We Speak Relationship.
San Francisco's Leading Couples & Marriage Counseling, Intimacy & Sex Therapy Center has highly trained relationship experts, including certified sex therapists, clinical psychologists, MFTS, couples therapy psychotherapists and certified sexuality empowerment coaches and relationship coaches. We have over 40 San Francisco Bay Area Couples Counseling & Sex Therapy Center locations and a diverse and skilled team of intimacy experts.
We tend to express our love, affection and care for others in the ways in which we enjoy receiving love. It is likely that your partner and you have some differences in how you feel most loved and how you tend to show your affection. In order to feel emotionally connected to your partner, it is imperative that you feel secure in their love and commitment to you. This is what couples therapists refer to as secure functioning in a relationship. Simply put, it means that you trust that you have each other’s backs and you know your relationship will be protected from both external and internal sources. This is based on commitments and behaviors such as “I will soothe you when you are in distress, even when I am the cause of the distress.” Or “I will come to you first, not second, third or fourth with important information.”
It also means that you will need to effectively communicate your needs and love with one another. While you likely both speak the same linguistic literal language (such as English), it is probable that you may have ways of conveying love that is not the primary love language of your partner. Therefore you must learn how to speak one another’s love languages.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, there are five ways to “speak” and understand emotional love. But many couples don’t know about love languages and are often surprised when they learn about them. Chapman describes those five love languages as:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
It is common for partner to enter into couples counseling after many years into a committed relationship, complaining of not fully understanding and communicating well with the other partner. Many couples lament and worry that there may be something fundamentally wrong with the compatibility of the relationship. They report feeling confused, distressed and isolated in the partnership. Although each partner is speaking the same verbal language, when a powerful or even a subtle and eroding disconnection occurs between partners, it is often due to not speaking the same love language.
There may not be anything wrong with your relationship other than the differences in your ways of communicating and expressing love. You might just be speaking a love language that your partner doesn’t fully understand, or your partner speaks a love language that you have yet to learn. In order to have secure functioning and attachment, each partner must feel loved and understood by their partner.
As a child, you probably learned to accept and offer love in certain ways. Perhaps your parents regularly hugged you and told you how much they love you (Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation). Or, instead, they showed their love by always driving you to and from soccer games and cheering you on (Acts of Service, Quality Time), even if they weren’t the hugging types.
Simply put, that’s how your parents expressed their love for you, and you may have adopted those love languages as your own. Or conversely, if your parents bought you toys but did not spend time with you, you may have longed for quality time and as an adult make a point to be available to your partner for shared experiences and dislike receiving gifts.
As an adult in a committed relationship your childhood attachment style and love language will resurface in how you relate to your partner.
If your love languages vary significantly, eventually the message you are trying to express to your partner is not received or acknowledged as an expression of love, even if that is your intent and vice versa. Showing love and feeling loved in different ways without a mutual understanding of the dynamic will inevitably lead to disconnect and frustration. This rift may lead partners to question the depth or strength of their love, or may leave partners feeling uncared for, which can cause negative cycles in the relationship dynamic. Unfortunately, this can lead to emotional and physical disconnection between both individuals.
Partners can figure out their love languages by closely looking at how each expresses love to the other. One person may like to be touched and need to hear words like I love you, you are beautiful, you look great, and so on. That partner’s love languages would be Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.
Meanwhile, the second partner expresses their love by doing little things for their significant other, such as folding the laundry or bringing home a favorite snack, but the first partner doesn’t recognize it or acknowledge it. This is an example of expressing Acts of Service and Receiving & Giving Gifts. If these might be your partner’s love languages, it is likely your partner might expect the same expressions of love from you.
In this predicament, it’s important to have a calm, in-depth discussion about the ways in which you both like to express and receive love, affection and care. Try the following:
- Try asking open-ended questions about what kinds of words or actions indicate love for your partner, and how they like to express their love for you.
- See if you can learn why they have a particular love language, where that way of loving come from, and what it means, physically and emotionally, for them.
- When you start exploring your love languages with your partner, you might think, "Wow, why didn’t I know this before?!"
Being loved in the way that you understand and appreciate is important to any relationship, so it’s in both of your best interests to learn how to speak each other’s love languages. This can help you overcome frustration, misunderstanding and disconnection; practicing your partner’s primary love languages intentionally will bring you together in closeness and intimacy and facilitate you both feeling loved and secure in your partnership.
With mindful attention, practice and care, soon you may not feel like you’re speaking different languages at all. You’ll stop feeling confused or worried something is wrong in your relationship. Eventually you’ll each learn how to express love for one another in specific ways that are the most impactful and meaningful for you both.
It may take a few conversations to fully understand each other’s love languages, and it will take practice and patience to put those expressions of love into action, but the end result—feeling loved and secure in your relationship—is well worth the effort.
Our expert San Francisco Bay Area Couples Counselors, Sex Therapists and Relationship Coaches can help you build the healthy, intimate and secure relationship you long for. We can assist you in learning your love languages and help you stop negative patterns of communication.