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Monday, 15 May 2017

Love Languages and Relationships

Do you help clients, either as individuals or in couples, who struggle to maintain relationships? It may be that the reason for this is because they and their partners are speaking different languages, at least in emotional terms. John Covell will take you through the concept of love languages, which can help your clients understand their own needs and the needs of others, and to communicate more effectively with romantic partners.

If you want to print this article to give to clients, feel free to do so, but please leave our copyright information intact.

Understanding love

A fundamental truth about relationships is that our experience of them as positive or negative is governed by how we behave and react in those relationships.

We form relationships in adulthood as a way of getting most of our basic needs met. For many people this first occurs when they fall in love. They enter a relationship with feelings of hope and happiness, which, while wonderful, unfortunately lead to a subconscious expectation that this is how love should be. They confuse “falling in love” with love, but they are not the same thing. True love is what comes after you’ve stopped falling; when you’re standing, clear-sighted and more in control.

Love is one of the best things in the world to give and certainly, to receive. Love isn’t something that just happens to you. You make a conscious decision when you choose to love.

What is love?

This question can be considered from several angles: our feelings for our partner; our perception of their feelings for us; or even observing other couples and being able to say that they clearly love each other.

But what are the clues that tell us this? Is there an extra-sensory perception in the heart that can read the feelings in another person’s heart? Actually, it’s pretty practical and down-to-earth. Our hearts take cues from our senses: everything we see, hear, taste, touch or smell teaches us about the world about us. Our sensory organs report to our brains, and our brains interpret the data. So, if we see a loving smile, hear loving words, or feel a loving touch, our brain processes this information and concludes, “You are being loved right now!” This perception leads us to experience a reciprocal warm glow somewhere inside that we call love.

In short, when we are loved, there is tangible proof. It’s not an abstract thought or feeling, it’s concrete and evidenced. This means, when you are treated with love, your heart feels love in response.

The word love is an action verb which we can choose to bring into play at any time. We make the decision to love someone and we do it by choosing to act in specific ways.

Gary Chapman wrote a book in 1992 entitled “The Five Love Languages: the Secret to Love that Lasts” in which he identified five ways in which we can show love to another person that will sustain a relationship.

Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to love and be genuinely loved by another, to know love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. We need to be loved by someone who chooses to love us, who sees in us something worth loving.

The five ways of expressing love: the Love Languages

S – Acts of Service
Jean’s preferred way of having love expressed to her is via acts of service.
By acts of service, I mean doing things you know Jean would like you to do. You seek to please her by serving her, to express your love for her by doing things for her. Like cooking a meal, setting a table, stacking and emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby, picking up a prescription, keeping her car serviced, paying the bills, mowing the lawn and so on. If done with a positive spirit, these things are indeed expressions of love. And they don’t take a lot of time.

T – Quality Time
By quality time I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on a couch watching television together. When you do that, the programme on the television has your attention, not your partner. What I mean is sitting on the couch with the television off, looking at each other and talking, with all devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking. Time is a precious commodity. If your partner’s preferred way of having love expressed to her is via quality time, then she simply wants you being with her, sharing time together.

T – Physical Touch
We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Research in child development supports this idea. There are many ways for people in relationships to touch. If you discover that touch is the way your partner prefers love to be expressed to them, then you are only limited by your imagination on ways in which you can express love. Coming up with new ways and places to touch can be an exciting challenge. Try new touches in new places and let your partner give you feedback on whether they find it pleasurable or not. Remember, they have the final word.

A – Words of Affirmation
Love is kind. If we are communicating love verbally, we must use kind words spoken in a tone of voice that is appropriate for showing kindness. Giving compliments is one form of affirming another person. They are far better as a motivator than nagging. The object of loving someone is not to get something you want, but to do something for the well-being of the one you love. It is a fact that when we receive affirming words, we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our partner desires. Affirming words can be given in the form of encouragement. Sometimes we lack courage, and this hinders us from accomplishing positive things that we would like to do. Words of encouragement may be all our partner needs to achieve their goals.

G – Receiving Gifts
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say: “Look, he was thinking of me”, or “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift. The gift is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it cost money. What is important is that you thought of the other person. And it is not only the thought that counts, but the thought demonstrated in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love. Gifts are visual symbols of love.

If we put the highlighted letters together we get STTAG. This is an acronym that we can use to remember the five ways to show LOVE to our partner.

Personal Preferences
Each person has preferences regarding the ways in which love is expressed to them. Helping clients to recognise their own needs and expectations, or their partner's, can greatly enhance their ways of communicating love and their satisfaction in relationships.

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John Covell is a Retired Senior Lecturer - Huddersfield University - and a qualified Cognitive Behaviour Therapist and Hypnotherapist. He runs the Taylor Hill Therapy Centre in Huddersfield. John also hosts regular discussion groups in Huddersfield for therapists - please contact him for more information if you are interested.

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