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Do You and Your Partner Need to Have the Same Love Language?

It would help, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll “understand” one another, so you’ll still need to put work in.

My partner is my superfan. He never misses an opportunity to show up for me and tell me how great I am. His social media pages include several brags about me, “his beautiful brilliant bride.”

If reading that makes you swoon, then “Words of Affirmation” is probably your “love language.”

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, people prefer to give and receive affection/love in one of five ways, each of these he deems as their “love language.”

You might show or “speak” love to your partner by complimenting them (Words of Affirmation), cooking for them or washing their car (Acts of Service), giving them a gift (Gift-giving), spending time with them (Quality Time), or hugging or kissing them (Physical Touch).

Dr. Chapman’s theory is simple: if we know how our partner prefers to give and receive love, we can better help them feel loved. If you don’t know your partner’s love language and/or don’t “speak” it to them, your partner may end up feeling neglected and unloved.

My partner’s compliments don’t fill my “love tank,” as Dr. Chapman terms it. Words of Affirmation is my partner’s love language, not mine. While I can and do acknowledge that that is the way he shows love for me, I can’t ignore that his love language just isn’t mine, and it actually makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

I never like to be in the spotlight, so seeing or hearing him brag about me makes me flush violently from my chest to my cheeks. Compliments trigger my negative self-talk too. “You’re great!” he might say, and then my stupid head will pipe up and say something shitty like, “What a load of crap.”

I would never tell my partner, “Stop complimenting me” because that’s how he shows me he loves me. Telling him to stop complimenting me would be the equivalent of telling him to stop loving me.

Physical Touch, though, is my love language. When my partner holds my hand or wraps me in a bear hug is when I feel the most loved. No fierce blushing or nasty negative self-talk, just all gooey warmth.

My partner and I speak two different love languages. Would we be better suited if we “spoke” the same one?

Sort of.

Just because you and your partner love compliments doesn’t mean you want the same kinds of compliments or to receive them in the same way. You’re two different people with two different sets of desires. Speaking the same “love language” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll “speak” it in the same way.

For you to best learn what your partner wants or needs, you need to:

  • Ask them. What do I do that makes you feel the most loved? What do you wish I would do to make you feel more loved? How often would you like to receive this? For example, if your partner loves receiving gifts, what kind of gifts do they like? Small thoughtful trinkets or something big?

  • Work on ways you can meet those needs or wants. If your partner’s love language isn’t yours, start looking for opportunities to practice it. For example, if your partner loves receiving gifts, pick up their favorite brand of gum or candy while you’re waiting in line at the store or start setting aside money for a big special something now.

When my partner and I did the above, I learned that he loves hearing acknowledgment that he’s doing a good job. “You’re such a hard worker, honey!” “I’m so proud of you for finishing ______.” He wants to know that I notice his accomplishments and that I support him in pursuing his goals.

He also learned that I am fine initiating touch when I need it, but that I need to not be rejected more often than not. I’ve been in relationships where partners frequently rejected my touch, and it was painful for me. Since he now knows that rejection is a big deal for me, he tries not to.

If your partner’s love language is foreign for you, start with baby steps.

Not only do I feel uncomfortable receiving compliments, but I also feel weird giving them. If my goal is to help my partner feel loved, then I need to give them anyway.

When I was first getting into the habit of complimenting him, I’d set a reminder in my phone five times a day that just said, “Compliment,” and I’d make sure to immediately send him a text, write him a note, or tell him one in person.

These compliments could be as small as, “You’ve got a cute butt. All that work in the gym is paying off!” or “You’re working hard today!” All that mattered was that I was consistently complimenting my partner in the way that he wanted to be complimented.

Ask for what you need, and don’t give up.

When I get tired or stressed, I can forget that my partner needs compliments. To comfort myself, I might start going out of my way to cuddle him, hold his hand, etc., completely forgetting that his love needs aren’t being met while mine are.

The last time this happened, I asked him to let me know in a gentle way when he was needing some extra love. He does that now by “fishing” a little for compliments. Just last week he said to me, “I did a really good job on that yard, huh?” To which I replied, “Yeah, you did! Look at that yard! BEST LOOKING YARD IN THE COVE.”

With that little nudge from him, I knew I needed to give him some word love, so I put the reminders in my phone again. Five times a day, he’s going to get to hear how awesome I think he is, and he is going to love it.

Knowing and “speaking” my partner’s love language matters to me because I want the person I love to feel loved. Relationships require work, and things won’t always be easy, even if we do “speak” the same love language. The best relationships are maintained with continuing honesty, communication, and trust, and learning how each other feels most loved is no different.

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