Dr. Kevin Theriot is a counselor with LDS Family Services. Here, he explains simple yet powerful ways you can express love to your family, friends, and significant other.
One of the challenges in our close interpersonal relationships often has a simple cause: we tend to express love in a way others don’t automatically understand. For example, he sends you a lovely greeting card when what you really want is time to talk. She is very generous with her words of affirmation and love when what you really desire is a gift. The problem in these examples isn’t your feelings of love for that individual; it’s the manner in which you’re expressing them.
The challenge in expressing love to another person is expressing it in a manner they easily understand as opposed to expressing it in the manner you feel most comfortable with. The style of expression that communicates love most powerfully to you may have less meaning to the person receiving your expression of love. This is why understanding each other’s unique needs and learning how to express your love so it’s easily recognized often has a profound impact on your relationship.
While working as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman identified the following styles of receiving and communicating love, which he explains in his book The Five Love Languages. They are:
Words of Affirmation: You feel most loved when your partner is open and expressive in telling you how wonderful they think you are, how much they appreciate you, and so on.
Acts of Service: You feel most loved when your spouse offers to watch the kids so you can go to the gym or get some extra sleep.
Physical Touch: You feel most loved when your spouse puts their arm around you or gives you a warm hug or a kiss.
Quality Time: You feel loved when your significant other spends time with you and is fully present and engaged in the activity at hand (in other words, no cell phone).
Gifts: You feel most loved when your partner takes the time to give you a thoughtful card or gift that reflects an understanding of your wants or needs.
How do you discover the love language of the person you love? I would suggest you simply ask. For some, all of the above may work equally well, while others may respond only to one. They may have to think about it before they’re able to identify the manner that works best for them, and it may be situation specific—a gift for Valentine’s Day and acts of service during times of stress, for example.
It doesn’t matter whether your significant other is someone you’re dating, your spouse, your child, or someone else; learning how to express love in a manner that they easily understand is often the key to creating greater depth to your emotional bond.