In Gary Chapman’s, New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages: the Secret to Love that Lasts, he explores the different ways couples communicate their positive feelings for each other. He rightly argues that knowing your own and your partner’s preferred way of communicating love significantly improves your relationship’s chance of survival. Can you recognize yourself among these five approaches? Remember, while we probably use a bit of all, there is usually one approach, one language that is dominant:
- Do you let your partner know you care through affection or physical touch or do you tend to show your appreciation and care through gift giving? Some of us do so by offering service or taking care of; some of us through affirmation and cheering on, and some through the giving of quality time.
But what about the language of distress? What about when a partner feels insecure or lonely or upset? It’s a rare thing believe it or not, to find someone who can tune into their own emotions enough to be able to articulate feelings of insecurity for example, let alone you being able to tune into them when they are being expressed in other ways. So again, what about the language of distress? Is there a regular pattern of communication that happens when your couple gets into trouble? Is there a predictable routine in the discourse? I know in my couple there is a thread of controlling dialogue that appears when things aren’t quite right with my partner. And whether its stressors from work, or upset at something not going his way – he doesn’t always tune into that upset or frustration, or doesn’t want to allow himself to be vulnerable in expressing them, but rather begins trying to control things.
Sometimes through the simple business of life – raising kids, focusing on a career, taking care of an aging parent, paying bills and struggling to get by, couples lose their connection to each other. (By the way, maintaining this connection is the work of marriage!!) When this happens we suffer. When couples get disconnected, the arguments tend to commence. Disconnected, we feel insecure, alone, threatened. These feelings, without the awareness of them, often turn into attacks on the other person. Those attacks can sound like criticism, or control, or outright anger and flaring tempers. We are not always aware enough to recognize that it’s this disconnection that is making us suffer and so we attribute it to other things. Surprisingly there is quite a lot of regularity in the things we choose to “pick on”.
So what’s your language of distress? My own tends to be that not enough is being done in the home. I can tell you now, in a relatively good state of connectedness, that that is not realistic, because my husband does a lot – for me, for our household, for our couple. So I am starting to see that whenever I begin to complain about how he doesn’t do this or doesn’t do that, what I am really feeling is lonely for him. When I recognize that, I can approach him in a way that is kinder, indeed more vulnerable, loving, in a way that makes him receptive to me, and my need of him. That goes a lot further than screeching about the need to vacuum the house!
What’s your language of distress? What’s your partner’s? How do you each communicate your need of the other? How do you let your partner know you are lonely for them or overwhelmed with what life challenges you might be facing? How do you let them know you are feeling disconnected?
Good questions to get connected by!!