If you aren’t familiar with the 5 Love Languages, you can read our breakdown here. It’s essentially how you prefer to receive love, which highly influences how you give love, too. When you and your partner speak different love languages it can literally be as much of a block as speaking a different language and can definitely (but not always) lead to a breakup.
Picture this: I only speak English and my partner only speaks Spanish. We don’t understand each other’s words but we can understand each other in other ways. Sounds crazy that we'd be able to love each other, right? Well, we do. A lot. Only, I hate the way Spanish sounds and he can’t stand English. So instead, I start speaking to him in Chinese and he starts speaking to me in French. Doesn’t make any sense, right? We may be able to pick out bits and pieces, but we won’t fully understand it. If I’m not willing to learn Spanish and he’s not willing to learn English, it’s just not going work. We will never be able to communicate our love for each other.
In reality, my ex and I spoke opposite love languages. His was quality time, which is my lowest. Mine was words of affirmation, which he hates. We fundamentally could not express our love in a way we were each receptive to, and it really was the fall of our relationship. We just couldn’t communicate.
There is hope, though. You absolutely can learn to speak another love language, but they must learn to speak yours as well. Our problem was that neither of us was able to learn the other’s language because they were polar opposites, instead we opted for something in between, like physical touch and acts of service. But as in the above example, it doesn’t really matter if we try to speak some love language that’s in the middle. If I only speak English and he only speaks Spanish, French and Chinese aren’t going to help. Despite how much we loved each other, we can’t translate languages we don’t know, although we can, to some extent, understand what is being said through body language and tone, and that’s how we got only a glimmer of how much love there really was.
When you can’t speak each other’s love language, there can be so much love that gets lost in translation. Here are a few tips for when you and your partner seem to be having some inexplicable communication issues that go deeper than words:
1. Both of you must take the Love Languages test if you haven’t already.
2. Disregard each language other than your number one for now. Your number 2 and 3 are like the high school French and middle school Spanish you learned but aren't fluent in.
3. Likewise, only focus on your partner’s number one, for now.
4. You and your partner should both discuss how you prefer to be loved. It doesn’t have to be too specific, but this is your chance to hear them give examples of actual ways you can love them better, straight from the source.
5. After hearing their descriptions, read the actual descriptions of each others’ Love Language on the website.
6. Don’t be afraid to say what you want. I used to want to be told how much I meant to my ex, but obviously, I didn’t want to make him tell me that. I wanted it to come naturally, and shouldn’t he want to do that, anyways? Nope. That’s my love language, not his. He had no idea that that’s what I needed, so please, don’t make my mistake. Say what you want, and say it more than once, because people are forgetful, even if they love you. It may feel like you’re nagging, but at least if you state your needs, you’ve done all you can do and the rest is up to your partner.
7. Speak to your partner in the language they prefer, not the language you prefer. What I mean by this is that my preferred language is words of affirmation so I expect my partner to speak them to me, but that doesn’t mean I need to give my partner words of affirmation if they make him uncomfortable. I need to instead focus on his preferred language. He speaks my language, and I speak his.
8. If you’re really struggling to see the beauty in another love language, ask them to help you translate. I really, fundamentally just don’t get quality time. I don’t see the beauty in merely being next to each other in silence. But I always spent that time thinking about how uncomfortable I was, rather than asking why my ex enjoyed that. Maybe if he was able to explain the beauty of quality time to me, I would have understood, and could translate in the future. But I never even asked for help.
9. Don’t assume you are speaking their language correctly. Just like with verbal languages, you may think you know what to say but are actually pronouncing it all wrong. Sure, the thought counts of course, but it doesn’t actually express your love. Never assume a simple “I love you” will suffice as words of affirmation. What do you love about them? Never assume simply being there will suffice as quality time. Are you even paying attention to them?
10. Practice, practice, practice! Don’t just speak each other’s languages on occasion. Speak them all the time. Check-in and make sure both of you are receptive to your partner’s attempts. Make sure your needs are being met. Talk to each other.
If you were to ask them “how do you know I love you?” and you’re doing it correctly, their answer should be something about their love language. For the words of affirmation person, it may be “because you always support me and tell me how much I mean to you” not just “because you tell me.” For the quality time person, it may be “because you always make time to be alone with me and are present in the time we spend together” not just “because you hang out with me.”
Good luck loving each other! Speaking each other's love language is a lot harder than it seems and does require an honest effort and sacrifice on both sides.