The emotional languages of a happy relationship

Modern research has taught us a lot about what keeps people in love — and what makes them fall out of love.

holding hands

There are dozens of research that teach us a lot about what keeps people in love. Many of them point to the importance of work and effort. Successful relationships emerge when two people invest in their relationship — over time their love becomes stronger, more exciting, and full of fresh emotions and feelings.

Relationship researchers are deeply motivated to identify interpersonal patterns of successful relationships and marriages.

Dr John Gottman, a renowned psychological researcher who focuses on marital stability and divorce prediction, argues that the “Four Horsemen” can predict the end of a relationship — Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

He says identifying these communication styles is a necessary first step to eliminating them and building a strong relationship. To avoid destructive communication in our relationships, we recommend we replace them with healthy, productive ones.

The five love languages

Dr Gary D. Chapman, a well-known relationship expert with over 30 years of experiences and director of marriage seminars, he identified different ways that individuals express love, through dozens of years of notes.

He once explained to his audience in one of his seminars: “Adults all have a love tank. If you feel loved by your spouse, the whole world is right. If the love tank is empty, the whole world can begin to look dark.” People fill their tanks in different ways, he argues.

In Dr Chapman’s analysis, everyone speaks a different love language — some people like to perform acts of kindness for their partners, while others seek quality time. People want different things. Learning your partner’s love language changes how you relate and respond to them. Dr Chapman believes that by familiarising yourself with the 5 love languages you can become a better partner.

He explains: “Each of us has a primary love language,” Dr. Chapman said, and often secondary or tertiary ones. To help identify your language, he recommended focusing on the way you most frequently express love. What you give is often what you crave. Challenges in relationships arise because people tend to be attracted to their opposites, he said. “In a marriage, almost never do a husband and wife have the same language. The key is we have to learn to speak the language of the other person.”

According to Dr Chapman, a healthy relationship is maintained through one or more forms of physical and verbal communication. He says identifying the language you and your partner “speak” is the best way to get better at communicating in those languages and building a happy relationship.

In his own words, here’s how Chapman breaks down the five love languages in his best-selling book, The 5 Love Languages:

My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counselling is that there are basically five emotional love languages — five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics, a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects…The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.

The five languages are easy to understand and apply. Here is a simple description of what each of them means on his five languages site:

1. Words of affirmation — using words to build up the other person. “Thanks for taking out the garbage.” Not — “It’s about time you took the garbage out. The flies were going to carry it out for you.”

2. Gifts — a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”

3. Acts of Service — Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.

4. Quality time — by which I mean, giving your spouse your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off — talking and listening.

5. Physical touch — holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all expressions of love.

To improve your relationship, it pays to take the time to acquaint yourself with both your love language and your partner’s. Learn how you like to give and receive love. With this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to fulfil your partner’s emotional needs.

“We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it,” Chapman writes in his book. “If we want them to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in their primary love language.”

“Knowing your love language can be one of the single most important things in a relationship,” says Robin R. Milhausen, PhD, Associate Chair, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. “Without this knowledge, you can miss that your partner is being loving and caring.”

You can build a stronger, happier and successful relationship by noticing and applying your personal languages — tailor your own expressions of love to what makes your partner feel loved.

If you’re in a relationship and you’re having trouble connecting with your partner, Dr Chapman’s Love Language system is a good place to start.

Originally published on Medium.