I agree heartily with Terry’s idea that couples do better when there is a sense of fairness about who does what, gets what or controls what is happening. Equity fosters equanimity and limits the buildup of resentment.
That said, we have to careful about what we consider “fair and equal,” or what we think will fit the needs, desires, and values of our significant other. This is another case where one size does not fit all, and one person’s “deposit” into the other’s emotional bank account might actually feel like a “withdrawal” for them. We may give what WE want, in the way we would like to receive it, but fail to consider what this means to the ones we love.
In his 1995 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman suggests that there are five ways to express and experience love, or five “love languages.” According to Chapman, these are: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. He goes on to say that each person has one primary love language and one secondary one, and suggests that we can discover another person’s preference by observing the way they express love to others, what they complain about most often, and what they request from their significant other most often.
While there hasn’t been research showing the validity and generalizability of Chapman’s model, teacher, writer and researcher Dawna Markova, Ph.D. (The Open Mind, The Art of the Possible) has made a powerful case for the different ways in which people take in and distill visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information. Put simply, one of these sensory channels seems to be our preferred way of noticing, receiving and communicating information, and could explain why one person’s “love language” may not speak to another.
Terry is not into gifts, which makes it hard to buy anything for him, but he let me know very early on in our relationship how much physical touch means to him, like when I first took his arm as we walked together. Also he lets me know regularly how much he appreciates small acts of service like folding the laundry or making the bed…which brings me to the awareness of how much those words mean to me! AND how much I appreciate all his loving acts of service.
In the end, I suspect that the most important thing to consider when making emotional deposits is Stephen Covey’s (“The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”) suggestion to “Seek first to understand.” If we do that, we’ll soon be speaking the language of love.
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