Understanding Intentions : How We Dismiss Their Love Language
Have you heard of Gary Chapman? A marriage counselor who believes we all speak and interupret a different Love Language. As a relationship therapist, I’ve grown accustomed to using his theory of Love Languages when defining our natural (and very unique) translations of love and connection.
Gary believes, “Unhappiness in marriage often has a simple root cause: we speak different love languages,” and while working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, he has termed Five Love Languages : Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
The other day I was thinking about my own “love language” and was able to identify certain experiences in my childhood which have impacted my natural tendency to enjoy Quality Time and Gifts. (Although I do cherish all of them). My grandparents were a big influence in my childhood and every morning they would get me ready for school, make me breakfast and drop me off. They both knew about my upcoming tests, my social life and boys I had crushes on. They were invested in my life and the quality time spent with them was extremely special to me. Also looking back to my childhood, my mom (who was a single parent until I was 6-years-old) would always try to make events special by giving me cute gifts. Every Valentine’s Day, Easter or celebration at school, she would have a huge gift basket prepared with my favorite goodies. I knew she didn’t have a lot of money, so none of the gifts were lavish by any means, but they were genuinely thoughtful and that was my mom’s way of showing me she loved me.
Although all the love languages are significant from my perspective, it’s extremely important to understand which one(s) you and you partner tend to speak more fluently. This will help avoid misunderstanding and dismissal of each other’s bids at connection. I think it is important to define to your partner what each love language looks like to you, so you have context to each other’s dialect.
For example, I’d have to say that my definition of “quality time” in the context of my marriage, looks like Aron and I being completely present in experiencing something together. It could be us getting happy hour on a patio with no electronics handy; it could be us going for a run together in complete silence. Where as Aron may feel at times that an example of his definition of “quality time” is us watching a TV show together.
What is interesting to me is I often hear my clients say that gifts as a Love Language is “superficial” or “materialist.”
Yes, of course, the gift itself is in fact a tangible thing, but should they all be considered “superficial?” Superficial implies a gift is fake. It implies the intention behind the gift is a false attempt at connecting and showing love. By labeling this love language as “materialistic” or “superficial,” it voids the genuine attempt of someone showing love in their fluent language. (OUCH!)
Maybe the topic of gift giving is striking a particularly sensitive cord for me because not only is it one of my love languages, but I also never realized how vulnerable it would be for Aron and I to conceptualize the boxes and send them out to YOU and your partner! This is more than just a business for us and we care about our couple’s overall experience. It’s been an exposing process for even us to give thoughtful gifts to you and your partner in hopes you both will enjoy!
In many intimate cases, the intention of gifting a present to someone is in fact extremely thoughtful and vulnerable. By giving an intentional gift, you are opening yourself up to getting rejected. By giving a gift, you are symbolically giving a piece of you away to someone else in hopes they accept and appreciate it.
Your partner may not speak the same love language or have the same definitions of your love language, but once you become aware of the different languages being spoken in your relationship, you can start to value your partner’s attempts more.
What You Can do to Avoid Dismissing Each Other’s Love Language(s):
Talk About Where Your Love Language(s) Have Come From. A good exercise is to discuss memories in which have contributed to each other’s love language to gain an appreciation for where each other is coming from.
Open Your Eyes! Don’t take each other’s love language(s) for granted. Of course it would be nice if your partner made the bed more, or brought you home flowers, but are there other ways they show you they love you that you may not even be fully aware of? (Are they patient with you when you’re frustrated? Do they engage with you when you’re needing to talk? Do they hold your hand when you’re walking down the street? Do they make you laugh?)
Believe Your Partner Has the Best Intentions. Your partner may not notice your love language as an attempt to connect sometimes, and/or they may not reciprocate in the same way you are needing. Instead of getting resentful and angry, try to acknowledge and remember what they actually do. Try to keep in mind that similarly to learning any new language, it takes time, practice and grace.
Acknowledge Your Partner’s Love Language, but Also Encourage Them to Use Yours. In order to feel confident in communicating in any foreign language, you need to feel encouraged when trying it. When you are attempting to ask for what you need try to acknowledge their efforts first, be compassionate and encouraging when they do try to speak yours!
It’ll never be perfect, but maybe you can also start to appreciate their attempts even though it’s not your desired form of connection and find a mutual balance. I encourage you to take Gary Chapman’s Five Love Language quiz together if you haven’t already!
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