I recently read the 5 Love Languages. It is a powerful read and I encourage anyone looking to enhance their intimate relationships to add it to their reading list. But I feel it is incomplete.
As is my intention, I look to examine things in terms of second and third-order effects. In this case, what if I communicate using a love language and it has a negative effect.
In many relationships, there is love being communicated. But it is not being received, and the relationship certainly would not be described as a loving one.
Perhaps, because it is not being communicated in the recipient’s primary or secondary love language; or perhaps it is because there is some “dissuasion” that is countering the love being demonstrated. Creating a contradiction, a conflict.
Assuming that the relationship is not one of neglect or more tragically abuse and is rather one of positive intent. The conflict creates an inner turmoil, there are people who you want to experience love, but instead experience an immense resistance to loving fully, if at all.
As love is intended, the communicator tries harder, more forcefully. The intended recipient then builds up an even greater resistance. Time and space is needed before a change of approach should be taken.
Looking at how this can occur in each love language…
Physical Touch is communicated as love but gets rejected with aversion and avoidance. Alternatively, it gets imposed and creates discomfort, which then can result in aversion and avoidance. Unwanted physical touch quickly further poisons the relationship and typically will need to be bridged through another love language.
Acts of Service are on one person’s terms only and creates tension. The communicator happily does acts of service for things they like doing, rather than acts of service the recipient values. Alternatively, the recipient demands acts of service which are against the communicator’s values or are simply strongly disliked by the communicator as a form of service. Acts of service may need to be a compromise, finding the overlap between what is valued and what is comfortable for both parties.
Words of Affirmation are countered or drowned by words degrading the recipient’s confidence, their self-worth – which is so delicate at the best of times. This is often done with constructive intent. In other instances, the communicator does not value or acknowledge the recipient’s feelings and opinions. Dismissing them without consideration. The recipient can also have a mental block on the words of affirmation, discounting them as inauthentic or untrue. This leaves both the communicator and recipient lashing out or retreating in frustration. Distance and/or simplicity may be needed to reduce the rawness of the engagement, reducing qualifiers in communicating statements may also help.
Quality Time is seen as a chore. Its authenticity is then lost. If one person is distracted or does not give the impression they want to be there, it would be better that no attempt be made at all. A better approach would be to find an activity that both parties can embrace, if anything, leaning towards the recipient’s preference.
Receiving Gifts can come with expectations of reciprocation or other guilt measures. Whether this is the intent or not, the recipient may feel that they owe the giver, or worse the giver may actually demand reciprocation. In these instances, it may be wise to reduce the cost of the gift and rather focus on the thought. Alternatively, perhaps gift something that the two individuals can enjoy together.
A reminder that in all instances, do not try to force an improvement in the relationship. It will be met with resistance, space and time is needed before coming back more gently, with a different approach.
Are your acts of love falling flat? Do you need to consider how you are dissuading love unintentionally through your actions either as the communicator or recipient?
Perhaps write down the last few interactions, both positive and negative, then try to frame them with positive intent, what love language was intended? How was it received? How could it be changed?