My husband Scott and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary. Though we aren’t newlyweds, we still try to make each other happy. Scott sometimes surprises me with flowers, often thanks me for a good dinner or tells me I look nice when I’m sporting a new outfit. I plan special dates and vacations and I love to bake his favorite treats. He never fails to kiss me before heading off to work and I pack his lunch every morning.
Tips to try
For couples who want to communicate more deeply, Chapman and
local therapists suggest the following tips:
1 Discover your true love language.
Gettelfinger and Schwarzbaum usually advise their clients take
the 5 Love Languages quiz to determine how they feel most loved.
While some people inherently know what makes them feel loved,
others might be surprised by the quiz results. The quiz is 30
questions, asking you to pick one of two options you prefer the
most. At the end of the quiz, the results are tabulated and usually
one love language stands out.
2 Find your partner’s love language.
A spouse doesn’t always want to take a quiz, read a book or go
to therapy. In these cases, Chapman suggests a person pay close
attention to how their spouse reacts to different acts of love.
“You observe the behavior of your spouse. How do they relate to
other people? What does the spouse complain about?” Chapman says.
If your spouse often pats people on the back or always wants back
rubs, that person might think physical touch is important. Acts of
service could be the love language if the spouse complains
frequently about chores that aren’t completed, Chapman says.
3 Fulfill your partner’s love needs.
Once you learn a spouse’s love language, you should start
speaking it regularly. It might seem awkward or difficult, but it
will undoubtedly improve your relationship, Chapman says. Two
months later, ask your spouse on a scale of 1 to 10 “How much love
do you feel from me?” Chapman says. If the response is less than 6,
then ask how you can improve. “What they’re suggesting might not be
what you’re doing,” Chapman says. “Whenever they give you an 8, 9
or 10, they are feeling your love.”
4 Tell your partner what you want.
Once you start speaking your spouse’s love language, he or she
will be more likely to try to meet your love needs, Chapman says.
“Give them a request. Because they’ve been feeling the love from
you, they’re very likely to give in to your request. You’re
teaching them how to speak your love language.”
Chapman says couples who work on communication and learn to
speak each other’s love languages can usually turn around their
“I think they will find that emotional love can be reborn in
relationships,” Chapman says.
Despite our attempts to show our love, we have been speaking different love languages, according to Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages. After a decade of marriage, we are not fully meeting each other’s love needs.
We are not alone, Chapman says. Many couples, even those who are happily married, do not truly understand each other’s needs, and therefore, they do not communicate effectively.
“Couples often forget that a marriage has to be nurtured,” says Chapman.
Chapman, a marriage counselor from North Carolina who has written several books on marriage, believes every person speaks primarily one of five distinct love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This primary love language is how a person shows love and also how they want to receive love.
“What makes one person feel loved doesn’t necessarily make another person feel loved,” Chapman says. “You tend to express your love in a way you feel loved.”
Kathleen Gettelfinger, a therapist with the Family Institute in Chicago, says she often uses Chapman’s book as a tool when working with couples.
“Sometimes things that come naturally to us when it comes to showing love and affection may not be the thing that most speaks to our partner when expressing love,” says Gettelfinger, who often suggests her clients determine their primary love languages.
After taking a quiz on 5lovelanguages.com, Scott discovered his primary love languages were physical touch and words of affirmation. Quality time won by a landslide for my primary love language, with acts of service coming in second.
When couples don’t speak the same love language, they might become aggravated when their partner isn’t responding the way they would like. This might explain why I get annoyed when Scott is glued to his iPad. (He isn’t meeting my need for quality time.) And he gets frustrated on nights when I just want to sleep. (I’m not meeting his need for physical touch.) Scott feels appreciated when I compliment him or recognize his hard work (meeting the need of words of affirmation), while I love when he gives the kids a bath or washes the dishes (meeting the need of acts of service).
“Couples often have the mistaken idea that the way that their partners feel loved and cared for and connected is the same way that they feel loved and cared for and connected,” says Sara Schwarzbaum, founder of Couples Counseling Associates in Chicago and professor of couple and family counseling at Northwestern University. “Many people tend to give what they want to receive as opposed to what the other person wants. This is the concept of real giving.”
To better communicate with Scott, according to the book, I should be more physical (this doesn’t always mean sexual touch), as well as show appreciation or compliment him more frequently. Scott should take time to give me his undivided attention, and he should help around the house or with our children.
“Sometimes people don’t feel loved even though they appreciate what the person is doing. It doesn’t speak deeply to their hearts in terms of love,” Chapman says.