Staying virtually connected is easier than ever in our modern world. However, virtual connection seems to come at the cost of truly connecting to our partners and does not account for the emotional and physical needs in our relationships. We seem to forget how to love and be loved by our partners. Disconnection does not have to be permanent. We can recommit to our relationships by better understanding our needs and the needs of our partners through our love languages. With our love languages we can begin to reconnect to our partners in new, effective ways and improve our communication in how we need to be loved.
In 1995, Gary Chapman introduced the world to his conceptualization of the love language. Chapman proposed that there were five love languages that embodied how different individuals most sincerely yearned to receive affection from their partners. The five love languages he proposed were: Gift Giving, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service/Devotion, and Physical Touch. In addition to their most well-known application of providing couples knowledge about different ways to both convey and accept love, it also provides a helpful framework for couples struggling to reconnect with one another. We will explore each individual’s primary and secondary love language in my upcoming workshop, Loving Effectively.
There could be many contributing factors to a struggling relationship: financial hardship, family conflict, infidelity, trust issues, co-parenting difficulties, or any number of other issues. Whatever the reason, however, a more fundamental issue is that of losing the connection to our partners and becoming distracted by external contributing factors. The clients I work with demonstrate being connected by conflict, rather than connected by love, and become blind to the aspects of their partners with which they first fell in love. Reminding ourselves of these original reasons and committing to love our partners as they deserve to be is the first step toward learning to love again and loving more effectively.
How do we take the necessary first step toward reconnecting to our partners and learning to love again? Oftentimes, the most helpful first step is taking an introspective look at ourselves and our own emotional needs. After all, how could we expect our partners to meet those needs if we aren’t even aware of them? When we are aware of these needs, we can more easily verbalize them to our partners and the guessing game ends.
Love Languages may not directly solve every issue
that presents in a relationship,
but it gets at one root cause of so much distress:
The love languages provide couples with a helpful starting place for identifying these emotional needs and, more importantly, opens up a pathway for communication between us and our partners and fosters a greater comfort in sharing the needs we have. Chapman explained that when interacting with our partners about their love language, it can be helpful to ask them how they express love to other people in their lives or to ask what they might complain about not receiving enough of in their relationship. This is helpful especially if our partners are not aware of what their love language might be. Chapman also explained that observing how they show love to us can be telling as well, because oftentimes, he wrote, we naturally tend to express love in the way we might wish to have it expressed toward us. Alternatively, if we are struggling with identifying our own love language, it might be helpful to ask our partners the same thing and to observe how we commonly show love to others.
After identifying the love languages of ourselves and our partners, we can begin applying them uniquely to our lives with the understanding that there are a multitude of manners in which we might show our love, no matter which love language our partner possesses. For example, an individual whose love language is ‘physical touch’ may not need sensual encounters to feel loved; simply hugging them before leaving for work, putting our hands around their waist, and cuddling on the couch could demonstrate our love for them.
While Gary Chapman’s Love Languages may not directly solve every issue that presents in a relationship, it gets at one root cause of so much distress: disconnection. When we are disconnected from our partners, anger is fueled, resentments are built, and we forget how to love our partners. By identifying our love language and the language of our partners, we stop the stranglehold anger and resentment can have on relationships and we remind ourselves of why we first fell in love with our partners. We also commit to moving forward in a healthier way that better meets both partners’ needs and to learning to love more effectively.
Check our workshop schedule for Matt’s next Loving Effectively workshop that explores reconnecting with your partner through the use of the love languages.
Matt Sutera is a mental health practitioner at Thrive Therapy, located in Burnsville, MN. Matt encourages individuals to take an active role in their life and reinforces the understanding that we are each equipped with the tools for our recovery and well being. Set up an appointment with Matt for more individual support.