Love Languages
September 20, 2016 by
Categories: Relationships

I work a lot with couples. I’m guessing this has to do with being a marriage and family therapist! Often in the course of therapy with a couple, I have heard someone say that their primary love language is (fill in the blank) (referring to Chapman’s 1995 book, The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate). The statement is then often followed by a question, What do you think of the love languages?

Expressing needs can be scary, but it can also create connections.

Expressing needs can be scary, but it can also create connections.

When I first started graduate school in the late nineties, this book was something that piqued my interest. There was something that made sense about it. After many years of working with couples, I now realize that the familiarity about it had to do with being able to express your needs and having your partner meet them. However, being confined to having my needs in 2 (primary and secondary) out of 5 love languages, I don’t find particularly helpful. Sure I, like others with “receiving gifts” as a primary language, enjoy the thoughtfulness of my partner buying me my favorite candy bar while at the store, but sometimes I have other needs that are outside of my primary and secondary love language. (Sometimes a need doesn’t really even fit nicely into any of the categories.) If my partner and I were only to focus on primary and secondary love languages, we would be missing out on many opportunities to connect with each other in meaningful ways.

That being said, I don’t think knowing your and your partner’s love language is a bad thing. I think it is a place to start. It can help you and your partner begin to give words to the things that you each need from each other. Just please don’t stop there! It’s OK if you have needs outside of your love languages. It’s good to recognize them and be vulnerable enough (if your relationship is safe) to ask your partner to meet them. Sometimes they’ll meet your needs like a rock star and the connection will be amazing, other times they’ll miss the opportunity, but most of the time they will fall in between the two extremes. Remember, though: connections between you and your partner can only happen if the opportunity is there.

The amazing connections between two partners happen when you feel safe enough to veer from your “regular” needs and ask your partner to be there for you (Johnson, 2008). The consistency of expressing these needs is what is important. The more opportunities your partner has to meet your needs, the greater the chance your needs will be met. It is definitely scary, even in relationships where vulnerability is safe. When we are vulnerable, we risk having our partner reject us, coming off as whiny or too needy, or having our partner not meet our need. It is a risk, but the experience of connectedness that can follow is something that we strive for in our life’s journey.

Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little Brown and Company: New York, NY.

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