01 March, 2013

If you've been watching ABC Television's fantastic series 'Making Couples Happy', you would have had an introduction to the Five Love Languages on last night's episode. One of our Gladstone counsellors, Denise Reichenbach, who writes a fortnightly column for The Gladstone Observer, shares her experience on the importance of understanding what says *love* to your partner:


Who has not heard of or experienced a scenario like this: Hubby is mowing the lawn with diligent commitment every weekend and really feels like he has accomplished something and what’s more, also displayed to his wife, that he cares, eg. for the place they live at, and loves her. Well, at least that is what he thinks. While the lady of the house is giving hint after hint, speaking of flowers and little gifts, only to be disappointed  by never receiving them. Her frustration is growing and after a while she does not feel listened to nor seen by her husband, while he feels that whatever he does is never acknowledged and all his sweetheart does is nag and complain.

I am sure, if we would speak to them individually, they would probably say that they love their  opposite very much indeed. So, how then can it be that inside ourselves, we know with absolute certainty, that we love our partner - but somehow along the way the display of love and appreciation is being misunderstood or completely lost in translation?!

Some people may say that it feels like there is distance growing between them. They talk of  feeling  disconnected, almost like standing at the opposite side of a canyon or river, shouting at each other that they love him or her, but the meaning gets lost under way and something completely different is being received – and all the while the gap is growing larger. This can be an enormous frustration for couples and it often feels to them like they are banging their head against the wall.

Now I am sure we all have asked ourselves the simple question “WHY”? Why is it so hard to be understood, by the very person we love the most and feel most intimate and comfortable with?

The answer here is rather simple really - because we are  and will always be different. This is not a bad thing at all. We have had individual upbringings, beliefs, values and expectations when it comes to our relationships and we each have specific, even unique ways of showing our love.

A book titled “Five Love Languages” deals with exactly this topic. Its author Gary Chapman concludes that people express their love in five different ways, although I would say that there are probably quite a few more. Specifically he talks about gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, “quality time” and affection.

Now, if we could find out what our partner's “ love language” is, would that not make life a lot easier and straightforward?  The key to this is communication, to sit down and talk with each other, reflect on when we feel loved, what makes us feel appreciated.

And last but not least its important that the very reason of disagreeing and experiencing differences in our relationships is what brought us together in the first place. That we are different to our partner and we chose to get into a relationship exactly for the reason to not just be with the same familiar person every day, which is ourselves.

So it is not at all about trying to change our loved ones, or trying to make them more like us. It is about accepting our differences and cherishing them and communicate with each other, which brings us to the subject of the my next column, which is acceptance. Most couples state that accepting their partner for who they are is their major challenge and it is often the area, where they feel, the most work is required.


Denise Reichenbach