If you think about it, love is difficult. Simple expressions of 'I love yous' or even the act of gifting someone can come with a lot of overthinking and doubt. And this love is not restricted to just the romantic kind. What if you spend hours working on a gift, but your friends don't react the way you expect them to? What if all you want from your parents is a verbal acknowledgement of their pride for you, but your parents don't believe in that kind of love?
The first step would be to communicate your expectations. As psychiatric social worker from Cadabams Group, Dr Paramita Bhowmick says, "We need to acknowledge, respect and appreciate that we have expectations." Communication may be able to make this a little easier, but even then, what exactly are we communicating? To streamline the process, Gary Chapman came up with the 5 love languages - different ways of expressing and receiving love. These expressions change from person to person, relationship to relationship, even from context to context. Understanding them might ease the process of conveying and being receptive to wants and expectations in your relationships.
The Love Languages
Acts of Service - Expressing love through the act of doing nice things for loved ones.
Gift-Giving - Gifting things that hold a symbolic meaning of love and affection.
Physical Touch - Enjoying the act of being physically close to your loved one through both sexual and non-sexual touch.
Quality Time - Finding love through the way your loved ones gives undivided attention and actively listens in your conversations.
Words of Affirmation - appreciating praise, appreciation and encouragement from your loved one.
*Disclaimer: Love Languages are NOT a solution to fixing your relationship. Learning about your own and your loved ones' love languages and then building your bonds further is simply about communicating your love-needs.*
So, let's say after a long day at work, you feel like having a chat with your partner about your day and how it went for both of you. Meanwhile, your partner prefers to spend time cuddling while watching television. It may not be a problem, but at some point, you may feel like your partner does not enjoy listening to what you have to say. This situation is not a matter of whether you love each other, but more about the way you each choose to express your love. While you enjoy talking to your partner, your partner simply prefers some quiet time with you. By accepting this difference, both of you might be able to find a middle ground for managing both your expectations.
A lot of times, people may avoid communicating or asking about their partner's expectations. Drawing back from her experience, Dr Paramita says, "People come with a lot of assumptions, that when we put forward our expectations, how would the other person feel? They just take a step back saying 'let him/her understand'. It doesn't work that way. It's more about communicating to each other directly about what exactly you expect from each other and only then do you come to a solution."
Thus, the idea of love languages is more about perceiving your loved one's form of expression and shaping your own way in a way that adapts to it. In a way, knowing these languages is a form of self-growth, where you expand beyond your comfort zone to be more empathetic, attentive and responsive to the needs of those you love. In fact, relationship satisfaction has been shown to increase with the amount of conduciveness for self-expansion in a relationship.
So the next time you want to appreciate your loved one, try to figure out what love-expression they respond to best. Who knows, maybe you could find a way to combine your language of expression and theirs! In the end, it's all about securing the foundations of a healthy relationship with the appreciation and enhancement of yourself.