In the Work I Have Done with Couples, I Have Seen People Tend to Give Love in the way They Want to Receive it.
I call it the “I-Think-Love-Is-Pizza-But-You-Keep-Giving-Me-Broccoli” problem. Person A in the couple thinks, “You show you love me when you give me pizza. Love means giving pizza.” Person B thinks, “You show you love me when you give me broccoli. Love means giving broccoli.” I am sure you can figure out why there is going to be a problem here. Person A keeps giving Person B pizza. PILES of it, day after day. They cannot figure out why their partner is getting more resentful and angry when they are showing them all of this love! Person B is giving LOADS of broccoli to their partner, day after day. They cannot understand why their partner says they feel unloved and unappreciated. One day, they come to see me to try to straighten all of this out.
We are then able to sit down and talk about what love means to each of the partners. They are both working very hard to give love to each other, but they are giving love in the way they want to receive it. This is a common situation. So common, in fact that there is a book about it. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages in 1992 and it has sold 11 million copies. In the book, he talks about the 5 most common ways people experience the sentence “I love you”. The five languages are: 1) words of affirmation, 2) acts of service, 3) receiving gifts, 4) quality time, and 5) physical touch.
Learn Your Partners Love Language
Taking the time to learn your partner’s “love language” and then showing them love in that “language” is a way to deepen your connection to each other. If you are someone who likes to receive affirming words then when your partner does the dishes for you (acts of service) it is nice, but maybe does not have the same impact as writing them a love note and leaving it on their pillow or in their car (words of affirmation). When you are speaking “love” in your partner’s “language” they feel like you really know them and you care deeply about making sure they can feel how loved they are. Lastly. a couple who is tuned in and acting on their knowledge of their partner’s love language is a couple who is close and bonded to each other.
Here are some ways you can love your partner in their “language”:
Words of Affirmation:
- Write a love note and leave it somewhere for them.
- Congratulate them when they accomplish a goal.
- Send them a text message just to let them know you are thinking of them.
Acts of Service:
- Get your partner’s car washed.
- Make them a special meal.
- Run errands/do chores your partner would usually have to do.
- Keep a note on your phone of things they mention wanting and use this as your shopping list on birthdays, holidays, etc.
- Buy concert tickets when their favorite entertainer/band is in town.
- After a trip, bring them home a trinket or souvenir that made you think of them.
- Set aside a specific amount of time each day to connect and really listen to your partner. No distractions allowed (television, cell phones, etc.)
- Take a walk together.
- Plan a staycation.
- Cuddle while watching television
- Always kiss hello and goodbye
- Hold hands when you walk together
I have over 15 years of experience of working with individuals and families, first in child welfare, and then in mental health counseling. I have a Ph. D in Counseling, and am an Interfaith Minister. I work with clients desiring to include all of the aspects of the self in therapy-emotional and spiritual.