Healthy relationships require open and honest communication, this is something we all know. But there are certain ways to ensure your communication is 10/10 - and learning about the five 'love languages' is a super helpful way to do that.
Never heard of love languages before? The concept is best known thanks to relationship expert Dr Gary Chapman, and his bestselling book The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. The book acts as a guide for couples to help them identify, understand and then speak using their partner's 'love languages' - and it's thought to be the key to a happy and healthy partnership.
The five love languages are also something many relationship counsellors and therapists use in their work with couples. Although they don't use that term specifically, it's a framework by which they help couples understand each other more deeply - and therefore, hopefully, resolves conflict in relationships.
Cosmopolitan UK spoke to Gurpreet Singh, a relationship counsellor and expert at Relate, who explained why you need to know about love languages. "In a relationship, peoples' styles of thinking are very different, so it would follow that what their needs in a relationship could be different," he says. "Therefore, it’s important to understand what your partner’s language of love is. Because if you don’t know that, it’s likely you’ll get it wrong. And without wanting to, you might end up hurting each others’ feelings. Or, your actions might not be as well received as they would be if you spoke a language they understood."[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BxKcqpmhiZT/[/instagram]
The essential building blocks
"There are two people in the relationship, their expectations are different, their needs are different, their way of communication is different," Gurpreet explains. "Everything about them is different. There are similarities of course, but opposites attract quite a lot. When you're attracted to someone that's different to you, it is almost necessary you will run into things about the person that grate on you. That’s always the way. Someone leaves the cap off the toothpaste and the other person gets irritated, all these things manifest themselves in relationships."
That's why, Gurpreet says, understanding each other's love languages can be vital to building and maintaining a healthy relationship. But first, it's important to have the 'building blocks' in place. "There needs to be love for each other, there needs to be trust, and there needs to be a desire to communicate with each other," he says.[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BwmoJ0pA-Ht/[/instagram]
Their answer will fit into one of the above five languages, and you can use this to understand your partner. "It gives you a framework of understanding the other person’s needs," Gurpreet says. "It gives you some bullet points, and it's worth finding out, but it is not the gospel of love."
Essentially, you need a healthy amount of those five things, with a preference for one.
You should also remember that people speak more than one love language. Gurpreet explains, "If my language, for example, was quality time, does that mean I don’t like being touched? No. It’s that one language might be preferred, but there might be other things you enjoy as well in the relationship."[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BxC9-wMl10l/[/instagram]
Talking (and actually listening) to your partner
It may sound obvious, but first you should make some time to talk. "People often think making time means turning up and being there," Gurpreet says. "But you need to be present. If you’re always on your phone when talking to your partner, that’s not being with them. If you start talking, and you’re always denying everything, that is not talking.
There are two parts of communication, one is talking and the other is listening
"Remember, there are two parts of communication, one is talking and the other is listening. If you’re only there to talk, it’s not going to work. If the relationship is important, then trying to understand what is important for your partner should be just as important to you."
When it's time to seek help
Gurpreet explains it’s definitely worthwhile seeing a counsellor if you want to build a healthy relationship with your partner. But there are other signs it would be beneficial to seek professional help. For example, "If you have unresolved issues, or find your arguments are circular and you’re arguing about the same thing over and over again," he says.