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How to Love Someone in the Way They Need

When I turned 30, my husband threw me a “surprise” party. I add quotes because my husband can’t keep a secret, no matter how hard he tries. He thought that by throwing me a surprise party he was showing how much he loved me. He actually believed I’d be thrilled beyond words. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like surprises. And I don’t like parties. Furthermore, as an introvert by nature, I don’t like being around large groups of people. An ideal “party” for me would have been a quiet dinner with just the family, or a couple of close friends.

We speak very different love languages, my husband and I. He planned a big gala affair because that’s what he would have liked. He honestly imagined I’d like it, too. A party of 30 people was not my idea of being loved in the way I would have liked being loved. To his credit, however, it was early on in our relationship, and he wasn’t yet in tune to the love language I spoke. He knows better than to try something like that today.

Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the party, I didn’t say so, not until much later in our marriage. I really appreciated how hard he tried to please me, to make me happy, and to celebrate a milestone birthday. He attempted to show his love in the best way he knew how, and for that, I was grateful.

Love—it’s a big word. It’s one that stirs up big feelings. However, query anyone about love and its meaning, and you’ll more than likely catch that someone stumbling all over themselves in an effort to do it succinctly. I mean, how do you describe a word that carries with it so many possible manifestations? There is no easy way.

What Is Love?

The word love is both a noun and a verb. In relationships, be that as it may, it is mostly demonstrated with some type of action, subtle or grand, but an action, nonetheless, making it very much a verb. Love and its multiple meanings leave its expression ample room for creativity. Because it can be expressed in so many ways, it can often leave lovers disappointed in its wake if not received in the anticipated way.

Based on disparate backgrounds and world views, people feel love and show love in a myriad of contrasting ways. If you and your partner speak love in the same manner, no problem. You will both be quite happy, satisfied, and in tune with each other.

But if you don’t, then a little talk might be in order. If you want to have your intimate emotional needs met, letting your partner know the ways in which you feel loved is important. It’s also salient to understand the way in which they express their love. One way is not better than the other. It just has to do with personal preference and feelings of familiarity.

Talking about your expectations eliminates the guess work of how to communicate your love to each other. It allows you both to tune into the same channel; you’ll get along and feel as though you’re getting your love needs met. People are different, and so respond differently to displays of affection, however they may manifest.

An important question to ask yourself is, “How do I feel most loved?” And, “How does my partner?” Both have to be addressed and implemented in your relationship if you want it to thrive.

How to Show Love

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, he states that there are five basic ways to communicate your love to your partner. Let me break those down for you. This will give you a glimpse into the many ways you can show your partner you love them, in the way they need that to be shown, and vice versa.

1. Words of Affirmation

This love speak has to do with the spoken or written word. If you’re with someone whose primary language is affirming words of love, you might want to say (often), “I love you! You’re the best thing since sliced bread!” Or leave random notes throughout the house proclaiming your undying love. Loving, sweet texts will work, too.

If you’re with a partner who needs words of affirmation to feel loved, then make sure to tell them in words, and/or in writing, how you feel. You will have one happy camper on your hands. Working eight hours a day to provide for her/him, or bringing home a bouquet of flowers won’t necessarily do the trick. Unless, of course, when you hand over the dozen tulips you look into his/her eyes and say, “I love you more than life! You are my soul mate, my one and all. These flowers pale in comparison to your divine beauty!” Now you’re talking.

More than the actual saying of the words, it’s the meaning behind the words that matter most. If your partner speaks this language, they need to know you appreciate them with open and honest communication. Make sure you praise, encourage, tell, write—whatever you can—to express your love. That will have a beautiful impact on your relationship. Remember, however, that negative words can have a very strong impact in the other direction, so be very mindful of what you say and how you say it.

2. Acts of Service

The sweetest words I can hear are, “I’ll take care of that for you!” Those words make me feel more loved than any other, especially when it relieves me of having to do a stressful task. This is definitely my primary love language. I have major issues with laziness, or someone who doesn’t follow through with their commitments.

If your partner is like me, then you’re going to want to discover where their needs lie. Try to pay attention to the small things in your relationship, and remember them! Bring these up at the correct time to surprise them and make them feel special. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to notice what kind of restaurant they like or what movie they like to watch on the weekends.

If that’s not enough, look around…does something around the house need fixing? Can you help out by making the bed or doing the dishes? Maybe filling up a flat tire on their bike? If your partner’s primary love language is acts of service—anything that can take the load off—then find a way to do just that. Your honey will be extremely grateful, trust me.

3. Receiving Gifts

Every time my son would FaceTime with his girlfriend, he noticed her struggle to unravel her tangled earbuds. It would always take her several minutes to get situated. So, when he showed up at her house with a pair of wireless earbuds, she was blown away.

For a person whose primary love language is receiving gifts, it’s more than just the gift itself. My son’s girlfriend was wowed because she recognized the thought behind the gift. He was paying attention to her needs. By giving her that gift, he was speaking her language of love. She knew that it came from the heart and his desire to not see her struggle.

Without really realizing its importance, my son did a great thing for her. She felt happy, secure, and like someone was really looking out for her. More than the visual sight of the gift, her overwhelming warm and fuzzy feelings came from his motivation.

If your partner feels loved by receiving gifts, know that the gifts do not have to be expensive. Even though this is not my primary language, I appreciate useful items. For example, a friend of mine once gave me three sticks of lip balm. Wow! It’s such a small thing when you think about it, but I use those all the time, so it was the perfect gift. Little trinkets here and there serve their purpose. It lets the person know you’re thinking about them

Don’t underestimate their power. As long as the gift is from the heart, it’s all good.

4. Quality Time

One-on-one time, undivided attention, and shared activities…if this sounds good to you, then this is your primary love speak. Quality time probably needs a little more attention than the other four ways to show love because it requires, well, time. And it seems like people nowadays are hard-pressed to provide it because they just don’t have it, or they claim not to.

So, if your partner feels loved by having cozy dinners, just the two of you, cuddling up and watching movies, going for bike rides, or taking long walks, then make the time. This will make your relationship prosper. Your investment of time will pay amazing dividends. Your partner will feel loved and cared for.

Even if this is not the favored love language for either of you, it’s critical to spend the time with your mate. This will aid in creating a strong and solid relationship. And as you can see above, it doesn’t have to be 24/7.

If you fancy being out with friends, rock climbing, running marathons, or what-have-you, don’t despair. You can do both. You can have your alone time, just as long as you dedicate that much-appreciated couple’s time to your partner.

5. Physical Touch

When Dr. Chapman talks about physical touch as being a love language, he’s not necessarily referring to touching with sexual undertones. The physical touch to which he is referring is hand holding, a shoulder squeeze, a hand on the back, little touches here and there.

My husband’s primary love language is physical touch. Mine is not. But because I know that he feels loved by my physical touch, I’ll rub his back when I walk by him, or squeeze his hand as we’re driving, hug him as we pass each other in the kitchen, etc. Even the smallest acts of touch can go a long way.

Even though physical touch is not my preferred love speak, I want my husband to feel loved in the way that he needs, hence I make the effort to make those gestures. His whole demeanor changes. I can feel his happiness through my touch.

Incorporating More Than One Love Language

I want to add here that while a person has a desired love language, they can speak a little bit of the other love languages as well. For instance, your love language might be physical touch, but you still really enjoy receiving gifts, or spending quality time with your partner.

It’s important to know what language your partner speaks, yes. In this way you can show them you love them in the way that it will be the most meaningful to them. You are not sacrificing anything in the process. You will, however, make a big impact on your partner, create feelings of love, security, and happiness. In contrast…

While it’s wonderful and essential to show your partner love in the way they need, it is just as important to recognize the way in which your partner feels comfortable expressing their love to you. For instance, if their way of expressing love is by doing acts of service for you, don’t make them feel diminished, as though they don’t love you simply because they didn’t come home with a sparkling tennis bracelet.

See the value in what they’re doing. If that’s the way of expressing their love for you, take it. Understand they don’t love you any less; they’re just showing it in a different way. Negating their methods will just make them feel bad, create an argument, or just make you look ungrateful. David Braucher, LCSW, Ph.D, writes:

“Maybe it would be hard for them, though I’m not saying they shouldn’t try. But if we are complaining about what we are not getting without appreciating what we do receive, we are rejecting a very intimate part of them. And we don’t want to reject them! We love them. We love that they love us. We just want them to express their love differently—the way we want it.”

All the love languages are important. You can play around with one or all. One is not better than the other, as I’ve said. It’s important to recognize the way in which we want to be loved and express it, but it goes both ways. Just because your partner forgets your anniversary doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t love you. It could mean s/he was busy and had a lot on his/her mind.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to express love. Understanding what your partner needs is essential, but understanding how your partner demonstrates his/her love is just as important. Don’t allow your insecurities to manipulate you. If you catch yourself saying, “If s/he loved me, s/he would have…” Not necessarily. Just because someone doesn’t express love in the same love language doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Be grateful for what they do for you and how they express it.

Love is the universal language. It can be spoken in many different ways. Allow room in your relationship to speak as many as you can. After all, love is love!

More on How to Love Someone

Featured photo credit: Giorgio Trovato via unsplash.com

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