You’ve probably heard of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages… originally conceived in 1995, the books and theory have been wildly popular ever since. Partly popular because we all want to feel loved and partly successful because this has the potential to resonate with pretty much everyone, and partly because truly, there’s some merit in the theory that we all express love and desire love in unique ways, the concept has inspired countless folks to feel more satisfied in their relationships.
As often happens with couples, they might know both their own and their partners’ love language. I’ll hear “I know she’s ‘receiving gifts’, while I’m all about ‘physical touch’”. Sometimes, they’ll express frustration though: they’ll want their partner to recognize that – now that they know how the other one feels, that expressions of love should be acceptable in their language. “Well, Ellen knows I like small presents, why can’t she just be happy when I bring home tickets to a music venue we both like?” or “Mark always says he wants to be held and cuddled, but I’m more comfortable spending quality time with him doing something more active. “
What if we try an experiment: suppose that love languages (LL) are a currency like Euro’s and dollars. That each language has its own currency, and that there is no exchange rate. Let’s then say Corey and Sasha are trying to enhance their relationship but Corey’s love language is physical touch and Sasha’s is words of affirmation.
People are good at currency: we know we can’t buy apples or paper towels with decorative stones or glass; in exchange for groceries, we pay in the cash accepted in that country. We also pay in the medium requested by the seller: if they only take cash or checks, you won’t be surprised when they turn away your debit card or paypal app. Why, then, are we trying to get our loved ones to accept gentle caresses instead of their preferred method of receiving affection?
Put another way, giving me hundreds of something I don’t value doesn’t make it valuable to me, even if it is to you.
In Corey and Sasha’s case, imagine if, instead of offering praise and reassurances to Corey, Sasha instead made an effort to ‘spend’ their LL on physical touch. Imagine if Corey ‘invested their currency’ in thoughtful words of affirmation. Last, imagine that unlike true money, LL never ran out.
How you feel love and express love are – like most people – different; recognizing how your partner feels and expresses love is only part of the fix. How you spend your basically unlimited LL, your love language currency, can improve communication, enhance romantic feelings and begin a dialog about how else – together – you might find more happiness.