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The Miscommunication of Love

(This blog post was written by Elisabeth Mandel, LMFT. Elisabeth is an Associate Therapist at our practice and specializes in working with couples.)

There are many ways to say, “I love you.” Sometimes partners drift apart and the love that they share becomes neglected. Love is not just a feeling, it’s an expression. Expressing love keeps the feeling alive.

In Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages: Men’s Edition” (2010), he categorizes the different ways of expressing love to your partner as ‘love languages.’

Here are the 5 Love Languages:

1)     Words of Affirmation

2)     Quality Time

3)     Receiving Gifts

4)     Acts of Service

5)     Physical Touch

These languages are derived from the ways in which our parents expressed their love to us and to each other. For example, maybe you grew up in a household where your parents gave you presents to show their love. You learned to associate love with gifts (#3). Your partner may have been raised by parents who expressed their love by gathering the whole family for dinner on Sunday nights. You learned to associate love with quality time (#2).

When you want to express love to your partner, you may buy them a gift. However, your partner may not associate your gift with love and would prefer to go out on a special date together.

Some of us are used to hearing our parents say, “I love you” to express their love. You learned to associate love with words (#1). Parents may hug their kids often as a greeting or a goodbye, and show physical affection towards each other. You learned to associate love with touch (#5).

Your partner may want to express love by saying, “I love you,” but you know that it doesn’t have the same meaning to you as it does to your partner. Perhaps holding your hand in public or giving you a massage at the end of a long day would make you feel more loved by your partner.

And finally, if your mom packed your lunch every day or your dad helped you with your homework, you learned to associate love with acts of service (#4).

You may want to show your partner love by taking their car to get serviced or cleaned, but your partner grew up in a very self-sufficient home where parents promoted independence over interdependence. So you surprise your partner by getting their car cleaned and your partner interprets this as smothering behavior and a violation of space.

Sometimes our intentions are not in sync with the way in which our behavior is received or interpreted.

Think about which love languages you speak and which ones your partner speaks. The key to effective expression of love is speaking the love language of the recipient. This requires partners to identify their own love languages and then evaluate how they can learn to use each other’s languages to communicate love.

After all, isn’t making your partner feel loved the ultimate goal of expressing love?

Chapman, Gary (2010). The 5 Love Languages: Men’s Edition. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.

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