‘Tis the giving season
Strangely enough, loving and being loved can operate as wholly separate endeavors. The ways in which you might feel most acutely cared for, witnessed, adored, etcetera might not manifest in the same fashion for your partner. At least, that’s the premise behind the whole *love language* shtick.
For those who aren’t aware, love languages are a schema for labeling and categorizing the ways we give and receive love, as developed in the ‘90s by marriage counselor Gary Chapman. The five languages that his protocol identified are as follows: Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts, and physical touch. The idea is a relatively simple one: For couples indisputably in love, complications within the relationship may chalk up to something as simple as different modes of communication. And showing up for your person may require expanding beyond the versions of loving that feel most comfortable or intuitive to you. That said, once you’ve determined the ways in which love feels most stabilizing for you, how do you go about showing up for your partner in their love language?
Words of Affirmation
When it comes to doting on folks who claim words of affirmation as their primary love language, it’s all about telling not showing. Even if you feel like grand gestures will do the trick, sometimes simply stating for the record how much someone means to you can be more impactful. Sure, it might seem excessively simple — but words are a powerful tool. And in these cases, keep in mind that frequency matters. Repeat yourself often, however tedious it may feel.
Acts of Service
You need not always cater to this particular love language in dramatic, over-the-top favors or kindnesses. Little things that make your partner’s day more manageable or pleasurable are enough: Maybe you make them a cup of coffee, pre-order dinner, fold the laundry, fill up the gas tank. Just remember to be proactive. When you’ve been asked to complete a task rather than tackling it preemptively, the tenor changes.
Gift-giving gets a bad rap. At bottom, this particular love language is not just for the greedy or superficial. Sure, glitzy jewelry and upscale bottles of wine are a good time for anyone, but as a love language, gift-giving can take far more forms than that. Think: A seashell brought home from a beach trip, a favorite ice cream flavor procured at the grocery store, a stoop sale trinket with some nostalgic value. For these folks, physical totems of affection are meaningful, so finding frequent ways to show care via offerings is important. Pay attention to the little things that will bring joy into your person’s life — restaurant matchbooks, bright fallen leaves, the list goes on — and present them as often as possible.
For folks who fall into the quality time category, the best way to show affection is with, well, quality time. And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean upscale dinners out, or lengthy trips abroad. Instead, it’s about time where your concentration is reserved for one another. Be sure to make plans, and keep them — and to offer your partner your undivided attention, therein. Listen closely, make eye contact while interacting, and find moments to leave phones and computers aside so as to limit outside distractions.
While yes, this one can apply to an active sex life, in practice, it deals more with small day-to-day points of contact. In fact, it’s often about maintaining non-sexual physical intimacy. Which is to say, whenever possible, make the active choice to reach for your partner. Whether that’s in the form of frequent hugs, or simply making efforts to touch the small of their back or rest a head on their shoulder when in close proximity, that contact speaks volumes.