If you've ever been in a relationship, you’ve probably been let down by a significant other who failed to love you properly—as in the way you needed and expected to be appreciated.
One friend's boyfriend would tell her he loved her more regularly than Google makes a new hire. Yet, on Valentine's Day, he failed to produce a gift. My friend began to sob. Why? "It means he didn't care enough to find one," she bawled. Her conclusion: He must not love her after all.
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Maybe your husband does surprise you with just-because gifts, but you'd give anything for him to skip one late night at the office to spend an evening at home.
Behind these crossed wires, says Gary Chapman, PhD, best-selling author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, lies one key miscommunication: We each speak one primary love language, and unless your partner expresses affection in the one that's meaningful to you, he might as well be whispering sweet nothings in Sanskrit.
There are five languages, Chapman says: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. "Most couples don’t speak the same one," he explains, "but feeling loved is the deepest emotional need we have." Watch—and learn from—three couples on the verge of a breakthrough. 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reconnect
Lena, 31, and Ethan, 35
She wants: Quality Time
He gives: Gifts
A few months ago at a party, Ethan overheard his wife, Lena, describe a bracelet she had been fantasizing about for months. When her birthday came, he found it, bought it, and nearly burst with pride as she opened the box. To his surprise, Lena's eyes welled with tears—and not of joy.
What was she thinking? Well, roughly, this: "You idiot! If you really loved me, you'd give me your time, not diamonds." To Lena, each stone represented a night her husband had canceled on her to work late. She would trade each diamond for a minute of his BlackBerry-free attention.
Ethan was baffled—and angered—by her reaction. "I work my butt off so I can afford gifts like this for her," he fumed. "I put thought into them. But apparently that just isn't good enough."
Dr. Chapman Says:
Gifts shouldn’t replace expressing love in Lena's love language, which is quality time. We all have a "love tank" that needs to be filled, and Lena's is empty.
The couple should put aside 15 minutes each day to connect. Ethan may initially drag his feet for fear "15 minutes" will turn into two hours, but that won't happen once Lena knows that time will be carved out every day.
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