How To Say "I Love You"
My favorite way to express "I love you" is to
1) Say it out loud, leave a love note, send a text message; or
2) Cook a nice meal, run chores for my partner; or
3) Spend time together with undivided attention; or
4) Hug, kiss, touch, back rub, massage; or
5) Send flowers, a concert ticket, a hand tailored suit..
It's my preferred way to say "I love you" because that's what makes me feel most loved as a recipient.
My primary "love language"
Yes, we all have our primary "love language," according to Gary Chapman who pioneered the concept of love languages in his 1992 bestseller, The 5 Love Languages. They are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, or receiving gifts. Each person has one primary and one secondary love language.
Some researchers harbor some doubts about the 5 love language theory, primarily because, according to the findings of Julie Gottman, the co-founder of the Gottman Institute for marriage and relationship research and therapy, she's not sure about the idea that everyone has one primary language of affection; rather, she says, expressions of affection can vary in significance according to context.
In the above situation it can be "all and any of the above" depending on the occasion, according to Gottman.
Love Languages are real. You gravitate toward one or two languages more than others. They are how you naturally show love. Chapman and supporters believe. There are also studies confirming that people do indeed have a "type" in romantic relationships.
Love language and relationship
"Knowing your love language can be one of the single most important things in a relationship," says Robin R. Milhausen, PhD, Associate Chair of Department of Family Relations at the University of Guelph.
However, it isn't just about your love language; it's also about your partner's. What makes one person feel loved isn't always the same for their partner. Love is in the beholder's eyes. While you are busy texting your love notes, your partner is annoyed by so many "empty" words without even a single real gift. If this is the case, there is a disconnect.
Be attentive to how your partner expresses love and what gestures of affection your partner appreciates and responds well then adjust your behaviors accordingly. That's what makes your love messages effective.
Another practical implication of the love language theory is how NOT to violate the love languages in a relationship, because our sweet spots are also our vulnerabilities.
DOs and DON'Ts with different love language speakers
- Words of affirmation:
Words are the most powerful communication tool. A love note goes a long way, so do "thank you," "congratulations," "you did great," "you look wonderful," "you can do it".. the list goes on. Say it out loud, and mean it.
Don't: Harsh criticism is particularly hurtful for a person who values words.
- Quality time:
Dedicate some time to each other every day. Even 10 minutes count big time. Don't make it an obligation. Enjoy common interests together as much as possible, as studies show that a good time with your partner often leads to more togetherness. Big bonus: always go to bed together.
Don't: Flaking on a date or checking your phone when you are together can be devastating.
- Receiving gifts:
Pay attention and give something THEY like not what YOU like. Make notes of their wish list and find the right moment to make something happen.
Don't: Don't forget a birthday or anniversary with a partner who treasures gifts, and don't send an impersonal gift, which will make them feel like they are no more than a colleague of yours.
- Acts of service:
Do something for them that will make their life easier, e.g. do laundry, pack their lunch, run their errands. Love is all in the everyday details.
Don't: Not doing your own chores is detrimental to your relationship.
- Physical touch:
Connect your bodies whenever possible. There is magic in feeling each other's body temperature, e.g. hold, cuddle, kiss, hug, link arms.
Don't: Lack of a physical reach out can really make your partner suffer from skin hunger and question the validity of the relationship.
What is the most common love language?
"Quality time." Surprise, surprise.
What if we don't speak the same love languages?
It's common that a couple speak different love languages. However, it becomes a problem if one's love language is the other's taboo. For example, some survivors of sexual-abuse trauma won't respond well to physical touch. Although we all can learn and change our primary love language, expanding our love language works better than holding back our natural tendency. A relationship needs work and effort, but fighting against nature is an uphill battle that we should try to avoid.
"Relationships work best when partners' primary love languages align," according to Chapman. Finding someone with the same love language definitely gets you on a fast track. After all, a relationship is not about trying to change someone or make deals. It's about fit and compatibility.
In short, your favorite way to say "I love you" yields the best response if it matches with your partner's antenna.
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