Finding ways to love another person on their own terms means learning what makes them feel loved. While one person might feel loved when their partner tells them "I love you," another person may feel loved when their partner gently nurtures them with loving touch.
Author Gary Chapman helps us understand what we and our partners need in his very helpful book, The Five Love Languages. He reflects, we needed love before we 'fell in love,' and we will need it as long as we live." Love is a kind of soul food, but what we each need for proper nutrition may feel elusive to another person.
If we don't know how to fill one another's "emotional love tank," in time, the tank becomes empty, and we feel unsatisfied in our relationships. Chapman came to realize that people have different love languages, if we can learn what fills our partner's emotional tank, it will radically impact how s/he feels about the relationship and about us.
Chapman identifies five different love languages:
1. Words of affirmation: For the person whose love language is words of affirmation, "verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love."
2. Quality time: Giving someone your undivided attention, be it taking a walk, going out to dinner or just sitting on the couch, can be a soul food in this "era of many distractions." This includes really listening to one another so that both partners feel heard and understood.
3. Receiving gifts: "Gifts come in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive, and others are free." If your partner's primary love language is receiving gifts, then each item you give is a gesture of expression of your love.
4. Acts of service: Doing things you know your partner would like you to do is what it means to give acts of service. A lovely home-cooked meal. Cleaning the house. Walking the dog. Managing the finances. All require thought, planning, effort and energy. "If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love."
5. Physical touch: For some people, physical touch, be it holding hands, kissing, embracing or making love, is their primary love language. "Without it they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled and they feel secure in the love of their" partner.
Once you learn what your primary love language is and what your partner's is, providing what your partner really needs is a conscious choice. What they need may not be what you need, but if you give them what they yearn for, their emotional love tank will be full. And two full people have a lot more love to share!