QUESTION: Sometimes I feel my partner and I don’t really understand each other. Although we do talk about our feelings and we have shared goals, I feel he doesn’t show me love the way I want him to. I think I am more romantic about expressing my love for him but he tells me he shows me he loves me by doing things for me such as cooking and doing a lot around the house. I really appreciate these things about him but I don’t associate those actions with romance – to me, they are just a normal part of a relationship. I’m worried that we just don’t see love or romance the same way and I’m not sure how to make him understand me more. What can I do?
You and your partner do seem to be on the same page about many things in life – as you said, you are both open about how you feel and you have shared goals for the future. But not all couples are on the same page about how to express love for each other. This is not due to lack of love or care though. Often, the way we show love to our partner is the way we want to receive love. But this does not mean that our partner likes to receive love in the same way we do. This is something that we don’t often talk about in relationships and now is a good time for you and your partner to explore this together. The conversation doesn’t have to be about what is missing or full of conflict; in fact, the conversation is an opportunity to learn more about each other and how to meet each other’s needs more effectively.
The way we prefer to receive love is what we might call our love language. I’d like to introduce you to the 5 Love Languages, developed by Dr Gary Chapman. According to Dr Chapman, learning to express love in your partner’s language can transform your relationship. You and your partner do not have to have the same love language. What is important is that you figure out what your own love language preferences are, share this knowledge with each other and find ways to meet the needs of your partner, based on their main love language/s. According to Dr Chapman, the 5 Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation: This language uses words to affirm other people. These may be verbal reminders of your love for each other, sweet text messages, love letters, praise and encouragement for each other.
- Acts of Service: For these people, actions speak louder than words. Clearly, for your partner, he likes to show you he loves you by doing things for you. Small or big gestures can demonstrate this.
- Receiving Gifts: For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. It doesn’t mean the gift is an expensive one; it could just be a small token as a symbol of love to show that someone is thinking of you.
- Quality Time: This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
- Physical Touch: To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.
Knowing and talking about your love language is only the first step. It is then important to discuss what that looks like for you. For example, if your preferred love language is quality time, what does that mean? Sitting on the lounge watching TV together? Going for walks together or going on holidays? Be really specific about what would make you feel loved. I suggest you and your partner take the Love Languages quiz and also consider reading the books by Dr Chapman. Further information is available here.