What, the 5 Love Languages? Does it matter, my spouse is gone?
The 5 Love Languages has become a classic and the idea of love languages has become so popular that even if you haven’t read the book, you may be familiar with the concept and especially with the term. But how will learning about love languages help you when your spouse is in MLC. Why is this topic important?
If you have any level of contact with your MLCer, you have opportunities—even if limited—to communicate using their love language. Love language communication can also give you something specific to consider and focus on when dealing with an At-Home MLCer or as part of a plan of action for reconnection and rebuilding when you get there.
If you don’t know your Love Language, take the quiz!
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving and Giving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Our love language is not only how we feel love, but it’s also where we’re vulnerable because negative communication from our own love language has a greater power to leave us feeling uncomfortable or hurt. We’re less sensitive to negativity from another love language and thus may be able to handle such things with less pain or discomfort.
We value love that is given to us in our own love language. Love given to you from outside of your love language won’t have the same perceived value to you. We often don’t even interpret actions from other love languages as love—we don’t recognize that we’re being loved since it doesn’t match how we feel love.
Words of Affirmation
Tones of affirmation goes along with the words. Make sure that you are being genuine. When delivering bad news or even constructive criticism, gentle delivery of hurt builds intimacy through sharing of feelings. Defending of feelings is not sharing and is not empathetic.
Negative words can be damaging to anyone, but someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation is extra-sensitive so that things that might go unnoticed by others feel like deep wounds. Words of Affirmation is my secondary love language. I was listening to the Midlife for Men podcast and Glenn and Rick were talking about the 5 love languages. Rick mentioned Words of Affirmation and how he often felt criticized by his father and how now he realizes the words felt so cutting because his love language is words of affirmation. Now, my primary love language is Physical Touch, but Words of Affirmation is my secondary and listening to Rick, a light bulb went off for me. I’m extra-sensitive to things Chuck says that are critical even when they aren’t directed at me. For instance, he keeps complaining about our Vitamin C gummies that have an outside coating of granulated sugar—that shouldn’t be allowed! I realize that the complaint is trivial and so is it bothering me, but it still bothers me; those little things grate on me when they’re verbal.
- Date Nights
- Shared Activities
- Quality Conversation
- Sitting Together at home for TV night
- Set aside time on holidays and special occasions
- Shared meal times
- Failing to show up or cancelling last minute for occasions
- Doing a shared activity with resentment
You might not like running, but are doing it for the togetherness. Don’t be passive aggressive about it.
- Ignoring or failing to be responsive when they ask you for time together.
- Failing or refusing to listen during what started as a quality or deep conversation.
- The silent treatment—being together while deliberately not talking or ignoring.
How are you supposed to do this when MLCers need space? I know, this feels like a double bind where you’re damned if you and damned if you don’t. Chuck has not taken the Love Languages quiz, but as far as I can tell his languages are Quality Time in the form of Shared Activities and Acts of Service. At Bomb Drop Shared Activities was a big deal, now 15 years later with 5 kids I notice Acts of Service is a bigger deal. But back then my dilemma was that the advice said one thing—give space and yet for Chuck that was more of the same thing he’d been complaining about—my big marital sin was neglect.
Sometimes you need to forget the generalized advice that fits most people and do what works for you. Giving anyone space is good idea when they ask for it, but don’t do it just because others said it’s a rule you need to follow with MLCers.
Receiving and Giving Gifts
- Appliances that are wanted
- Event Tickets – sports, theater, concert…
- Something homemade and heartfelt
- Goody Basket
- Something personal to your spouse…
- Something you want to give so you can use it.
Fred Flintstone once gave Wilma a bowling ball!
- Something such as a household appliance meant as a service item.
- Random items with no thought or meaning.
Recalling that your wife’s love language is gifts, you buy a few lottery tickets before leaving the grocery store and present them to her as though they are unimportant.
Point: Make even afterthought items special.
- It’s not the thought that counts if you think about getting a gift and then don’t—especially if you try to get credit for it by telling your spouse!
Acts of Service
The most meaningful acts of service are those done without a request; do things to make your partner’s life easier.
- Be attentive and responsive to specific requests
- Mowing the lawn
- domestic duties: Laundry, dishes, vacuuming…
- Make coffee—set the pot so it’s already made when your spouse wakes up
- Preparing and serving meals
- House Maintenance: fixing a squeaky door, the leaky toilet…
- Car Maintenance: oil changes, tire rotation…
- Doing something that your spouse usually does (or they do it more) just to give them some relief (changing diapers)
- Any of the above when given or received as a demand instead of a request
- Neglecting or never offering to help
- Saying you will do something and not doing it.
- Sex – This love language is about more than sex, but hey, sex is still a great form of physical touch!
- Holding hands
- Hello and Goodbye kisses
- Shoulder taps, squeezes
- In Bed—hand on partner, bumping against partner, spooning
- Foot rubs
- Physical abuse
- Bad or uncomfortable touch, be attentive to when a person doesn’t like something.
- Massage or other forms of intimate touch by someone who is not your partner
I’m going to explain this one because it may not be this way for others, but for me I’m uncomfortable with levels of touch that feel more intimate when I’m not feeling loved at home. During his MLC when Chuck was home, he did a side job for someone at work and instead of receiving money, he got a spa day for me. I hated it and didn’t want to go. I was so nervous that I was shaking. Now I don’t mind getting a massage, but at that time the luxury and intimacy that comes with a massage only reminded me of what was missing in my marriage. Massage also makes me think of a particular episode of Friends in which Phoebe gives Monica a massage…
Identifying Your Partner’s Love Language
Criticism often comes from a place of emotional need. Your spouse’s criticisms about you and your behavior are a clue to their Love Language.
There two sides to identifying a person’s love language—your own or your partner’s:
- How they feel loved
- How they feel hurt
There are ways to fill with love, ways that may maintain a stasis or allow a slow leak due to seeming neglect and ways that withdraw. What did you do in the past to show love in your spouse’s love language? What did you fail to do that could have shown your spouse love?
What can you do now? You may need to be even more creative or even covert about it now since your spouse may be distancing from you and they may shrink from obvious signs of affection.
Using Your Partner’s Love Language
Communication will depend on your MLCer’s Contact Type. If you have an At-Home MLCer, learning and then communicating in your spouse’s love language is something you can apply now! If your MLCer is a Close Contacter—Boomerangs and Clinging Boomerangs—you can begin applying this now, but you may have to find more covert methods at times. If your MLCer is a Distant Contacter, you may need to be more creative in communicating using their love language.
Words of Affirmation
Let your spouse know that they are a wonderful person and that you believe in them. Find opportunities to offer them praise and encouragement. You must be genuine, but accept that given the MLC circumstances your spouse may still be skeptical.
If your spouse felt hurt because your words were often critical, acknowledge this to them and apologize, let them know it’s something you’re working t change.
If your spouse asks you to do something that is a shared activity together, do it! This was a HUGE deal for Chuck and I went out of my way to join him in the activities he loved—mostly biking. In the early days, I was especially accommodating because I was trying to set a firmer foundation of US for a future return.
Maybe your spouse is not quite the Clinging Boomerang Chuck was, but supposed they ask you to meet for coffee. They may not have the same motives as Chuck did—he was trying to spend time with me, but in MLC maybe your MLCer is just trying to meet so you can talk about something. Consider that how you make yourself available sends a message about how you are willing to love them. If their love language is Quality Time, it will mean something when you go a little out of your way to male yourself available. I’m not saying that you make should make yourself available to every request and ask how high if they say jump, I’m saying that they might have felt you weren’t available enough in you marriage and you need to show them you’ll change.
Receiving and Giving Gifts
Is there something your spouse needs that solves a problem? Ex. Maybe they have a medical issue and you can give them some of the product they need Ex. A special lotion for their dry skin. It seems silly, but it shows thoughtfulness and if they aren’t living at home, it’s relatively neutral.
For a Distant Contacter, they’re not thinking of coming home someday, that’s just not on their mind. They think this is forever—whether it is or not. They may have left many precious momentos at home with you. Think of something with great meaning from your shared history together that your spouse may want. Perhaps something you bought on your honeymoon… Wrap it up and give it to them with a special note about the good times or perhaps how you don’t regret your years together even though you’re not together now.
Acts of Service
If you’re still home and your spouse has moved out, make sure to keep doing the acts of service you did before and get those acts they performed done—unless they’re coming over (on their own, you aren’t asking) to do them.
Were there any projects they wanted done that you (just you or both of you) kept putting off? Do them now. When Chuck left, I moved our bedroom to our upstairs loft and painted the interior of the house.
Find excuses to give a shoulder or foot rub—these must be accepted. A shoulder squeeze or pat is more meaningful than people think. When passing, give a pat or rub their arm. Hug when allowed. Continue hello and goodbye kisses if they initiate or allow. If they shrink away, stop and apologize.
I gave Chuck massages, starting slowly and then working up to full body if he allowed. I used these to help him relax in my presence with me as a vehicle to help him feel better and I spoke gentle words of affirmation while massaging him.
Is the Alienator Speaking My MLCer’s Love Language?
Why did love seem so easy before we got married? He’s now with someone else and it again seems so easy for him. What happened?
When you were first dating, did you feel loved by your partner? In those first months and years of limerence and courting we often use greater variety in our expressions of love. Think about how much time you spent together or wanted to spend together in the beginning. It may have been less than while married since you were not living together at first, but was it togetherness with focused attention—quality time? How about words? What sort of words were you exchanging? Were you singing each other’s praises? Physical touch was new and perhaps exciting, even electric and so you wanted and gave it… So yes, the alienator may very well be communicating in your MLCer’s love language, but not because it’s natural or their norm. Limerence may overshadow any gaps in communication and there may be fewer gaps due to the variety we express during this highly hormonal and chemically-based phase.
Dr. Chapman discusses the difference between limerence (what we think of as falling or being in-love) and real love.
- Limerence is not a choice
- Limerence is effortless
- Limerence is not about fostering mutual personal growth; its purpose is to terminate loneliness
I often refer to limerence as in-fatuation. I hyphenate it to show how it’s similar to what we call in-love, but the in-love stage is actually more advanced. Limerence seeks to complete, Love seeks to complement. Real love requires that limerence be over—no infatuation chemicals controlling the situation; real love is the gently simmering embers leftover when limerence is gone. Real love is when the fireworks aren’t always there, but you still want to be together. Below is a poem I wrote years ago on this topic.
nerves and sweat,
the rush of longing,
stuck on fantasy and feature.
comparisons to honey,
the sting of bees,
petals of roses,
the prick of thorns.
cracked and broken,
armorless and flaccid.
To remain is to Love.
I see a vision of myself
reflected in your eyes
I see a hint of Shadow.
My Love rejoices and expands.