When my husband and I were first married, every Saturday when I woke up before him, I would giddily sneak out of bed and start cooking all of his favorite things for breakfast - eggs, bacon, hash browns, coffee...the whole nine-yards. I would very neatly display it on an elaborate plate and tip-toe back into the bedroom waiting in anticipation for the surprise and excitement on his face. And every Saturday he would wake up to the smell of my labor-filled breakfast and say, “oh thank you baby, that was sweet,” in a flat tone that would deflate all of my preconceived notions on how I thought he should react.
The things is, it wasn't that my husband wasn't appreciative and excited about what I had done for him. He just didn't react the way I had wanted him to! And that's because we have different love languages, or differing ways we feel most loved and appreciated. For a strong and steady relationship, it's important to understand your love language, your partner's love language, and how you can work together to give and get the love you need.
What are "love languages"?
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a popular book back in 1992 called, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, which outlines five different ways romantic partners express and experience love.
The five love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Receiving gifts
4. Physical touch
5. Quality time
The idea is that each person has one out of the five “love languages” that makes them feel the most loved and appreciated. On the other side of it, most people tend to express their love in their own love language. This would work out great, if and only if, both partners happened to have the same love language.
Here is a great quiz to learn what your love language is.
As you may have gathered from my story, my love language is acts of service. This only got amplified once my son was born. With being a full-time working mom to a toddler, nothing is sexier than my husband telling me to relax while he does a sink full of dishes. I thought that was what would make him feel loved and appreciated too. So when he wasn’t appreciating my efforts to making him feel loved, I got frustrated.
Do You Know What Your Partner’s Love Language Is?
This frustration is exactly why it's so important to know and understand your partner's love language too. How are you expected to make your partner feel loved if you don't know how they need to receive it?
So one day when we were sitting on the couch I randomly decided to ask him, “Do you know what your love language is?” I didn’t know if he would even know what I was referring to, nor did I think he would take the time to take some hyped-up online quiz to find out. To my surprise, he immediately replied, “words of affirmation,” and I was blown away. I immediately thought back to all the elaborate heartfelt cards that he had ever written to me and it all clicked.
Learning From My Mistakes
When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of it as a day to show your partner that they are loved and appreciated. And when I thought about what I could do for my husband, I initially fell into old habits and thought about just buying him a watch or something to check off a box on my to-do list. Then I remembered his love language was words of affirmation.
A couple days later, I stumbled across an old journal I had written throughout college, which talked about the qualities of the person I would hope to find someday. At the end of the journal, and in my next journal, was the time period I was dating my husband. The way I described him in my later journal entries was a mirror image of what I said I was hoping for previously. So this valentine’s day, I am taking a creative chance to make a collage of my past journal entries to illustrate how my relationship with my husband now, was everything I had previously hoped for. It may be cheesy, but I know my "words of affirmation" loving husband is going to love it.
You may not buy into the idea of expressions of love falling into five organized categories, but I think the idea behind it makes a point. As people we often make the assumption that other people think and feel as if we would, and would therefore react to a situation in the same way we would imagine ourselves reacting. The expression, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” doesn’t take into account the other person being an entirely different and wonderfully unique person from ourselves.
So this Valentine’s Day I encourage you to express your love and appreciation to your partner in THEIR love language, instead of yours. If you don’t know your partner’s love language, it could be a good talking point to bring up. They have numerous quizzes online, which could be fun to do together if you haven’t done so already! As much as we think we know our partners, there is always more to learn. Who knows, it could be an eye-opening experience for you...I know it was for me.
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About the Contributor:
Brianna Hardy lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and her 2 year-old son. She is a Research Programmer for The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice where she is passionate about improving the healthcare system for everyone. She loves reflecting and learning new ways of juggling the delicate balance between work and motherhood.