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8 Tips for When Spouses Have Different Love Languages


What is a love language? What happens when two people in a relationship have different love languages? Perhaps you are familiar with love languages, or this is the first time you’ve ever heard about it. Either way, knowing and understanding love languages can go a long way in helping preserve your marriage and relationships.

It’s a common struggle for people to feel like their partner doesn’t understand their needs. For many, the reality is that they quite truly are not speaking the same language simply because they communicate and show their love differently. Once you understand what you and your partners love, language, you’ll be on the path toward developing a better relationship. 

Luckily, the concept of love languages is an evidence-based phenomenon. It aids in helping couples in finding happier, healthier, and more fulfilling relationships. It’s important to learn how to navigate relationships with thoughtfulness, awareness, and love language know-how. Let’s take a closer look at understanding love languages and how they impact relationships. 

What are the Love Languages?

The origins of relationship languages begin with Dr. Gary Chapman, who first coined the phrase “love language.” Dr. Chapman categorized romance languages into five different identifiers including:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts 

The genius lies in the fact that these five categories are broad enough to suit all people. However, it is specific enough to help us identify our intrinsic and individual needs. Keep in mind most people have a primary love language and a mixture of the other love languages. Once we become aware of which categories we fit into, it allows us to communicate our needs.

If you’re struggling in your relationship because your love languages don’t match, hang in there.  There’s nothing that a little communication can’t fix. The first step is to better understand the five love languages and how they’re expressed.

Word of Affirmation 

People with Words of Affirmation as their primary love language feel loved when their partner compliments, shows appreciation, or reassures frequently without being prompted. The people with this primary love language need to hear what their partner thinks about them. They will also appreciate gestures such as love letters and thoughtful texts throughout the day. They feel loved when their partner praises them with kind and genuine spoken words. 

People who have this love language may also feel inclined to shower their partner with compliments. They are also very communicative via phone call or text.

Quality Time 

Quality Time is a love language that requires uninterrupted and attentive time. People who value quality time appreciate active listening, great conversation, and a chance to bond without distraction. They also appreciate it when their partner indulges them in fun activities that can be enjoyed together. Examples may include going to a theme park or having a picnic at the beach. People who value Quality Time as their love language feel the most connected to their partner when they feel like they are a priority. 

People who value quality time may ask their partner to schedule time away from technology to be present at the moment. They are also likely inclined at showing total undivided attention to their partner.

Physical Touch 

Physical Touch is a love language that can be fulfilled simply by being close to one another. It may also include hand-holding, hugs, intimacy, and frequent touch. Those with Physical Touch as their primary relationship language appreciate any chance to be cuddly and romantic with their partner. They may also appreciate an indulgent and lengthy massage. Keep in mind people have different expectations when it comes to physical touch. It’s critical to understand what you or your partner appreciates the most. 

People who have this love language are probably described as “touchy-feely.” They are likely to initiate a warm embrace after a period of not seeing each other. They often gravitate toward frequent kissing and hand-holding. 

Acts of Service 

Acts of Service is essentially the love language that makes people feel loved by their partner when their partner thoughtfully completes errands or tasks. People whose primary love language is acts of service feel loved when their partner puts effort into helping out, whether doing chores around the house, walking the dog, feeding the baby, or putting gas in the car. 

An act of service could be a partner cooking a delicious homemade dinner for two and then doing all the dishes afterward. People whose love language is Acts of Service may also show their partner love by running errands for them. Other examples may include folding and putting away laundry, or planning a night out together. 

Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts is a love language in which a person’s need for affection is most fulfilled by receiving gifts from their partner. This can include small gifts from the store, a snack, an expensive gift, or even takeout from a restaurant. As long as the token is received as a gift, it is seen as a genuine symbol of affection.

Tips for How to Navigate Different Romance Languages 

It’s important to note that no two people are alike. Even a couple that shares the same love language may have different ideas about how they want love expressed. For example, one person may find that watching a movie with their significant other fulfills their need for Quality Time. In contrast, the other person may find that sitting silently while watching a movie doesn’t foster the connection needed to feel loved. 

Two people may share the Acts of Service love language. However, one person appreciates their partner completing household chores, the other person may see household chores as something that should be taken care of anyway. Instead, they will want their partner to go the extra mile when it comes to performing acts of service. 

Understanding Differences in Romance Language 

The minor details and differences in a romance language (even if you share the same one) are incredibly important when assessing your love language and understanding your partner’s relationship language. It can be discouraging when you and your partner’s love languages aren’t clicking because they just seem too different. However, takeaway here is that even couples with the same romance language can have love communication issues. 

Couples must have open and honest communication when discussing relationship languages. It can be helpful to sit down together as a couple and read this article, discuss the love languages, and do some journaling to discover what your love languages are. 

Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • How do I show my partner love?
  • When do I feel most loved? 
  • What are the enjoyable ways in which my partner shows me, love?
  • Which one of these relationship languages resonates with me the most?
  • Do multiple love languages resonate with me? Which ones are they?
  • What do I like about each of the love languages I’ve chosen?
  • What do I think is my primary love language?
  • How can my partner better fulfill my needs according to my relationship languages?

 

Once you’ve discovered what your love languages are and have taken some time to ponder them (if you haven’t done this already), find a time that you and your partner can agree to get together and discuss your love languages. There are a few things to remember when communicating for the conversation to go as smoothly.

Here are some tips for how to navigate different love languages: 

1. Identify Your Love Language

First, how familiar are you with your love language? You may have never considered what makes you feel loved, but everybody has certain gestures that make them validated by their partner. Take a moment to consider your own love language. 

Be prepared to explain your love language(s) calmly and thoughtfully to your partner using specific examples. It’s a good idea to focus on the positives. For example, how has your partner responded to your love language and successfully fulfilled your needs in the past? What are some ways you express your love languages to your partner?

You can even write down a bulleted list of ways your partner makes you feel loved and how that corresponds to your love language. Take some time to brainstorm ideas around what makes you feel the most love and connectedness towards your partner.

2. Identify What YOU Need 

Next, think about what you need from your partner. What do you feel lacking in the relationship? How does this relate to your specific love language(s)? Try to keep expectations realistic for your partner while still honoring your feelings. If you’re having trouble with this, you can practice self-awareness by frequently asking yourself, how do I feel in this moment and what do I need right now?

 Let’s say, for example, that you’ve had a tough day at work, and when you come home to your partner, all you want is for them to listen intently to you while you vent – your love language is quality time. On the other hand, your partner instinctively reacts to your sadness and frustrations by giving you a hug – their love language is physical touch. 

These situations are where the disconnect happens and can leave you feeling unheard and unloved when the reality is that your partner does love you but can’t read your mind. It’s imperative to develop awareness around what you need and how those needs can be met. Doing so allows for differences to arise in your relationship, and you will know how to navigate and communicate through it. 

3. Express Your Needs Clearly 

How can you communicate what you want from your partner? How will you express your needs in a way that does not put your partner on the defensive? Try to avoid criticizing your partner and instead lean into using “I statements.” You can say something like, “I feel like my need for physical touch is not being fulfilled when I try to hug you and pull away from me.” Followed up by, “I need you to consider that I don’t feel loved when you pull away.” Those exact words may not resonate with you, but you can alter them to fit your situation. 

Using “I statements” may not feel natural at first, but it’s an important tool for effective communication, and if it feels strange, just remember that practice makes perfect. Also, don’t be afraid to use direct love communication. Does your partner buy you expensive gifts when all you want is to sit on the couch and talk all night? Tell them that! You may be afraid to hurt their feelings, but the key again is “I statements.” You can say, “I appreciate it when you buy me nice things, but I really want to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with you more often; I just miss you!”

Expressing needs and setting boundaries are not intended to attack your spouse. The right communication style allows you to address your specific needs in a way that helps your partner better understand where you’re coming from. 

4. Understand Your Partner’s Love Language

While it’s healthy to be thorough in your love communication, it’s also important to be open to your partner when it’s their turn to share their love language with you. Give your partner the same understanding that you would want them to have for you, and allow them to have the space to talk about their needs, wants, and desires without fear of judgment. 

If you’re both struggling because your love languages are different, it’s normal to feel uncertain if you’re not sure how you’ll be able to fulfill their needs. Focus on developing a better understanding of your partner’s love language. Listen to them with your full attention and open heart, and avoid responding impulsively. 

Instead, you can ask your partner thoughtful questions to help you gain a deeper understanding of their love language. This will allow you to be receptive to your partner instead of putting you on the defensive. Remember that it can feel vulnerable to have an intimate conversation about love languages, so it’s best to enter the conversation to mend the relationship and have empathy and understanding towards one another.

5. Love in THEIR Language, Not Yours 

Once you’ve shared the ins and outs of your love languages and now that you are no longer assuming that your partner wants to receive love the same way you do, take a step back and think about how you can express love in their language not yours. Did you buy a brand new watch for your partner after they got a promotion at work because your love language is gift-giving, even though their love language is words of affirmation? That’s ok, don’t beat yourself up! There’s no use in getting upset or feeling guilty about past events, especially when your heart was in the right place.

Instead, you can think critically about your past actions and use your newfound knowledge to consider what you could’ve done differently. Maybe in that situation, you could have written your partner a love letter telling them how proud of them you were to have better met their love language needs. Now that you’re aware of it, you know that writing a letter is something you can do for the next time you want to say congratulations. 

6. Be Receptive to Each Other’s Needs

Having an open and honest discussion about how you can meet each others’ needs will require both of you to be aware that you’ll need to make some changes. For example, if you’ve spent the whole relationship showing your partner love by simply telling them how much you love them when what they’ve been wanting is for you to cuddle them to sleep at night, it’s going to take some time to adapt to these changes. You may wish you’d had this conversation sooner! 

What matters is that you’re both willing to make the change in the first place and work on showing love to one another in the way that works best for you. Remember to remain open to feedback. If you’re the one giving feedback, make sure your delivery is a combination of direct and gentle. Your partner is just trying to make you feel loved. If you’re on the receiving end of the feedback, keep an open mind and understand that this is necessary for the positive change you’ve wanted in your relationship.

7. Learn to Compromise and Get Creative

Change does not come easy, but it will be well worth the effort. It can even be fun to develop creative ways for both people to have their needs met. Does one person desire quality time while the other desires gifts? One idea to marry these two types of love languages is to go out for a nice dinner. The person who needs quality time can spend the evening with their partner and pay for the meal, which makes the person who needs gifts feel like they’ve received a gift.

Be ready to make compromises in the relationship as it won’t always be possible for both people to have their needs met at the same time. If your love language is physical touch while your partner’s love language is acts of service, you can snuggle on the couch all night knowing that you’re going to wake up and cook breakfast for your partner the next morning. 

Relationships are both a balancing act and a two-way street, so to keep everything in balance, the couple must be ready to compromise so that each person feels heard, understood, and loved. 

8. Keep the Line of Communication Open and Honest

Love languages play an important part in happy relationships. The key to any healthy and happy relationship is open, honest, and thoughtful communication. Neither person should try to be right. Instead, they should both try to better understand one another. 

Healthy relationships resolve conflict quickly, effectively, and in a way that avoids aggression. If you and your partner are struggling to have discussions in a way that feels productive, try practicing active listening and building trust within the relationship. Learning each other’s love languages is an excellent way to build that trust and allow for a more open channel of communication.

Keep in mind that healthy communication requires self-awareness, empathy, understanding, active listening skills, and the desire to improve the relationship. Establishing a healthy communication style for oneself and within a relationship takes practice! Practicing using “I statements” and avoiding impulsive responses in conversation. This is a great habit to develop and make for excellent first steps in approaching sensitive topics with your partner. 

Implement What You’ve Learned 

Relationships are never easy, and sometimes differences can have an impact on effective communication. The trick is learning about those differences  and working together to create a harmonious relationship. 

Being equipped with the right knowledge and technique is critical for having a conversation about love languages. It is an opportunity to bond and be emotionally closer. It will likely require ongoing communication about your specific love languages to solidify change. Don’t feel defeated when things don’t go exactly as planned or when the change doesn’t happen overnight. 

Being committed each other’s happiness and are willing to put the work will go toward understanding each other’s love languages. There will be noticeable progress in how your relationship grows and flourishes.


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Sheree Mcdonald

Sheree McDonald is a professional medical and healthcare writer with over ten years of industry experience. Her educational background includes a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing and Editing from Northern Arizona University, which helped shape her writing craft and hone necessary research skills. Upon graduation, Sheree established McDonald Content Solutions, a medical content agency dedicated to providing exceptional medical and healthcare content. Sheree is committed to providing high-quality content that educates and inspires readers to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Sheree is incredibly passionate about self-help and psychology topics and advocates for mental health. She spends her free time volunteering for Crisis Text Line, a text-based support system designed to connect people in crisis with necessary resources.

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