Many couples come to counselling telling me how their partner doesn’t “get” them and how they don’t feel loved by their partner. Here’s a typical scenario, husband exclaims, “I buy her everything her heart desires, I work hard for the family, why does she always complain that it’s not enough?” And the wife replies, “You’re never around, always busy working, and I have to plan everything with us and the family or else nothing ever happens.” Both people are trying to love the other, but something got lost.
Over twenty-five years ago, psychologist Gary Chapman wrote the classic book, The Five Love Languages. Today, this book remains influential to a new generation of readers. Chapman describes 5 main ways that people give and receive love: acts of service, words of affirmation, giving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. He goes on to say that most of us have a one or two dominant ways that we give and receive love.
In the earlier scenario, we can deduce that the husband’s dominant love languages are acts of service and giving gifts. He works hard (acts of service) to buy his wife everything that her heart desires (gifts). We can also see that the wife’s dominant love language is quality time. She complains that he’s too busy working and she has to plan all family events.
Couples like these are common. Both people want to love the other well, both are well intended, but both end up feeling hurt and misunderstood. If the couple described above understood that they are trying to love the other person the way that THEY want to be loved, instead of how the OTHER wants to be loved, then they wouldn’t keep fighting about the same thing.
When couples come to understand that they’ve been trying to love their partner the way that they want to be loved, everything changes. Now they can start loving their partner in the way that the partner wants to be loved. Both people feel more connected, close, and loved. This is an easy way to resolve a long-term problem.