Does having a different love language to your partner really mean your relationship is doomed?
Written by Amy Beecham
Not having the same love language as your partner doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed – in fact, it has many benefits.
Chemistry calculations, star signs and birth charts: we’ve long looked to external (and, at times, questionable) sources to dictate our compatibility with a partner, but few have been quite as pervasive as love languages.
First theorised by Gary Chapman in his 1992 book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts, the five distinct love languages are widely interpreted ways in which we communicate love. According to Chapman, everyone has a primary love language – and it’s this which defines what kind of love we expect from our partners, and how we express affection towards others. As Chapman sets out, they are: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts and acts of service.
However, these actionable love languages certainly aren’t limited to romantic contexts. Look closely at any friendship, family bond or even workplace relationship and you’ll easily be able to recognise the different ways people act and respond to one another, even platonically.
In the same way that knowing how to cheer someone up or preparing their favourite food is a meaningful gesture, understanding and replicating your partner’s love language is a sure-fire way to show how much you care. But what happens when your love languages don’t align? Does quality time plus acts of service have to equal relationship doom?
Do you need to have the same love language as your partner?
The results of a recent study indicated that people who expressed love and affection in the love language their partner preferred experienced higher levels of both relationship and sexual satisfaction.
According to the researchers, love language mismatch was actually associated with lower satisfaction for both the giver and receiver of affection, suggesting that fulfilling a partner’s needs was highly valued in addition to having one’s own needs fulfilled.
“Our study provides novel evidence in support of Chapman’s notion that speaking one’s partner’slove language leads to higher quality relationships and creates a positive emotional climate within the couple,” the researchers said. “In particular, the findings supported our major hypothesis that individuals whose partners express love in the way they prefer to receive it experience elevated relationship and sexual satisfaction.”
However, this doesn’t mean that love language ‘incompatibility’ will lead to a failed relationship.
“Having a ‘ying to your yang’ is always good,” explains Christiana Maxion, an international dating coach and matchmaker. “It’s not essential to have the same love language at all, but it is important to be ‘on the same page’ so you can send and receive love in a way that suits you both.”
“In an ideal world a couple’s love languages would match, signifying high compatibility, but so long as each person in the relationship is willing to learn each other’s language of the heart, romantic progress can be made,” agrees Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony.
“It’s important we recognise our partner’s love language because a miscommunication in this area of a relationship can cause needless conflict and feelings of rejection. The key is to recognise that we all show love in different ways, but remember that each of those ways carries value.”
How to navigate different love languages in a relationship
Understand your own wants and needs first
Identifying your own preferences is the key to respecting someone else’s. “With the five traditional love languages, you need to know how it is YOU prefer to show love and, importantly, how you wish to receive love,” says Maxion. “These two lists can be very different and that’s completely OK.”
Recognise the need to adjust
“Rather than saying ‘I wish you’d say I love you more often’ praise the loving things your partner does for you, and then use this to segway into a discussion about love languages,” Lloyd suggests. “You can’t expect someone to radically change their personality traits in order to be in a relationship with you.”
“Your partner’s love language may be very different to yours, so by defining what their wants and needs are separately to yours, you understand each other better and can adjust and move forward happily,” Maxion continues.
This helps you to avoid any wasted energy expenditure and potential resentment via misunderstanding or misalignment. “Your efforts won’t fall on deaf ears when you understand and accept each other’s preferred language,” she assures.
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