Each person has their own individual style of giving and receiving love. One way that we prefer to show our love to others, and when they communicate with us in that way, makes us feel especially loved. While this idea is familiar to some, others may not be as aware. Especially in understanding that partners likely have a different style of love and loving than they do. In his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Gary Chapman details the five major styles of communicating love so that everyone can begin to express love in their partner’s language rather than their own.
True, the words “I love you,” are often spoken between couples. So, what’s the big deal? It’s important to know that there is a difference between hearing it and feeling it. According to Drs. John & Julie Gottman (widely agreed to be the world’s most respected researchers in romantic relationships that last a lifetime) couples that last share one fundamental mindset. They may vary widely in how much they argue and what types of relationships they have, but the couples who are masters in lasting relationships all create a culture of kindness and generosity between them.
This is not to say that they never fight, but what it does mean is that they are building a culture of respect and appreciation into their partnership, even in the midst of an argument. This means they say “I love you,” in many different ways, not just with those three words. And, especially, by doing so in the language that speaks to their partner. Adopting their love language almost always makes them feel that sentiment most profoundly.
Another important idea from the Gottmans is that of accepting your partner’s influence during conflicts. They have found that even though a whopping 69 percent of conflict is about perpetual, unresolvable problems, and 16 percent of those involve gridlock, couples who can find common ground amidst the problems fare better at standing the test of time. Accepting influence is akin to appreciating the other’s point of view, valuing their input, and considering it when taking actions. It helps couples find a way through conflict, even if they may never entirely solve it.
To not accept influence can cause emotional distance and negative communication loops in couples. On the other hand, when influence is accepted, it creates positivity. This is not to say that one must accept everything their spouse says, but that even accepting some of it will go a long way. It builds trust and demonstrates a willingness to work together. It’s like money in the loving appreciation bank.
In couple’s therapy, the issue of accepting influence often shows up in the arena of housework. No matter how much housework a couple does or doesn’t do, there is virtually always some conflict around who does what. One thing to remember: Just as we have our own individual love languages, we also have our own individual tidiness preferences, and that’s okay! It’s part of what makes us-us. Remember, it’s those differences that keep the passion alive.
Often individual partners within relationships wind up henpecking each other to attend to the chores they are attached to, without noticing what actually gets the other one moving. It can start to fall on deaf ears if the chore is not on a partner’s radar. Sure, it may feel like there is constant pleading not to leave dirty dishes in the sink, but if that’s not generally something a spouse notices or cares about, they may not hear the pleading. And, unfortunately, the more poking and prodding about it, the less likely the other person is to listen. The ability to exert influence, and a spouse’s ability to accept influence, have tanked.
FamilyTech’s latest app, HoneyDo, cuts right underneath this cycle by taking the charge out of chore interactions. The app allows both partners to add to a to-do list, assign chores, sign up for them, and leave them up for grabs. The fun and emotionally neutral format takes the charge right out of chore negotiations and puts housework back into the realm where it belongs: tasks to accomplish as a team, and not angst-ridden microcosms of everything negative in a relationship. It even allows couples to reward each other for jobs well-done, in ways that are very enticing. The app allows couples to accept each other’s influence once again when previously there had been gridlock.
Create Harmony in Your Relationship: Take the Quiz
Take the 5 Love Languages Quiz with your partner and find out what your languages are. For many people, Acts of Service is the primary way they tend to express and receive love. When their additions to your honey-do list are reframed as requests for love, what more loving gift could you give your partner than to do the chores she asks of you? And, instead of comparing yourself and falling short when you’re married to someone who’s in constant motion, why not try thinking of his work for your family as demonstrations of his love for you? It really changes things.
If it’s chores that need getting done and neither one of you is an Acts of Love kind of person, then spread the love in the language you do speak as a reward for hard work. Just remember a well-kept home that everyone contributes to makes home life sweeter, and more positive. The HoneyDo app just makes it that much simpler.
Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over ten years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples, and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland.