Healthy Relationship 101: Learning a new language

Last week, I posed the question “What do we do once we’ve found love?”

This week, I want to introduce what I believe to be the foundation of a successful and healthy relationship: learning to love your partner the right way.

First, we need to consider that there are many different ways of showing and feeling love; we all have our own unique ways of feeling loved, and we tend to show love to others using the same method. We love the same way we want to be loved and, coincidentally, the way we were shown love by our parents as children is often the same way we – as adults – show love to and feel loved by our partner.

Dr. Gary Chapman does a fantastic job of explaining the different ways people feel loved in his book “The 5 Love Languages.” He narrows it down to the following:

1. Words of Affirmation
2. Acts of Service
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch

For those who haven’t read the book, you’re probably thinking, “but my love language is all of those things.” Most people, however, have one or maybe two very crucial love languages, of which without, they would feel completely unloved.

We all love to receive gifts, but do gifts make you feel loved? We all love compliments, but do compliments make you feel loved? We all love hugs and favours and Sunday outings, but do these things make you feel loved?

The key is to first learn your own love language, and then learn your partner’s.

Take my relationship, for example. My love language is Physical Touch; my boyfriend’s love language is Acts of Service. Physical Touch, by the way, relates to any physical gesture – hugging, kissing, holding hands – while Acts of Service relates to small favours such as cooking dinner, cleaning the house, doing laundry or opening the car door.

My boyfriend frequently cooks dinner, brings me coffee in bed, leaves a towel out for my shower, and even puts toothpaste on my toothbrush – among many things – as a way of showing he loves me. I show my boyfriend love by giving him a hug, kissing him, or holding his hand.

But what if my way of showing love to him doesn’t make him feel loved? What if his acts of service don’t translate to “love” on my part?

As Chapman puts it, many couples don’t last because they never learn to speak their partner’s love language. They’re caught up showing love to their partner using THEIR love language, and they just can’t understand why their partner doesn’t understand it. Their love gets lost in translation.

Luckily enough for me, I’ve come to understand that my boyfriend possesses a secondary love language, that just so happens to be my primary one: Physical Touch. In this sense, coffee in bed is great, but I still feel more loved by a simple hug, and luckily he does too. Therefore, we’ve been able to create a healthy relationship quite organically.

If, however, my boyfriend only spoke his primary love language of Acts of Service, the situation would be much different. I’d be learning to cook and clean, and training my brain to do nice gestures for him, and he’d be learning to hold off on the coffee and turn up the snuggle meter. If our love languages didn’t naturally match up the way they do, things would be a whole lot harder.

At this point, you may be thinking one of two things:

1. This seems like a lot of work… perhaps my partner isn’t worth it; or

2. How can I learn more about my partner’s love language and how can I  create a healthy relationship with them?

If you’re thinking the second option, please read the book, and join us next week for the third installment of Healthy Relationship 101.





DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff
DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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