Is Your Love Language Clash Sabotaging Your Relationship?23 March 2023 / By Diane Fanucchi Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on February 15, 2023
You’ve probably heard about love languages and how making use of them could help your relationship.
For a quick review, the 5 Love Languages is a system created by Dr. Gary Chapman to describe specific ways we give and receive love. The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
While Chapman’s system is really helpful for identifying the ways we express love to each other, it’s the product of a different time and solely based on Chapman’s observations of married Christian couples. Truity surveyed people of all ages and orientations from all over the world, and found that there are, in fact, seven modern love styles. These love styles are Practical, Emotional, Appreciation, Activity, Financial, Physical and Intellectual. (Take our test here)
Whatever model you use to describe your love language or style, there are two important things to know:
- Most people have one or two of the categories as their preferred love language.
- If there’s a clash between your love language and your partner’s, you may both end up feeling unloved and unappreciated. Even when you’re both making an effort, you may not get the results you want.
This doesn’t mean you both have to use the same love language or you can only get together with someone who naturally shares your love style – far from it! You just have to know what you need from – and can give to – each other, and act accordingly. Otherwise, there's a good chance that your love-language clash may eventually sabotage your relationship.
Look out for these four signs; they show it’s probably time to start a love-languages conversation.
1. You each give according to your love language, not the other person's
Sometimes when we give a gift, we choose what we would want to receive. While that can be a generous impulse, it doesn't always result in the best gift for the other person. To choose the best gift for that person, we need to think about them. What do they like, want or need? What gift will make them feel like you put extra thought into choosing something exactly right for them?
It's the same with showing love. While certain ways of expressing love come naturally to us, our love language may not provide what the other person needs. For example, someone with a Physical love language may need more than just an occasional hug to feel loved and appreciated. Knowing that, you can find ways to express your love in a way that fits your partner's love style.
2. You don’t value the other person’s love language
When we don’t understand someone’s love language, it can be hard to appreciate their gestures of love. Maybe your partner constantly buys you small gifts and you feel like they are wasting money by buying things you wouldn't have chosen – so you aren't grateful for the gesture. Or perhaps your partner wants to spend quality time with you but you find it tedious and would rather be doing something else.
It’s easy to forget that your partner is trying to express their love in the best way they know how.
If your partner’s love style is Words of Affirmation (Appreciation), for example, then the thoughtful words they say may have more meaning than they seem to have at first glance. They aren’t just flinging a few easy words at you to get out of showing their love in other ways. They likely put a lot of thought into their expressions, and those words are the best way they know to share their appreciation for you.
By being more aware of and appreciative of each other's love language, your relationship will become much stronger.
3. You don’t talk about what you each need
As with most aspects of a healthy relationship, communication is key. You may both have good intentions, but if you don’t have discussions about your different love styles and what that means, you’re both likely to feel unsatisfied, unloved or unappreciated.
Say, your preferred love language is Practical (Acts of Service in Chapman’s model), and your partner’s is Financial (Receiving Gifts). Your love language clash could play out something like this.
You go out of your way to cook them a special meal or run an errand for them when they’re feeling stressed. You make this effort because it’s your way of showing how much you care about your partner. They, in turn, buy you an expensive, carefully selected gift to show how much they value you. You may each end up feeling like the other took the easy way out or didn’t give as much as you gave them.
If you have an honest conversation about this, you’ll each get a better idea of the thoughts and intentions behind each others’ expressions of love. You’ll also learn about each others’ love language so you can fine tune your future expressions of love to be more satisfying to both parties.
4. You don’t get specific enough
Say you learn that your partner’s love language is Acts of Service (Practical). So, you sacrifice half an afternoon weeding the back yard, only to find your partner doesn’t feel loved by your efforts. The reason is they don’t really care about the weeds in the yard, but it would mean a lot to them if you washed the dishes regularly.
You got the love style right, but didn’t ask enough questions to know what kind of practical act will mean the most to them. So, you feel like your sacrifice is undervalued, and they still feel like you aren’t there for them.
Here’s another example. Suppose your love language is Words of Affirmation (Appreciation). Your partner knows this, so they start saying “I love you” more often. That’s nice to hear, but you know that already. The words don’t seem heartfelt to you because they aren’t specific enough. What you really want to hear is that they value your sense of humor or kindness, they appreciate what a good listener you are, or they really see how much effort you put into keeping your home running smoothly.
While it's nice to know your partner is trying to show their love for you, if they don’t give you what you need most, they’ll feel like their efforts are wasted, and you still won’t feel as loved as you could.
But if you’re both specific about what you need from each other to feel truly loved, your efforts are more likely to hit their target. This could take you a long way toward ending your clash and becoming better partners in your efforts at a mutually loving relationship.