It was on a school excursion that I first learned about the 5 love languages. I was speaking to our bus driver about relationships as we drove along the winding country roads, exchanging stories about our relationships and she mentioned (in the most casual way) that in her relationship, she appreciated acts of service, and therefore felt particularly connected to her husband when he did little things for her like paying the electricity bill or taking out the trash.
Acts of service.
I’d never heard that term before, so I enquired about it. “Tell me more about these ‘acts of service’?” I asked. Then, she blew my mind. She said that she had read a book called ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman and that it had changed her relationship. Intrigued, I asked more questions.
She said that all people have a basic need in their relationship. Something that they need to receive in order to feel like their ‘love cup’ is filled up. She and her husband had taken the time to get to know each other’s love languages and as a result, understood what each other needed in order to feel fulfilled and happy within their relationship. By now I was hooked. She had spiked an interest that I couldn’t ignore. As the noise from the children on the bus increased, my listening became sharper. This was all making sense to me. I had to know what these 5 love languages were. They are:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Receiving Gifts
We talked for much longer and I tried to work out which of the 5 love languages I was. At that point I thought I was a bit of everything (aren’t we all to a degree??) but it turns out that I’m not. After that trip, she leant me the audio book and I listened intently to Gary’s words. Every single word resonated with me. It made sense.
Gary talked about how in all of his years in counselling married couples, every complaint and issue could always be traced back to one of the 5 love languages not being met. He spoke about the importance of taking the time to understand which of the 5 love languages your partner speaks and making a conscious effort to ensure that you provide that for them. I was hooked. This was making so much sense.
I remembered back to previous relationships where I would retreat if I was going unnoticed, being ignored or not receiving exclusive attention. I thought to my current relationship where my hard work and thoughtfulness seemed to be going unrecognized. I realized that perhaps I wasn’t mad at him, perhaps I was emotional within myself for not having my love needs met. Things were really starting to make sense at this point. In the classroom, when children act out it is because they have a need that isn’t being met. Sometimes they don’t even know what that need is, but they know there is a deficit somewhere. The correlation between this sort of behavior and the behavior that I’d experienced in my relationships was uncanny.
I wasted no time. I had to work out which love language I spoke. Then, I had to work out which one my partner spoke. I took the quiz over on Gary’s website. It wasn’t surprising to find out that I was a ‘words of affirmation’ girl (closely followed by ‘quality time’).
I decided not to tell my partner about any of this. I wanted to try and figure out which love language he spoke and then implement it by changing my behavior in order to try and meet his needs. Over the next two weeks I tried various different things.
I put my hand on his leg as we watched TV (physical touch).
I hugged him closer and more intimately as we said goodbye in the mornings (physical touch).
I took the garbage out (acts of service).
I filled the car with petrol on my way home from work (acts of service).
I asked if there was anything I could do to help him today (acts of service).
I brought home ‘treats’ from the supermarket (receiving gifts).
I told him I loved him more often (words of affirmation).
I complimented him on how good the lawns looked after he mowed (words of affirmation).
I told him that I liked the way he dressed for school and complimented his appearance (words of affirmation).
I went up to his orchard with him and listened intently as he told me all about the plants and his vision (quality time).
I went to the hardware store with him and helped him choose storage options for the garage (quality time).
After two weeks, I worked it out. He responded positively whenever I complimented him/his work and he responded with gratitude to me whenever I did something for him (like take out the garbage or watered the garden). He was jointly ‘words of affirmation’ and ‘acts of service’. Woo hoo – I figured it out.
BUT – you’ll never guess it… once I started to meet both of his two needs through his love language every day, he started to acknowledge me for being thoughtful. He began taking notice of the little things I was doing for him and showing me appreciation for doing so. He began offering to spend time with me doing things that I enjoyed. Can you see what was happening here? Amazingly enough, he began to speak my love language without me saying a thing about it.
By meeting my partner’s needs through his love languages, he felt appreciated and loved; and the consequence was that he began to act differently toward me, meeting my needs through my love language. And he didn’t even know it.
This is the power of truly understanding and meeting your partner’s needs. Everyone benefits. I still haven’t talked much with him about this. It’s just a little game that I play – a game where both of us win. It has totally transformed my relationship. It could transform yours too.