One of the classic texts regarding relationships is “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The book discusses the ways that people communicate their love. The five ways identified are gift giving, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and words of affirmation. The book includes a quiz to help you identify your ways of expressing your love, your love languages. The majority of the book is spent trying to help people learn to communicate in their partner’s love language.
I would like to challenge the underlying assumption behind the book. The assumption is that we need to learn to speak our partners love language. I would like to propose that we work harder on HEARING our partner’s natural love language. When we fall in love with someone, we should fall in love with who they really are, not who we want them to be. Falling in love with the real person also means accepting how they communicate their love.
So often, when I am working with couples, the underlying assumption is they want the other person to change. But I have to point out to them that the only person they can change is themselves. What if we changed our focus from what our partner doesn’t do to what they actually do? Or to put it another way, what if we accepted them for who they are?
Instead of focusing on how they don’t verbally tell you they love you (words of affirmation), focus on how they usually take the trash out (acts of service). Rather than being upset that they do not bring you flowers (gift giving), choose to appreciate that they want to hold your hand (physical touch) while taking a walk in the park. Thank your partner for making time to spend with you (quality time) even though you are both busy with work and family obligations.
I have found that most of the unhappiness in our life and relationships comes from our own expectations. We expect that because we love someone, they know how to make us happy. We expect that love will be communicated in the ways we prefer. What if we let go of our expectations about our relationships? And really accepted our partner (and their love languages) for who they are?