5 Ways to Express Love
Every married person I know would like to live with a happy spouse. When we got married, we intended to make each other happy, and we hoped that they would reciprocate. Many spouses feel that they have sincerely tried, but have been unsuccessful, and they don’t know what else to do. Some blame their spouse, and others blame themselves.
It’s my conviction that happiness is the by-product of feeling loved. When we were dating and in that euphoric state commonly referred to as “being in Love,” we were both happy. In fact, one husband told me, “I was happier than I have ever been in my life.” It is this sense of extreme happiness that led us to get married. We wanted to be this happy the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, all research indicates that the “in love” experience is temporary.
If emotional love is to remain alive, it must be nurtured.
In my early years as a marriage counselor, time and time again I noticed that often couples would voice similar complaints regarding their marriage. One spouse would say something to the effect of, “I feel like he doesn’t love me,” as the other spouse would then retort, “I don’t know what else to do. I’m doing everything I ought to.” Realizing there was a pattern, I scoured through 12 years of notes that I made when counseling couples, and asked myself the question “When someone said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what do they want? What are they complaining about?” Remarkably, I found their answers fell into five categories revealing a unique approach in how to effectively love another person.
Many years later, this revolutionary concept has improved millions of relationships and continues to do so across the globe. The premise is simple: Different people with different personalities express love in different ways. These ways of expressing and receiving love are called love languages —there are five, and every individual has one they prefer above the others, and I refer to it as their primary love language.
These five love languages are:
WORD OF AFFIRMATION
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. You thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build you up.
▸ Do you know your Love Language? Take the Love Language Quiz
ACTS OF SERVICE
Can helping with homework really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. When others serve you out of love (and not obligation), you feel truly valued and loved.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are heartfelt symbols to you of someone else’s love and affection for you.
In Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes you feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed activities, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Whether it’s spending uninterrupted time talking with someone else or doing activities together, you deepen your connection with others through sharing time.
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and love to you.
Discovering and learning to speak the primary love language of someone you love can radically strengthen and improve your relationship with them. My files are filled with letters from people I have never met, saying, “A friend of mine gave me a copy of The 5 Love Languages® and it has revolutionized my marriage. We had struggled for years trying to love each other, but our efforts had missed each other emotionally. Now that we are speaking the appropriate love languages, the emotional climate of our marriage has greatly improved.”
A happy spouse is one who feels loved by their spouse.
Are you getting through emotionally? Every spouse has an emotional love tank. When their love tank is full, they are happy. When their love tank is empty, the whole world looks dark. The key to a full love tank is learning to speak your spouse’s primary love language. Speak that language and their love tank will fill up quickly. Speak the other languages and it fills up more slowly. The mistake I see and hear most often from couples I talk to is when they are speaking their own primary love language instead of their spouse’s. They must first learn their spouses’ primary love language and then begin to speak it fluently, even when it isn’t natural to do so.