How to connect with your partner (for real)
Do you ever wonder why the divorce rate is so high? Why do couples struggle to keep their love for each other alive?
After all, most relationships start off on a high note. The couple is in loooooove and it takes no effort in this phase. It feels like they can overcome any obstacle if it comes. But then something happens. Reality sets in. The honeymoon phase is over. Does this mean something is wrong?
Dr. Dorothy Tennov concluded in her research that the average life span of a “romantic obsession” is 2 years. After this time, people begin to see things more realistically. What they originally found endearing can now seem annoying or those little problems now feel like huge obstacles.
It’s unrealistic to believe that the initial euphoric feelings will last forever. When this phase ends (and it will), it doesn’t mean the relationship has to end or that couples have to be miserable together.
Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, explains that the in-love phase is a temporary emotional high and once that phase ends couples can pursue “real love” which is a type of love that combines reason and emotion.
What Dr. Chapman discovered after providing 30 years of marriage counselling is that people speak different love languages. If we really want to connect with our partners, we need to learn how to speak their unique language.
From the time we are young, we all have an emotional need to be loved and feel that we belong. If that need is not met, children will misbehave in an attempt to receive attention and love.
Dr. Chapman notes that adults as well as children have “love tanks” that need to be filled. People behave differently when their emotional love tanks are full. Think of it as a gas tank, if it’s empty, we can’t move forward. So when we don’t feel loved, the differences get bigger and the arguments increase. But when the tank is full, it’s much easier to communicate and solve problems.
The important thing is to know and speak the language of your partner and for them to know and speak your language. Each person usually has a different love language. Not a big surprise here!
We tend to speak our love language and don’t understand when our partner doesn’t respond well to that because we’re probably not speaking their (love) language. It’s like we’re speaking a foreign language. This is when the disconnect starts.
So how can you reconnect?
You can discover your love language today.
Dr. Chapman discovered there are 5 distinct love languages.
Which one describes you?
#1 Words of Affirmation – compliments mean the world to you. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are “live-giving.” Hearing about your strengths and how much you are appreciated. Insults can leave you feeling wounded and are not easily forgotten.
You look good in that dress.
You did a great job on this meal.
I appreciate that you keep the yard looking nice, buy the groceries, do the laundry, etc.
#2 Quality Time – having someone’s full, undivided attention. Having someone really there for you is critical and makes you feel loved. Sharing quality conversation and activities is important. If your partner is distracted, postpones dates or doesn’t listen, this can be very hurtful to you.
Taking a walk together or spending time together in nature.
Spending time each day sharing about some positive events of the day.
Planning a weekend getaway for the 2 of you.
#3 Receiving Gifts – not materialistic gifts, but thoughtful and loving effort is behind the gift. Gifts are visual representations of love and make you feel valued. A missed birthday or anniversary or rushed, thoughtless gift would be upsetting to you.
Your partner makes a gift for you.
Your partner keeps a list of things you said you would like and uses this as a guide for when they buy you a gift.
Your partner offers a gift of their time at any event you would like to go to that month.
#4 Acts of Service – your partner does something for you and this can really be an expression of love. Even chores like vacuuming, washing the car, or doing the dishes all speak volumes. Idleness or broken commitments communicates to you that your feelings don’t matter.
Your partner asks you to make a list of 10 things you would like for them to do and completes them within the month.
What have you been “nagging” your partner to do? Your partner does it as an expression of love.
Your partner asks what they can do to help.
#5 Physical Touch – hugs, pats, holding hands and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder or face show concern, care, and love. Physical touch increases a sense of security and belonging. Clearly, any type of neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
Your partner gives you a friendly welcome when you come home.
Your partner puts his/her hand on your shoulder when in public.
Your partner sits close to you while in public or with others.
I wonder what difference it would make if you were speaking your partner’s love language and they were speaking yours.
Take the test and find out your love language here.
Let your partner know you learned some interesting things about yourself and ask if they would be willing to take the test as well. If they do, great, if not, you can consider how they show their love to you.
Consider: What does your partner ask of you most often? To hear kind words, spend time with them, give a gift, do something for them, or show affection. This is likely how they want to be shown love and it’s their love language.
If you start speaking your partner’s language, expect to see changes in the relationship. Keep in mind that change takes time…just note your experience. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
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Beth Matthews is a Registered Psychologist who is driven to help people feel better about themselves. She can help you if you are struggling in your life. You can learn easy-to-use strategies to help you cope with anything that comes your way.