By: Janine Elliott, LCSW & Dr. Cassandra Faraci
One of the hardest things in our modern lives is managing all of our roles and responsibilities and nurturing our relationships, especially romantic ones. There is no doubt that relationships take effort to keep alive, yet why is it often so challenging to do so? We hear many, many times that partners “love each other” but don’t feel the “spark” or “connection” that they once had. Why? For many couples, being together becomes a habit, and based on our neurochemistry, habits don’t stay in the forefront of our attentions; habits require little effort. So, we move our attention to “putting out fires” and things that require more effort (think: getting that project done at work by the deadline, getting dinner on the table, making tomorrow’s to-do list, planning a child’s birthday party…and the list is endless). What falls to the backburner is paying attention to your partner and his/her needs, specifically your partner’s love language. Often, people are unaware of how they themselves want and need to feel loved and how their partners need to feel loved. We may be showing our love and appreciation in ways that would serve us but not in the ways our partners need. The love is there, but the signaling and communication of this love is not being received by the partner. This, in turn, can leave each partner feeling (erroneously) unloved and unfulfilled.
Below are five love languages, different ways one can express love for another.
- Words of Affirmation: Verbal compliments that express love and appreciation. Some examples are:
- “I love you.”
- “I missed you today.”
- “I like how you did…”
- “Thank you for helping me today.”
Even text messages that don’t include a request or an update on the kids/work can let your partner know that you’re thinking of him/her. Maybe send a funny thing that reminded you of them, a flirtatious message, a thoughtful/funny meme, a photo memory taken of you both, verbal compliments about internal and external qualities, etc.
- Physical Touch: Sexual and non-sexual physical closeness and connection. A great goal is to have at least one moment of physical touch and display of affection per day Some examples are:
- holding each other
- placing an arm around your loved one
- massaging each other
- sexual intimacy
- sense of physical closeness by sitting next to one another as opposed to separate or opposite ends of couches, chairs, heads of table etc.
- Quality time: Focus on undivided attention with one another. Some examples are:
- bonding through mutual interests
- connecting intellectually
- joining in the interests of one’s partner even if it is different than their own
- actively listen without planning your next response
Less frequently, plan date nights and getaways that are fun and relaxing. Keep in mind, however, that a consistent connection has a more sustainable effect than sporadic or grandiose time spent together. Absolutely plan those getaways, but they shouldn’t be your only quality time together. A wonderful goal would be 15-minute periods a few times per week. The more, the better, but goals should be realistic for each individual couple.
- Acts of Service: Any act that eases the burden of responsibility on the partner. Some examples are:
- offering to do certain chores/tasks even if it’s typically your partner that does so
- asking if there are errands that you can run for your partner
- making mutual lists in which you let your partner know you’ll handle some of his/her tasks
- backing and supporting your partner, even in times of doubt.
If there are disagreements, these discussions can happen privately at a later time both partners are calm, not overwhelmed, and in a mental space for constructive suggestions.
It’s important to know that communication, especially in this area, is critical. As much as we would like for our significant others to anticipate our needs, they cannot read our minds, and it is quite necessary to positively reinforce and/or ask for what we want and need. This is often perceived as “non-romantic”; however, it is practical and necessary at times. There is an appreciation for the things that people do without being asked, yet these should be happy and welcomed when they occur and not expected 100% of the time.
- Receiving Gifts: Physical symbols that reflect thoughtfulness and effort.
Some examples are:
- thoughtful gifts on holidays in which gift-giving is a tradition (birthdays, etc.)
- make his/her favorite snack
- surprise flowers or cards
- make dinner plans at his/her favorite restaurant or bring home take-out food
- memorabilia from their interests (guitar picks for your musician, artist brushes for your painter cookbook for your foodie, etc.)
- small gifts that they have mentioned in passing and may not have known that you remembered (not necessarily given on a holiday)
We’ve worked with many relationships (romantic and unromantic) in which members of the relationship deeply loved each other, but their expression of this love was not being received. One may want to hear words of affirmation, and because they don’t necessarily need gifts, the little surprises from their partner went unnoticed. Just because you need to have love expressed to you in one way, it’s important to understand that your partner’s needs may be different. Openly communicating is vital to keeping the “spark” alive.
If you and/or your partner are struggling in any aspect of your relationship, we’d be happy to help. Give us a call at (908) 914-2624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we help.