About last night; the power of appreciation 17-02-18

February 18, 2018

Q: My partner and I love spending time together, and have a great sex life, but it seems like everything I do is never quite right. No matter how much effort I put in, I get no thanks, or a criticism. Last week, I made a surprise romantic dinner, with candles, and my nan’s best tablecloth, and the only comment was, “Don’t spill wine on this cloth”. I would love to hear something appreciative.

A: Each one of us is unique, coming from different backgrounds, having differing experiences, and having different cultural mores. As a result, it is not surprising to find we communicate differently too. We all know that the secret to a successful relationship is effective communication, but we do not always understand what that looks like.

Once we understand what communicates love, and what we do not really care about it becomes easier to empathise with one another. Illustration: Michael Leunig
Once we understand what communicates love, and what we do not really care about it becomes easier to empathise with one another. Illustration: Michael Leunig

In 1995, prominent relationship counsellor Dr Gary Chapman published Five Love Languages. In this groundbreaking book he outlined the five main ways in which people communicate and receive love so you can better understand your partner’s method of communication.

Chapman explains that, “there are basically five emotional love languages – five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects. The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.”

These five languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Giving Gifts, spending Quality Time, and Loving Touch.

Sometimes, miscommunication happens when you like to give or receive affection in a different way to your partner. For example, being given a bunch of flowers might leave you cold if you are yearning to be held.

In your case, it could be that your partner shows love by sharing quality time with you, or through loving touch, but you need words of affirmation to feel loved. On the other hand, you might show your love through acts of service, or by giving gifts, but your partner is more receptive to being kissed and cuddled.

Once we understand what communicates love, and what we do not really care about it becomes easier to empathise with one another, and realise where we might be missing something, or what is triggering fights.

I would encourage you both to explore this further by taking Chapman’s online quiz, designed to help you identify your love dialects, and then to tune in to the love you are being given, and modify how you express love so it is fully received (5lovelanguages.com).

If you discover you both like one of the languages, that is the one to focus on to maintain your love. When you understand one another’s love languages it makes it much easier to recharge, and top up your “love tanks”, that reservoir of positive emotions that helps us to weather life’s storms. This concept is also helpful in simply expressing your love in the best possible way. Overall, it all comes down to knowing what’s important to people so you can understand, empathise, and work with more effectively.

Although originally formulated to assist in relationships, Chapman’s ideas can also be applied more broadly – in the workplace, with friends, and in general social interactions. Particularly helpful in everyday life is the positive power of expressing appreciation.

It is too easy to take a jaundiced view of life. The orientation of our media, our politics, and of the world of commerce is to focus on faults, mistakes, problems and errors. While it is important to deal with negative issues, it can become a habit to concentrate on what is wrong, and to overlook what is good.

We need to be careful about this as it can foster a negative and suspicious orientation towards life that can diminish our joy, and is disheartening to those who are doing their best.

Consciously choosing to show appreciation, not just complaints, is a practice that will enhance your life. Most of us will lodge a complaint if we have had a negative experience. Take the time to lodge an appreciation if you have enjoyed outstanding customer service, problem resolution, and kindness.

Email: abtlastnight@gmail.com

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