It’s hard to completely understand what your partner needs when the two of you speak different love languages. Not totally sure what a “love language” is? Today, our friend Callie Murray, the Director of Growth at Lasting is sharing her personal experience with love languages and a few tips and tricks when it comes to learning your partners love language.
when our love languages need a translator
For the first few months of our marriage, my husband and I spent our evenings at home in the same way: me, working on my computer in the office, and David, watching TV in the adjoining room. One day he told me that we never spent time together. I was shocked! I pointed out that we spent most every evening side-by-side (or at least in rooms that were side-by-side). Plus, I was working on my new business and providing for our little family!
When discussing this with a friend one day, she said knowingly, “Ahhh, you speak different love languages. He wants Quality Time, and you’re giving him Acts of Service.”
I started doing some research and learned that the 5 Love Languages, as developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, are five distinct ways that people experience love differently. They include:
Words of Affirmation: expressing your love to your partner through validating comments.
Acts of Service: showing your partner you care by doing tasks that will make their lives better or easier.
Receiving Gifts: channeling your thoughtfulness into gifts you purchase or create.
Quality Time: prioritizing your partner by carving out intentional and uninterrupted time together.
Physical Touch: showing affection through holding hands, kissing, or being otherwise visibly affectionate.
But it was only after I started using Lasting, a relationship counseling app, that I realized how these languages played out in my marriage. Lasting helped me understand our differences through the concept of Emotional Calls.
It explained that Emotional Calls are our attempts to connect with one another. These show up in our relationships in a wide variety of ways. They can be attempts to get attention, affirmation, affection, empathy, or any other emotional need from the other person.
Recognizing Emotional Calls was the first and most vital step towards relationship health and breaking the cycle of our perpetual fight. I started to notice the calls David was making to me throughout the day, and I recognized the calls I was making to him. I noticed that David would pat the seat next to him on the couch, or he would make witty comments to me in search of shared humor. On the other hand, I caught myself complaining about how much work I had to do or asking his opinion on something I was wearing. Each of these was an attempt at emotionally connecting with the other person in our own unique way.
Lasting explains that healthy couples respond positively to 86% of one another’s Emotional Calls, while unhealthy couples, who eventually get divorced, respond positively only 33% of the time (per Dr. John Gottman’s Study). Dr. Brooke Feeney found similar findings: couples with a large number of successful Emotional Calls build up “emotional capital” over time.
Once we started noticing these calls more often, we then started the deeper work of learning about one another and the ways in which we were showing—or asking for—love and attention. We learned that we each had inclinations toward a specific love language, based on our attachment needs and wounds, but our default love language was largely based on what was missing most in our life.
Below are a few examples of Emotional Calls for each of the 5 Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation: You might hear probing questions like, “What do you think of this outfit?” or “Did you hear what so-and-so said about me?”
Acts of Service: These may include direct requests for an errand or chore, or they may be more suggestive comments about the kitchen being messy or there not being enough time in the day.
Receiving Gifts: Someone whose language is gifts may hint about items they want or thoughtful gifts friends have received. Alternately, the person who speaks the love language of gifts may keep a list on their phone of your favorite things or items you’ve mentioned in passing.
Quality Time: Emotional calls related to Quality Time include asking deep questions, scheduling activities together, or asking that you put down your electric devices at the dinner table.
Physical Touch: Reaching for your hand, puckering for a kiss, or even just brushing up next to you might be an Emotional Call for attention via physical touch.
Lasting has been an incredibly helpful resource in teaching me this concept of Emotional Calls while also giving me tools to reflect and then discuss with David. In fact, their Relationship Health Intro offers a great exercise that helped me name and recognize the calls we were making to each other. I’m happy to report that I now sit with David (computer-free and in the same room!), speaking his love language and rich in emotional capital.
Looking for more relationship advice? Check out our list of things you should ask yourself before you tie the knot!