Whose Love Language Is More Important - Yours or Theirs?
All is fair in love and war as the poet John Lyly said. If the two were to suddenly merge, however, there’s a good chance that we'd all cheat to get what we wanted. When a relationship gets tough, the heart speaks. And the odds are, your love language is not the same as your partner's. Most couples have different personalities, points of view and love styles, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a harmonious balance together.
But here's the thing: relationship battlegrounds are a two-way street. The internet has lots of good advice about how to adapt your love style to give your partner what they need—but you have needs, too! Whose needs come first? Whose are more important? Is there a way to get what you need at the same time you care for your partner?
Let’s take a quick look into striking that sweet spot so everyone can win in love. And avoid war, of course. That’s a nice side benefit to learning how to speak in tongues.
Understanding the love styles lingo
According to a survey by YouGov, women under the age of 45 are most familiar with Dr. Gary Chapman’s work The Five Love Languages®. This justifies a quick tutorial for everyone else who may be struggling with relationship dilemmas.
In his book, Chapman introduces the idea that people desire love in five different categories, or languages. Our research suggests that modern couples actually express love in seven categories, which we call the 7 Love Styles to differentiate them from Chapman's classifications. Identifying them allows us to put these styles into practice in our daily relationships.
If your love style is Activity, you feel best loved when your partner shares activities with you. If it’s Physical, you love it when your partner holds your hand or cuddles on the couch. The Appreciation style is when your partner gives you compliments or greeting cards full of sentiment, and the Emotional style is when your partner is always there as a shoulder to cry on.
If your love style is Practical, you like it when your partner is generous with doing chores or running errands for you. People with the Intellectual love style connect through a meeting of minds. The seventh love style is Financial, and speaking it involves paying for dinner or anything in a box with a bow on top.
Interestingly, in the YouGov survey, while individuals were able to identify their own Love Language®, they struggled a bit more trying to identify that of their partner. That's because most people don’t share the same love language as their partner.
It never had to be a tug-of-war
Many times, relationships involve prioritizing, scheduling or taking turns when it comes to what each other needs at any given time. Introverts will attend a certain number of events with their Extraverted partner and Extraverts will take some stay-cations in return. Considering you may have more than one relationship to maintain, it means juggling the needs of your partner, your coworkers, your children, your parents, your pets, and so much more.
The beauty of love styles is that most of them can be combined. You can share a walk on the beach (Activity) while holding hands (Physical). You can complement your partner (Appreciation) as they do a chore for you (Practical). Feeling loved is not inherently exclusive but gloriously inclusive.
Once you’ve identified the way your partner feels loved, you can use the love style with reckless abandon, and vice versa. Whatever life throws your way, the love styles transfer.
However, while it costs nothing to love your partner through their preferred love style, the price that is paid is often the martyr’s cry: what about me? I'm putting in all this effort, but surely my needs are equally important, worth investing in, and worth pursuing? Why do I feel less than loved by my loved one?
Perhaps you have fallen into the trap of speaking the wrong language. Because it isn't their love style that's more important, or yours – it's “ours.”
How to become bilingual
Make emotional connection a priority in your relationship. Take the time to know how your partner loves to be loved and commit to practicing it, even if it’s a foreign concept at first. Once you’ve given several compliments in a row, you will know if the language is right: if it feels genuinely lovely to give them and see your partner's reaction.
At the same time, remember your partner may also be learning a second language and fumbling all over the place with it. The accent is wrong. The emphasis. They might try using hieroglyphics or Chinese symbols before landing the perfect phrase. Applaud their efforts. Double down on encouragement. Protect your partner from feelings of inadequacy, shame or stress as they try to take care of your need to feel loved. Help them help you.
Once you find the harmony that hits all the right notes in your relationship song, keep playing. Value what your partner values simply because they value it. If you must learn how to hug someone five times a day and you have to count, count. If you must remember to drive the kids’ carpool every Thursday, put it on the calendar. If celebrating an anniversary with a gift will thrill your partner forever, do it. Ask for and give specific feedback to make sure the love languages are working. Remind each other regularly that your love goes both ways and practice, practice, practice.
Work together and the relationship wins
When we entered a relationship, we made room for someone else. A new priority list arrived, and we merged our own needs with theirs. This doesn’t mean you are no longer a priority; it means habits will change to include two in the priority instead of one. No one has to lose in order for the other to win. Relationships are a team sport and you’re on the same team.
Building a healthy relationship is founded on two individuals agreeing to behave as a couple. They create space for each individual within the unit and put each other first simultaneously. They account for each other’s point of view. Each agrees to put the relationship ahead of anyone’s need to be right. If either party “loses,” they both lose.
But with every win… poetry!