Learn A Date’s Love Language

Unhappy couples could simply be a case of communicating via different love languages, says author Gary D. Chapman. Get fluent in the ones you and your date are both speaking here.

By Theo Pauline Nestor

n the initial stages of love, couples usually communicate their affections quite easily. But Gary D. Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition, says that as couples move into the next stage (which Chapman calls “The Covenant Stage of Love”), they tend to have more dissatisfaction in their relationship — partly
You greatly appreciate truly thoughtful gifts.
because of the essential differences in their “love languages.” Understanding someone’s primary love language and learning how to speak that language, says Chapman, can go a long way towards improving your relationship and ensuring that the love you believe you’re expressing to him or her is truly felt by your partner.

Defining the five love languages
In his book, Chapman categorizes the five love languages — i.e., the mode through which someone most appreciates being shown affection — and offers a quiz (also on the book’s website) for determining which one is primarily spoken by each partner:

Love language #1: Words of affirmation
If your primary love language is words of affirmation, it means that you love to hear a compliment or receive a love letter from your date. It means a lot to you when he or she says that you look great or you’ve done a good job on something. Criticism deflates you.

Love language #2: Quality time
If quality time is your primary love language, it means that you appreciate the daily routines you share with your partner and really value spending time doing an activity together or staying home and talking with each other. A partner who’s always busy with work or friends is likely to be a problem for you long-term.

Love language #3: Receiving gifts
If your primary love language involves receiving gifts, it implies that you typically hang onto all the love tokens (both big and small) you’ve been given over the years. You greatly appreciate truly thoughtful gifts, but they don’t have to be expensive; the sentiment behind them is what counts most for you. A forgotten birthday or a carelessly chosen Christmas present is likely to leave you in a funk afterward.

Love language #4: Acts of service
If acts of service comprise your primary love language, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” rings especially true for you. You appreciate the little gestures (like filling your gas tank) and big ones (cleaning out the garage) that your date does for you in equal measure. You’d much rather have the dishwasher unloaded and the kitchen floor swept than just about any gift your mate might buy for you in a store. Finding your partner on the couch with remote in hand when you’ve got a long to-do list to get through is your worst-case scenario in a relationship.

Love language #5: Physical touch
If your primary love language is expressed through physical touch, it means that you feel closest to him or her during moments of physical affection. A kiss, hug or shoulder massage can turn a bad day into a good one for you. When you’re walking down the street, you want to be holding hands or arm-in-arm together. An undemonstrative partner is not the best match for you romantically.

Three ways to quickly crack your date’s love language code:
1. Observe your date’s behavior around others. According to Chapman, watching how your date responds to others is the easiest way to determine his or her primary love language. “Most of us speak in our own love language,” explains Chapman, “so our behavior offers clues as to what’s most important to us. How does this person respond in a social setting? Is your date a hugger? If so, then physical touch could be your date’s primary language. Is he or she always the first one to give a compliment? In that case, words of affirmation may well be your date’s love language.”

2. Listen to what he or she complains about most often. “In the early days, your date won’t be complaining about you,” says Chapman, “but listen carefully to this person’s complaints about what bothers him or her about other people. If your partner says, ‘My
I am not naturally the biggest ‘acts of service’ giver.
friend went on vacation and didn’t bring anything back for me,’ receiving gifts might be this person’s primary love language.”

3. Pay attention to your date’s requests. “Listen to what your partner asks of you,” Chapman advises. “People will often reveal their love language through little hints, like saying, ‘Bring me a surprise home from your business trip’ or ‘Give me a hug!’”

How couples can overcome a love-language mismatch
Discovering you and your date’s respective love languages can help you find ways to meet your sweetie’s needs better while also expressing your own. “When I took the test on my boyfriend’s behalf, it was clear that one of his languages was gifts,” says Nicole A., 64, a Seattle-area writer. “Who knew this big, burly guy would be into that? I like to give gifts, and now, I understand why the ones I casually gave him blew him away — and the powerful bond my natural inclination had created for him with me. When I learned that one of my primary languages was words of affirmation, I told him straight out and then asked for him to be conscious of my love language whenever it’s appropriate. He’s trying, and it definitely counts!”

“My husband values acts of service and quality time,” says web content editor Natalie Singer, 35, in Seattle. “I am not naturally the biggest ‘acts of service’ giver (although I really value receiving them myself, and even rely on them from my husband sometimes). So, I consciously remind myself that I need to show love in the way that my partner values most — even if it’s not exactly my favorite thing to do. For him, it’s a real gift if I clean up the kitchen (his usual job) or do a project for him. Last Father’s Day, I created a gardening blog for him, which is something I knew he that would enjoy, but didn’t have time to do himself — and he loved it.”

When miscommunication leads to misery... and even divorce
Chapman explains that when we’re unaware of how our partner expresses love, we sometimes feel as if this person doesn’t care, because he or she might not be communicating affection in our own primary love language. For example, writer and consultant Peggy Nagae from Whitefish, MA says that she was able to get new insights into her former husband’s behavior after she learned of the different love languages. “My husband helped me pack, took me to the airport and picked me upon my return. We enjoyed doing errands together on the weekends. He took care of all kinds of things, and I came to rely upon him; he was amazingly helpful. When it came to expressing love, however, he rarely held my hand or touched me, and I longed for greater physical intimacy with him. Until I read The Five Love Languages, I didn’t realize that we were each expressing intimacy in very different ways — he by acts of service, and me by physical touch,” explains Nagae. “We were like two ships passing in the night, doing our best to express our feelings for each other, but not being understood or appreciated by the other partner. My only regret is that I read the book after our divorce and not when we were first getting together. If we had, our marriage may very well have been saved.”

Sandy Arons, a 49-year-old certified financial divorce analyst/mediator from Brentwood, TN, had a similar experience: “After digesting the book, I realized why my husband responded (or didn’t respond) to my love language. It was simple; we were speaking different languages. I just didn’t know it, and obviously, neither did he. My love language is expressed by doing things for others, while his is through buying gifts.”

Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of How to Sleep Alone in King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over and a regular contributor to Happen magazine.
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