Here’s a quick story that might sound familiar.
Jordan and Asa are partners. This past week Jordan picked up Asa from the airport and then cooked up a nice dinner while Asa unpacked. Afterwards, Jordan ran out to do the groceries for the week to give Asa some space to settle in and relax. That night before bed, Asa complained to Jordan, “You barely showed me any affection! Did you even miss me at all?” Asa even questioned whether Jordan wanted to be in a relationship. Jordan felt confused and upset. Everything Jordan had done that day was meant to welcome Asa home. How did Asa not even notice?
What's going on here? Does Jordan not really care for Asa? Does Asa have unreasonable expectations? What do you think? Do you relate more to Asa or Jordan here?
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Love Languages, there are five different ways we can express love to a partner. But we don’t all communicate with the same languages equally. We typically develop our love language based on how our primary caregiver showed love to us as we grew up. From this we form a perception of what love looks like.
The 5 love languages are:
Acts of service: Doing things for the other person.
Physical touch: Showing affection.
Quality time: Spending quality time with one another.
Receiving gifts: Buying a thoughtful gift for the other person.
Words of affirmation: Expressing terms of endearment.
If we look again at the story above, it seems Jordan’s way of welcoming Asa home was with acts of service, but Asa wanted affection and touch. For Jordan, doing something for a partner is a way of saying I love you. Chapman calls these kinds of actions, “bids of connection.” Asa perceives love through physical touch and affection, thus Jordan’s bids of connection went unnoticed. You could say Jordan and Asa are speaking different languages. What can they do about it?
Learning what love language your partner “speaks” can help to build connection because you’ll better notice when your partner is showing their love. For example, the next time Jordan does something for Asa, Asa could pay more attention to these gestures and recognize them as the way that Jordan shows love.
At the same time, if you and your partner have different love languages it can be helpful to know this in order to shift your behaviour to better fulfill your partners needs. For example, if we know our partner’s love language is physical touch, we can make an effort to hold our partner’s hand the next time we are walking down the street, or give them a hug when we arrive home.
If you’re curious to explore it for yourself, try this helpful love language quiz yourself or with a loved one!