5 December 2019
By Cori Sanders

“I just don’t get it,” Kerry exclaims in frustration. “Jake keeps saying he loves me; he praises me to high heavens; he always says he’s so lucky to have me - but when I ask him to take out the rubbish, he can’t be bothered. When I get home from work late, you’d think he’d at least have thought to cook something for me, but no. He’ll make a sandwich for HIMSELF, and then, when I get home, exhausted and starving, there’s no food, AND I have to wash up the dishes he's left in the sink! What’s up with that?!”

Kerry’s convinced the honeymoon is over. She and Jake have only been married for two years but she laments the lack of understanding, communication, and help. “If only he’d lift a finger to help out once in a while! I’d rather have that than all his extravagant compliments. Talk is cheap!”

Do Kerry and Jake love each other? Yes. So what’s the problem? They’re just not talking the same language. Or rather, the same LOVE language.

In this article.

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The five love languages.

According to Dr Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, "Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language... you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the wedding, but in order to keep it alive most of us will have to put forth effort to learn a secondary love language. We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it. If we want them to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in his or her primary love language."

The five love languages are:

1. Words of Affirmation

Verbal expressions of love, admiration, appreciation, and praise intended to build up another person.

2. Acts of Service

Acts of kindness, consideration, and help that you know the other person will appreciate.

3. Quality Time

The gift of undivided attention and presence; talking and listening to another with patience and focus.

4. Gifts

Presents of all kinds.

5. Physical Touch

Expressing love through physical contact like holding hands, kissing, hugging, etc.

Our primary love language is the way in which we prefer to both express and experience/receive love. In the same way that a native French speaker expresses himself fluently in French and understands it perfectly, we tend to convey love in our primary love language; and we feel loved when it’s communicated to us in that same language.

Couple hugging each other

So how do you discover your love language?

The easiest way is to ask yourself, “How do I like to show someone I love them?” and “What can somebody do to make me feel loved?”

Once you know your own, get curious about what your spouse’s love language might be. Play the sleuth and observe what lights them up or just ask them straight out. Remember, they will show love the way they want to receive love, so notice the clues. They will appreciate your willingness to speak their language. As will your children, your friends, and even your co-workers.

Want to discover your love language? Take the online quiz.

The benefits of knowing the love languages.

In my family, my husband and daughter both share the same love language: words of affirmation. My love language is acts of service. I think their love language is fluffy. They think mine costs in terms of time and effort. They often praise and compliment me and find ways to build me up with their words. I go out of my way to research things that will help them; cook their favourite meals; make sure their laundry is done; buy things they will like; and organise family holidays and outings. I prefer to demonstrate love in action. They prefer to talk about it. Guess who feels like the martyr???

We were often at cross-purposes, communicating love in our native tongues but missing the emotional mark. It was like attempting a high-five and missing the hand! We seldom FELT loved. My daughter would tell me I was the BEST mom in the whole world. I just wished she would wash my car. I’d do the bulk of the housework so my husband could focus on his work. What HE wanted was for me to tell him how much I loved him and what a great provider he was. We loved each other. We were sincere. But we did not soul-connect.

When I discovered and read The Five Love Languages book, enlightenment dawned! So THAT’S why they keep praising me instead of helping out!!! It’s their way of showing love! They aren’t just being lazy! I sat them down and told them about it. “Here’s the quiz to find out,” I said. “Take the quiz!” And slowly, they realised why Martyr Mum often felt resentful at not getting any help with meal prep or chores. She wasn’t feeling loved.

After that, we took pains to speak each other’s language. At first, the words didn’t fit properly in my mouth, but I would gently force them out – words of praise and appreciation. It felt awkward and I felt like a fake but I watched both hubby and daughter bloom.

Hubby began coming to the kitchen while I prepared the evening meal. “Need any help?” he’d ask, while tying on an apron. (Oh, be still, my beating heart!!!)

Our 20-year-old is still an unstoppable fountain of praise and appreciation (her love language) while working on being bilingual in love. She occasionally manages to put down her phone to do something to help, but makes sure you know what she’s done by announcing: “Mum, I went out today and watered YOUR vegetables!”

When I lived in Japan, I noticed how much the locals appreciated my attempts to speak their language. It didn’t come naturally, but the effort paid off. We connected. Speaking an unfamiliar love language shows your loved ones that you are making an effort because they’re worth it. And when they make an effort to speak your language, they are saying you’re worth it, too.

Couple playing and laughing

Tips for speaking each love language.

1. Words of Affirmation

Let your loved one know what you appreciate and admire about them. Encourage them. Let them know you’re in their corner. Say: “I love you.” I’m proud of you.” “I believe in you.” Send them a loving text or sneak a note into their man-bag or handbag.

2. Acts of Service

Pitch in and help out with chores and tasks with good grace and without being asked. Offer to do things that will make life easier for them. Anticipate what they might need/want and provide it, e.g. a cup of tea or coffee in the morning; a meal if they’ll be home late; taking the children to the park to give your spouse a break.

3. Quality Time

Go on date nights, coffee dates, or walks together. Enjoy a leisurely meal at a restaurant with no cell phones, tablets, newspapers, or magazines to distract. Pick a hobby you both enjoy and do it together. Plan a weekend getaway and leave your work and the kids at home with a family friend or sitter.

4. Gifts

Does your spouse like collecting watches, travel magazines, or china? Surprise them with a welcome addition to their collection. Buy them little things that say, “I’m thinking of you”. Pay attention to what they say they’d like and, if possible, surprise them with it.

5. Physical Touch

Prioritise physical intimacy. Hug. Hold hands. Offer a massage or a foot rub. Cuddle while watching TV.

Buy the book.

You can buy The Five Love Languages online from Amazon, The Book Depository or from all good book retailers.