By Hilary Sheinbaum
When it comes to understanding one another, while dating — or engaged or married, for that matter — it can feel as though you and your significant other are speaking different, incompatible languages.
Although you might be disagreeing in the same verbal vernacular, your love language could be poles apart. (Sigh. As if relationships weren’t complicated enough, right?)
“Love languages are ways in which we express and receive love,” says Blair Bishop, an associate marriage & family therapist in Los Angeles. Bishop explains there are five love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service.
“People tend to predominantly ‘speak’ in one or two of these languages,” she says, noting that when partners have different primary love languages, things can get confusing. “You may love each other and try earnestly to express it, but you simply are not speaking the same language. When you can identify and speak your partner’s primary love language, you can enjoy a deeper and more loving relationship.”
Thankfully, you won’t need to go back to school or invest in Rosetta Stone to learn more. Read on for your cheat sheet — ahem, cliff notes — on love languages.
This idea started about 30 years ago. “The concept of love languages originated from Dr. Gary Chapman’s groundbreaking 1992 book titled The 5 Love Languages,” says Bishop. It’s so popular that since its publication, it has sold over 13 million copies. “
Dr. Chapman drew upon his experience as a marriage counselor as well as his knowledge of linguistics,” says Bishop. “The concept became popular because it instills hope. It provides a framework for couples to talk about their preferences and to ensure that they are getting the love they want.”
Bishop says you can read the book The Five Love Languages and/or you can take the free online quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com to uncover your love language.
Bishop says most people have one or two love languages. “A lot of people balk at the idea of having to ‘choose’ just one,” she notes. After all, most people would agree that all of them sound pretty good.
“Your subconscious knows what it wants more than your conscious mind thinks it does,” she says.
“When you take the quiz, it becomes clear that some things actually do make you feel more loved than others.” She gives the example of your partner telling you that you are beautiful, which are words of affirmation, rather than your partner doing the laundry for you because they know you are swamped at work, which falls under the category of acts of service.
Namely, to avoid problems and flourish as a couple. Everyone gives and receives love differently, Bishop says.
“We tend to express love in the same way we prefer to experience it,” she says.
“When that doesn’t match up with the way that your partner wants to receive love, then conflict ensues. Having the framework of the 5 love languages allows couples to communicate better and ensure that they are both getting what they need out of the relationship.”
Bishop says that oftentimes our preferred love languages relate to the love we did or did not receive from our primary caregivers in childhood.” If a child in a dysfunctional household grew up never hearing praise, then as an adult she may crave ‘words of affirmation’ from her romantic partner,” she says. “Conversely, if a child in a functional household grew up with his lunches consistently packed and laundry consistently done, then as an adult he may crave the same ‘acts of service’ from his partner that made him feel loved when he was young.”
Bishop says love languages are windows into our psyches and they can provide rich information about the internal worlds of our partners. “The more you try to understand your partner and have curiosity about them, the deeper your love can be,” she says.
Now that you know how important love languages are, what are you waiting for? Take that quiz!