So often my friends complain about their partners. They never say this or do that, they never spend time with them or bother to take them out anywhere or buy them little truc d’amour, and invariably the conclusion is that their partner is rubbish and doesn’t love them enough.
But I had observed these couples and it was clear to me that these two individuals were in love with one another.
So… what was going on??
A few years ago I hit upon The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which has been on the New York Times Best Seller list since 2009 and it all became crystal.
Chapman articulated a simple set of observations: He proposed that people give love in the way they wish to receive it, and that not everyone expresses themselves in the same way.
Thus he has grouped the dominant types of expressive actions into the following categories:
- Gift Giving
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service [Devotion]
- Physical Touch
Although no clinical trials have been conducted, personal experience is evidence enough for me.
For example, let’s call them Flora and Matt.
Matt was a terrible communicator. I mean, he was hilarious and he talked all the time but he never actually said anything at all. In the entire time they were together he told her he loved her three times. An abysmal performance when in a committed monogamous relationship for three years. That’s an average of once a year: FAIL.
But, he couldn’t bear to be apart from her. He actively wanted to hold her hand and he was constantly playing with her hair. When they walked down the street he would sling his arm over her shoulders. He would rush home from work and scoop her into his arms. Even when times were bad, when they watched television he wasn’t comfortable unless he was holding her.
It was actually quite annoying for Flora. She couldn’t stand public displays of affection and she had a higher average body temperature for a woman, which meant she found it hot and bothersome to be cuddled constantly “like a bloody pet bloody rabbit.”
Flora was an Acts of Service sort of person. She would make him a packed lunch to take to work and record his favourite films. She would buy tickets to the Rugby and frequently invited his friends over for dinner. Actions she thought were sweet, but which he, it became apparent, found intrusive and controlling.
Flora asked me my advice just after I had read the Five Love Languages. Poor thing. I had become a right royal bore about it, broadcasting the Five Languages to anyone who would listen. Even Stan, the number 57 bus driver, has read the book thanks to me.
Anyway, Flora took on board [no bus pun intended] what I said. Instead of pushing him away she welcomed his affection. Max started to feel appreciated instead of rejected, and as their relationship improved she felt secure enough to discuss his reaction to her Acts of Service. Things that had once seemed presumptuous became endearing. He gave her space at night, and started making her a cuppa in the mornings.
Eventually the relationship did break down, but that’s because it had run its course and both Flora and Max needed different things. The good news is that the message of the book can be carried on in their next relationships.
Observer your partner, consider how they communicate with you. Take their actions in the manner in which they are meant. Observe yourself, consider how you communicate with them. Have a frank conversation, make a joke out of your differences. Celebrate them. Read the book.
I can assure you the results are worth it.