We all know about the love languages, right? The way in which you express and receive love. Typically, we give love in the way we hope to get it back. So, if you like someone giving you gifts, you are more apt to give gifts yourself. It is awesome if you are in a relationship with someone who speaks your same love language. It’s easy for you two to fill each other’s cups as you naturally give and receive love in the same way, but it’s more common that you won’t share a common love language with your partner, which makes it that much more important that you take the time to learn your love language, get curious about your partner’s and communicate often about it.
There are 5 love languages, 1) Physical Touch 2) Quality Time 3) Acts of Service 4) Gifts 5) Words of Affirmation. I grew up with parents who had competing love languages. I use the word competing intentionally. My mom’s love language is Acts of Service and my dad’s love language is Physical Touch. My mom showed my dad she loved him by going above and beyond on acts of service. From mowing the lawn, to making dinner, tending to the kids, and cleaning the house. She worked herself to the bone trying to express her love.
My dad similarly expressed love in the way he knew how. He would hug her, hold out his hand to be held, touch her shoulder, which she was put off by. Why isn’t he noticing the floors? Does he not even notice how much I do? With her literally pulling away from his love expression, he felt rejected and unloved. When they tried to work on their marriage, they did what they knew to do. She doubled down on the deeds, and he tried even harder to connect with her on a physical level, which left them both feelings more exhausted, disconnected, unappreciated and broken.
What they didn’t know at the time was how to love each other in the way the other needed to feel love. Had my dad jumped out of bed, helped with the laundry and mowed the grass, my mom would have been much more welcoming of his embrace.
Had my mom just held him for a minute, touched his shoulder while he put on his socks, kissed him on the way out the door, he probably would have softened to the idea of housework. This is SUCH a good lesson and exercise in all life. Many times we THINK we are communicating. We feel like we are doing the exact thing that needs to be done, but if what we put out there isn’t reaching our intended audience, we have essentially done nothing.
I’m in grad school for evaluation, and I’ve learned you don’t start with a solution without first identifying all aspects of the problem. To fix a problem concerning someone else we must engage them in the solution. This needs assessment is so crucial. This is to admit that we know we only have our lens and that we can’t assume what works for us will work for someone else. Regardless if it is a personal relationship, a group at work, or a larger public program, we must put our own needs, assumptions and programing aside and get curious with who we’re trying to connect with. What is their experience, how do they feel, what moves them, and how then, do you fit in? Unfortunately, this critical first step is often overlooked because it takes work. It forces us to put ourselves aside and neglect our ego, but it isn’t until we do this first step, that we start working toward a meaningful solution and much deeper connections.