Many times, when people say “I love you” to someone, they probably mean “I love you my way.”
Think about yourself for a second. When you express your love for someone, how do you do it? How do you show someone that you love them and care for them? Generally, you’d probably do something that you’d wish the other person would do to you for you to feel loved.
For instance, if you feel loved when you receive gifts from someone, you would present your loved one with something nice. On the other hand, if you’re someone who feels loved when someone compliments you, you’d compliment and speak words of encouragement to your loved one.
While all of these are nice (and I’m NOT discouraging anyone from doing these things to their significant others), there is a language involved in the act of love, and we must figure out what our partners’ love languages are in order to make them properly feel loved.
Now, some people may argue and say, “There are no different kinds of love. You just treat someone with kindness and care in an altruistic manner, and that’s love.” And yes, I say that that is the foundation of love, but to express our love to another individual in the most accurate way possible, it is crucial that we identify the other individual’s love language.
To illustrate this concept, let’s say that you go to a foreign country, where the English language has not been introduced yet. No matter how many times you say to the people there, “Hello, how are you?” they won’t understand you unless you speak in their language or demonstrate a greeting gesture in the way that they will understand it. This is because while the concept of greeting exist in both cultures, the ways in which the two express their greetings differ. In this way, love takes a similar idea.
I had a friend who constantly fought with her boyfriend. Most of her complaints revolved around the issue of her boyfriend not spending enough time with her while she spent all her free time with him. Ironically, others thought her boyfriend was one of the sweetest guys because he’d literally buy her everything she wanted and always go to her house to drop off a present. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t view that as a loving act. She wanted his time not his gifts.
On the other hand, the boyfriend felt like my friend didn’t care about him because she never spent money on him (not that he wanted her money, but he simply wished that sometimes, she would kindly offer to buy him a meal). My friend thought that was never a problem because she believed that as long as she spent her time with him, he’s be okay with everything else in the relationship, which clearly wasn’t the case.
In the beginning of our relationship, my boyfriend and I read the book Five Love Languages together–I recommend this read to all couples who plan on staying in a long-term relationship with each other.
My boyfriend’s main love language is physical touch and words of appreciation, which means that he feels the most loved by me when I touch him or encourage him with words. I wasn’t aware of that at first so initially, I expressed my love by spending time with him and performing acts of service for him: I would meet up with him whenever I was free, buy him medicine when he was feeling sick, etc. I thought I was doing my best to show my love but Joe felt I didn’t like him that much in the beginning of our relationship because I never asked to hold hands first or kissed him first (which he later told me made him sad–sorry but funny at the same time).
Contrarily, I was upset because Joe didn’t bother to hold heavy grocery bags for me or visit me at my house when I was ill. But after reading the Five Love Languages, we learned of one another’s differences and trained ourselves to express love in the other person’s language–this meant thinking of the other person more than ourselves.
Joe began to spend more of his time with me besides our usual date days (calling me before and after work, making surprise visits to my school/home) and perform acts of service (run in the rain to get me an umbrella, hold my heavy groceries and bake desserts for me). I, in return, expressed my love more in words and physical touch (I actually articulated the words “I love you” to Joe more frequently, praise him on his achievements at work and made affectionate gestures first). And you have no idea how much doing these things improved our relationship!
Read the book and even if you don’t, at least ask your partner how they’d like to receive love; and be honest and open about when you feel loved by them. You may be surprised to find out that they feel loved by your most unexpected actions!