There are so many different words of wisdom and advice for those in relationships, romantic or platonic. The right things to say to each other, how to handle conflict and compromise. Couples counseling can give you some tools and tricks to use, too.
Now I’m not all into the nitty-gritty details of what’s the best course of action because every relationship is different. It can be helpful to have some sort of example or guide to follow, yes. However, you cannot expect a blanket statement to apply to everybody’s unique situations. Especially when multiple people are involved, each person brings their own personality to the table.
Something that I’ve found that I really enjoy and find interesting is the concept of love languages. Okay, that in of itself sounds like the thing I was just criticizing, but hear me out. There is still a sense of fitting into some categories, but each person is still going to have a different result that can tell a lot about how they behave with a companion or partner.
If you enjoy taking quizzes, here is your lucky break. At this website, based on a book by Gary Chapman, you can answer a questionnaire that will explain how you show affection to others. The five most common forms are physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. I’ve found that my results have really made me take notice and realize how I do show my love to others.
The important element here is having the receiving party also figure out their own love language. Most likely, not everyone you communicate love to will receive it as you do. If you aren’t aware of that difference, you might feel unfulfilled and run into lots of misunderstanding. If you think a loved one is ungrateful and doesn’t appreciate or reciprocate your feelings, chances may be they just do so in a different way.
Here’s for my personal, real-life example. In case you were wondering what my love language(s) are, it’s heavily weighted toward words of affirmation and acts of service, gift giving in close third. Basically, when I care about you, I will tell you and speak to you kindly, I will do thoughtful things for you, and give you things that show that I’ve been thinking of you. Dead last on my list? Physical touch. It’s not that I don’t like being around other people, but it’s not a high priority to me. I like my space. My first instinct isn’t to always hug or sit intimately with others in conversation. I’m probably paying more attention to any deep topic we might be discussing instead.
Now my boyfriend is quite different from me. He craves physical touch. I assume that is often more associated with men, but I’m not drawing any conclusions. He’s often the one saying romantic words, but he is definitely the one who values touch. Without him knowing that I’m not drawn to much physical touch, he would have liked guessed that I wasn’t interested in him or was just a standoff-ish person, neither of which are true.
You don’t have to have a book or website tell you these details. Cliche but true, communication is key. But having a resource readily available can help start the conversation to best know how to reach one another. It bridges the potential divide of two people caring about each other but not expecting to receive love in a new way.
And that’s where the compromise comes in. I know now to become more comfortable with little moments of just being close to my significant other and reach out myself sometimes. My boyfriend knows that his immense thoughtfulness is one of my favorite things about him. We meet in the middle to suffice both of our needs.
Again, I don’t see this just as a romantic understanding, but one necessary for every relationship, including friends and family. A major root of conflict is a lack of fluid communication, feeling withdrawn from somebody because they don’t translate your words or actions as love. This communication may be different not just in love, but also apologies, appreciation, and anger.
There is no best way to love another person. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if, like me, you just don’t feel compelled to always let others into your personal bubble of space. Or you think words of affirmation are cheesy. Or you have no clue how to respond to gifts. As long as you aren’t hurting others and are acting out of the best intentions, once you know yourself well enough, you can clarify what you value most in others to establish that fulfilling sense of closeness and support. That’s joy of being surrounded by loved ones. But if you feel out of touch (no pun intended) with them, no matter how may people you consider a friend or how great your partner may be, you’ll still feel isolated, craving more.
And here’s another cliche thrown your way: be yourself. Stay true to your own personality and love language. You cannot successfully fake being somebody else. Loved ones won’t genuinely love you if they know a facade. Be vulnerable and honest. Yes, it’s scary. But the end result? The people who enter your life who value your presence and enjoy you despite your flaws? That’s what makes life worth living.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie