I was visiting a friend in L.A. who, like me, had recently been through a rough breakup. He gestured to a book on his bedside table: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. "She told me to buy it," he said, referring to his ex-girlfriend, "to see if we could work things out before deciding to give up."
My response to him was, "That’s a load of garbage. Throw it in your fireplace immediately."
Rewind. Who did I think I was to be an authoritative figure on the topic of relationships? Never in my life have I picked up a relationship self-help book. Not once have I sought real, professional, outside relationship insight (much to my now ex-boyfriend’s dismay). I was speaking from an empty platform.
After mulling over my own words, curiosity finally got the best of me. After all, there’s nothing quite like being fresh off a breakup of a four-year-long relationship to have you take a step back and allow a shift in your perspective. So when I looked further into the basic concepts of The 5 Love Languages, I recognized some vital tools this short read contained.
I was humbled, intrigued, and in retrospect, I wondered if had I these tools earlier, would I had been able to save my relationship?
It also made me wonder: How do we make it through our young lives taking all kinds of skill-building courses, such as home economics, cooking, and driving, but we’re never given a chance to take a class on how to foster healthy, loving relationships—the most important part of our lives, integral to our success, happiness, and well-being?
Upon spending more time analyzing The 5 Love Languages and meditating on the past, here are the seemingly simple, applicable takeaways that I've learned:
01. Communication is absolutely everything and the be-all and end-all.
If you’re not communicating effectively with your partner, you’re inevitably setting yourselves up for failure. Strong communication is important for the big-ticket items in a relationship, but just as important for the little things as well. Essentially, relationship conflict often boils down to how connected we may or may not feel. In fact, successful communication is about the little things we do, and The 5 Love Languages aid us with the best communication practices for showing affection.
02. When speaking in love, we all have a primary and secondary language.
If you and your partner don’t mirror primary languages, that’s OK. It’s actually surprisingly rare to share the same love languages. In fact, sharing a primary language doesn’t speak to your compatibility whatsoever. However, knowing which language you and your partner navigate your relationship and world with will speak volumes when learning to better understand each other’s behavioral patterns, what makes each other light up—and what grinds each other’s gears.
03. How your partner expresses love may not reflect what they look for in return.
My ex-boyfriend's primary love language toward me was gift-giving, a language he displayed frequently. However, what he wanted in return were acts of love in the forms of physical touch and affirmative words. While presents from me were unquestionably appreciated, there was no doubt that dedicating my undivided attention to him would have brought much more fulfillment in our relationship.
04. The longer your relationship lasts, the more normalized your time together becomes.
It’s only natural to float down from your honeymoon stage at some point. In fact, other couples would look at you and probably find it offensive if you didn’t eventually settle into normal relationship patterns. So when the feeling of looking like a heart-eye emoji all the time finally subsides, finding ways to connect with your love languages is vital. If you value quality time together, learn to enjoy something as simple as picking out a new television series to watch together. If you value physical touch, dedicate a night to turning your phones off and curling up together, or making a point to hold hands on your next date. If you value receiving gifts, don’t wait until the next holiday to pick out a token of your appreciation for one another. Any day can be a holiday if you want it to be.
05. The concepts of The 5 Love Languages extend beyond the reach of your relationship with your significant other.
While our relationship with our partner tends to be the most prevalent, there are plenty of other places in our lives filled with relationship dynamics between friends and family. Since The 5 Love Languages is a narrative on navigating interpersonal psychology, these concepts can easily be applied to nurturing all kinds of important relationships in our lives—from our moms, to even our co-workers. It’s a simple, uncomplicated approach to better understanding the people we like and love.
At the end of the day, there’s no single solution to maintaining a perfect, well-balanced relationship. But if there’s anything I’ve truly and deeply learned for my future, it is this: The more tools you have to better connect with and understand your partner, the better. And sometimes, depending on where we're coming from—finding these tools involves a bit of humility.