7. Love Languages and #Relationshipping
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
The last blog covers how conflicts in your relationship are actually opportunities to grow closer together. Proactive thinking enables you to anticipate what your partner may be looking for and how they might be expressing your needs. Ultimately becoming aware of your needs and making your needs clear to your partner is the first step towards being able to fulfill each other’s needs.
Now let’s do something with that awareness.
Expressions turn to Actions
Now that you know what emotional fruits your partner craves, how will you harvest that fruit for them? How will they harvest the fruits that you enjoy?
For example, if Rachel knows that her husband David loves the emotional fruit of being appreciated, she will look for ways to make David feel appreciated. David, knowing that Rachel’s favorite fruit is being cherished will focus more on finding ways to make her feel cherished.
There are countless ways Rachel can make David feel appreciated, countless ways David can make Rachel feel cherished. And the ways that Rachel appreciates David can be entirely different from how Sonia appreciates Rick; the way David cherishes Rachel could be completely different from how Luke cherishes Hannah.
All three couples have healthy relationships, but they all operate very differently. The common denominator in all these different relationships is the intention of finding ways to provide the emotional fruits to the partner--ways to make your expressions actions.
There are many, many types of specific emotional fruits, and many ways to harvest them--but not to overwhelm you!
Learning Love Languages
One way to contextualize all the options we have when it comes to relationshipping is to use Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. In broad terms, these five love languages encompass many fruits. And it’s easy to find small ways to speak them:
Words of Affirmation
Verbal validation goes a long way for someone who speaks this love language,
How To Use it
Give frequent and genuine compliments such as “I like your hair today” or “I love how you play with the kids”
Leave notes of encouragement in their bag, car, lunch, etc.
Say “I love you” often
Acts of Service
We all do things for our partner, but this love language is all about putting thought behind it: “when my spouse gets home from work, they’re usually tired. What can I do to make them feel better?”
How To Use It
Volunteer to take care of a chore they dislike
Do something that will make them feel welcome when they come home, or energized when they start the day.
Take things off their to-do list
Receiving gifts isn’t the love language of gold diggers--if you love receiving gifts you know it really is the thought that counts.
How To Use It
Getting their favorite ice cream.
Make them a card
Get them a practical item that represents their favorite animal, sports team, TV show, etc.
If this is your love language, you might feel that the activity doesn’t matter so much as the person or people you’re doing it with. But don’t sit in front of the TV--make sure the activity gives you a chance to actually be with one another!
How to Use It
Go on long walks
Cook together, or take on a hands-on project together
Play a board game, tennis, or have a catch
This doesn’t necessarily mean intense intimacy. Touch can be platonic, romantic, in any case an essential element of human communication.
How to Use It
Hold hands when you walk
Give frequent hugs
Rest your hand on theirs whenever you’re sitting near one another
Random acts of kindness are a great way to make deposits into a relationship bank account, but when you make a habit of treating your partner, each deposit comes with a bonus.
Like financial stability is well supported by a steady stream of income, so too is your relationship bank account in marriage.
Ben and Cindy found a ritual in their marriage when Ben, who likes to wake up early to go running, started making coffee for his wife while he does his stretches. Cindy sleeps in an extra half hour and enjoys waking up to freshly brewed coffee before going to work.
Even though making coffee for Cindy amounts to about a dollar into the relationship bank account, making that deposit every day adds up just as fast as the expense of buying coffee.
But instead of an unpleasant surprise on your credit card bill, these deposits add up to stronger bonds in your relationship. Healthier emotional fruits. And reciprocation.
Even though Ben’s not a coffee person, that small ritual he does for Cindy changed Cindy and changed their relationship. At first Ben thought he was helping Cindy take stressful times at work. The coffee helped her go with more energy, she performed better overall and eventually got a raise, but it wasn’t just caffeine that made a difference for Cindy. It was the support of her partner who knows how to speak her love language.
And it certainly wasn’t caffeine that inspired Cindy to reciprocate, she thought to set aside Ben’s running socks from the wash and put them in the shoe rack with a special note of encouragement knowing how much Ben thrives on words of affirmation.
Ben created a ritual, and Cindy reciprocated. Both of them are being proactive, because Ben knows Cindy’s love language is acts of service, and Cindy knows how much words of encouragement mean to Ben.
Similarly, when Cindy initiated a ritual of suggesting Ben’s outfits for work by telling him how sharp he looked with this tie paired with that jacket, Ben reciprocated by making a habit of taking all their clothes to the dry cleaner.
It’s OK to Feel Unnatural
Sometimes the reciprocation isn't an equal an opposite reaction, but relationshipping is an art, not a science. There's no need to keep score, the intention and the practice of supporting your partner is what helps your emotional fruits grow. And together you harvest in abundance.
Every couple has their own rituals, and Ben and Cindy’s rituals sound strange to us--and our respective rituals might very well sound strange to them. That’s because these rituals are so unique and so personal to each couple and each relationship. Nobody can invent a one-size-fits all custom; the common denominator of healthy relationships is the intention to create a system of reciprocation.
With all the opportunities for success and growth that conflicts present us, none of us are perfect and we’re bound to make mistakes. But that can also be a great opportunity for growth and intimacy as well as setting a great example for your children and others who look up to you. Read more about owning your mistakes in the next blog!