by Dr. Nicole Linardi, LMHC, NCC
As the month of February arrives, we have all been witness to the “love in the air” feeling way before the holidays even passed, with stores conveniently selling love mugs, love towels and love everything… how have you been reminded that the month of love is around the corner?
For me, this year February comes with a whole different meaning. Typically it is the month where I celebrate the love I have for others, my clients, community, spouse, myself (as it is my birthday month) and this year I add celebrating the love I have emanating from inside me as my baby girl is keeping me company until her near due date.
Love can mean so much to all of us, so let’s brainstorm what its meant to us in the past, what its cultivated to look like and mean to us recently and perhaps what love could present itself as we continue to develop and grow in the beautiful journey and process called life.
Dr. Gary Chapman is well-known for teaching us the different love languages that we may all identify with in different relationships, even with ourselves!
See below for a brief recap of the 5 love languages, which do you identify with and how do you know this?
5 Different Ways to Show Love and Improve Your Relationship
Have you ever questioned whether your partner still loves you? You’re not alone. You also might be speaking a different love language than your partner. You may express affection to your significant other regularly, but do you truly take the time to make sure you're communicating it the way your partner wants to receive it? Even love can sometimes get lost in translation when two partners speak different love languages.
What are the love languages?
We all give and receive love in 5 different ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. These are called ‘love languages’ - a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman through his long-time work as a marriage counselor.
1. Words of affirmation
When words of affirmation is your love language, words build you up. You thrive on spoken affection, praise, encouragement, and compliments. Harsh words and criticism can bother you for a long time.
2. Acts of Service
Anything that your partner does willingly to ease your workload is a sign of love to you. You feel cared for when your partner vacuums before you get to it or makes you breakfast as a surprise. On the other hand, broken promises or laziness can make you feel unimportant.
3. Receiving gifts
When you speak this love language, a thoughtful gift shows to you that you are special. In contrast, generic gifts and forgotten special events have the opposite effect. This love language isn’t necessarily materialistic – it could be as simple as receiving your favorite snack after a bad day.
4. Quality time
To you, nothing says you’re loved like undivided attention. When your partner is truly present (and not looking at their phone), it makes you feel important. Failure to actively listen or long periods without one-on-one time can make you feel unloved.
5. Physical touch
Holding hands, kisses, hugs, and other touches are your preferred way to show and receive love. Appropriate touches convey warmth and safety, while physical neglect can drive a wedge between you and your partner.
How love languages can improve your relationships
Most of us have one or two preferred love languages – often different than our significant other's. If you express your love through your preferred love language, the chances are that it goes unnoticed by your partner.
Say that your love language is gifts, and you often surprise your partner with thoughtful gifts. How does it make you feel when they just have a quick look at your thoughtful present? Meanwhile, your partner hardly values gifts but appreciates acts of service. It would mean the world to them if you did chores around the house instead of buying gifts. Is your partner feeling loved?
Learning to speak your partner’s preferred language can drastically strengthen your relationship. You can do the free love languages test on the 5 love languages website. Love languages apply to non-romantic relationships as well, and the website includes tests for children and teens.
The bottom line.
Love languages are a useful tool to improve how we communicate and express ourselves to each other, but they shouldn't be the be-all-and-end-all solution for happiness. Instead, it should function as a starting point that sets couples on a journey to meet each other in a more profound way and self-regulate better. But the work shouldn't stop there.
Additionally, here is a brief list of tips for those of us who aim to maintain a healthy mindset during this upcoming month:
5 Mental Health Tips to Take on Valentine’s Day
Here are five ways you can focus on your mental health and make this Valentine’s Day the best one yet:
1. Celebrate your most important relationship – the one you have with yourself!
The relationship you have with yourself will be your longest relationship in life, so it’s important to treat yourself well. If you are not spending Valentine’s Day with a significant other, plan your own night. Think about what reenergizes you. Take a bath, spend some time with a good book or plan your own at-home spa night. Buy yourself chocolates or flowers.
Valentine’s Day is a time to feel loved, so show yourself how much you love you.
2. Invest in all your relationships.
Valentine’s Day is a day for love, but not just romantic love. Send Valentine’s Day cards to your family and friends, small gifts of love to your nieces and nephews, or maybe bake cookies for a neighbor.
Make the day a day of gratitude where the people in your life feel your appreciation.
3. Practice mindfulness.
Meditation and mindfulness can be found in a variety of forms. Find a mindfulness app or a free podcast, turn down the lines, and focus your attention on your breath and your emotions. If sitting quietly and journeying through meditation does not sound helpful, consider coloring in a calming book or writing a journal entry.
Doing this regularly has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress and can help you cope if emotions become too strong.
4. Seek support if necessary.
If you are really struggling this Valentine’s Day, speak to a trusted family member, friend or therapist, and get the help you need.
If you consider harming yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
5. Turn off social media.
You love to see your family and friends happy, but consider avoiding social media for the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. It can be difficult to see others having something you want and turning off social media will give you time to focus on what’s really important this holiday.
Always remember that a person’s social media page is often their “highlight reel,” never showing the full story, and usually finding the best parts of their life to show the world.
with love and kindness- til next blog loves!