Couples Therapy and The 5 Love Languages
When clients make it to my office for couples therapy, they are often hurting and struggling to find ways to connect to each other. They have decided they need some help to figure things out, and my role as the couples therapist is to help them find some middle ground. The 5 Love Languages is often a helpful tool I use as we begin the process. I like to think of The 5 Love Languages as a road map the couple can use to start understanding each other better and more fully. We all have different ways of giving and receiving love, and tuning in to the love languages helps couples ensure they are not misunderstanding each other.
As a relationship moves from the early “honeymoon” phase to the more comfortable “sweatpants” phase, it is not uncommon for couples to feel as though they have lost some of the spark they once felt. At the beginning, you couldn’t wait to see each other. Maybe you would send a text or call in the middle of the day just to say, “Hi”. Many couples start to wonder how they got to this point of disconnect, but they don’t quite know how to get some of the magic back.
Think for a minute about your own life. Have you ever given much thought to the ways you give love? What about the ways you receive love? Now, I want you to think for a minute about your current relationship or even relationships you’ve been in previously. Do you notice any commons themes in the ways you often give and prefer to receive love?
When I talk about The 5 Love Languages, I’m referring to Gary Chapman’s best selling book, The 5 Love Languages. I’m a believer there are likely more than just 5 ways to give and receive love, but this is often a really good way to have people start to rethink their relationship and how they show the other they care. I will briefly go over each of the love languages and some examples of how they may show up in relationships. As you read, be thinking of what applies most to you.
I think most everyone likes getting gifts. I’ve met a few people who don’t love it, but most people enjoy receiving gifts, especially if it’s from their special someone. I’m not suggesting anyone spend a lot of money, because I do believe it’s the thought that counts. Maybe your partner loves a certain candy bar, and you happen to see it as you’re checking out at the grocery store. It may only cost a couple of bucks, but it can be worth quite a bit more to your significant other to know you were thinking of them and decided to get them a treat just because you want to see them smile.
I will often ask couples to think about the time they spend together and the quality of that time. Is the time spent watching hours of mindless television and not speaking to each other? Is all their time spent taking care of kids or household chores? It’s common for people to feel like they do actually spend a lot of time together, but if they aren’t focusing on each other, is it really quality time? When it comes to spending time together, I want people to start thinking about the differences between quantity and quality.
Words of Affirmation
Often times in life, we don’t get praise or words of affirmation nearly as frequently as we would like. When’s the last time you were told how awesome you are by your significant other? What about being thanked for simply completing your daily chores around the house? As a relationship progresses into long term commitment, we don’t always think to tell our partner how much we appreciate them and the things they do for us. I am not asking anyone to be fake or insincere, however I do want to encourage people to use their words to say, “thanks” or “good job” or “I really appreciate you”.
Acts of Service
An act of service doesn’t have to be complicated, although I’m not saying complicated is a bad thing. It could be offering to cook dinner for your partner after a long day at the office. Maybe you run them a soothing bath to relax while you take care of the laundry that has piled up all week long. There really are no shortages of acts of service that can be done to show someone how much you care and appreciate them. It may not take much effort to do, but it can mean so very much to the ones we love.
Clients often think that physical touch has to mean sex, and although it can include sexual things, I try to help them reframe their thinking to encompass all types of physical touch. Maybe your partner has been working hard all day doing yard work. Could you give them a back rub to soothe their sore muscles before going to bed? Even taking a few seconds to give them a hug after you both get home for the day can be a way to maintain the feeling of being physically connected. Another great idea is to just reach over and hold their hand while driving in the car. These small act of physical affection can go a long way in making someone feel like they matter to you.
As you think about how you could apply any of these ideas to your relationship, keep in mind that each person has their own unique love language. What works for one person may not be the same for another. I will have couples talk to each other about what makes them feel the loved and appreciated. I also highly recommend taking the online Love Languages quiz to see what works best for you. The goal is to build a strong foundation for your relationship in order to strengthen the love and the bond you share. Couples therapy is meant to help couples figure out where they are not quite on the same page, and success in relationships is possible.
If you’d like to set up an appointment to talk about you own relationship, you can always contact my office 314-485-9189. I also offer lots of therapy tips and coaching on my social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and I’d love to have you follow me.