They say that French is the language of love, but how many of us actually speak French? Well, I do, but that's really neither here nor there. When it comes to love, there is more than one language. And it is the inability to speak each other's language that causes much of the strife in marriages and other familial relationships. In close relationships, we can often feel a sense of bewilderment, of discord with our loved ones. We think we are expressing our love to them, while they indicate that they feel unloved. It is a little like the golden rule; we all tend to give love in the same way we would like to receive it. But what if our significant other wants to receive love in a very different way?
After many years of counseling couples, Dr. Gary Chapman has identified five universal love languages: "Words of Affirmation," "Quality Time," "Physical Touch," "Acts of Service," and "Receiving Gifts." These are the ways in which we all express and interpret love. And while we may be somewhat fluent in several of these languages, we all have a primary one, the one we feel most comfortable using to express our love to those around us. This is the same way in which we want, indeed we expect, to receive love from others. Dr. Chapman has also found that we tend to be most drawn to those who express their love differently, who speak a different love language. Is it any wonder, then, that we can be in loving relationships and yet feel so disconnected?
It is all very unconscious, of course, and most of us are unaware of our own love language, let alone those of our loved ones. Imagine, for example, that you express your love primarily through physical touch, but your significant other expresses his or hers through acts ofservice. He or she would feel loved when you did the dishes, cleaned the house or took out the garbage, while you believe you are showing your love through hugs, backrubs and holding hands. When we are unaware of the different languages we are speaking, the hurt and misunderstanding can deepen quickly. We feel unloved, our partner feels unloved, and we don't know how to bridge the gap. And this doesn't just apply to partners or spouses, but to our relationships with children, teenagers, parents and extended family.
A critical first step in repairing damaged relationships is to understand the primary love language that both parties speak. Dr. Chapman has developed assessment tools, some of which are available online, for wives, husbands, children, parents, and even singles. Through a series of questions about what makes one feel most loved, individuals can identify their primary love language. Ideally, both parties in a relationship would identify their love language and use this knowledge as a tool to help bridge the gap.
But it isn't just knowing and understanding the other's primary love language, but actually making an effort to speak that language, that's vital to a healthy relationship. If you and your loved one speak different languages, it can be difficult to reach out in ways that make the other person feel most loved. There is no question that it will put you outside your comfort zone, that it will take a great deal of work at first. Just as it would to be suddenly stranded in a foreign country and have to rely on only a rudimentary understanding of the local language. But as we gain fluency in the primary language of our loved ones, we also begin to feel at ease expressing ourselves to them, and they to us. This way, we can rewrite the golden rule for the health of our relationships: Love those as they wish to be loved.
So what's your primary love language? Find out now...
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