She Said, He Said: Are you speaking the same ‘Love Language’ or is affection lost in translation?
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six years. We’ve periodically talked about getting married, but I’ve struggled to make the commitment. We have similar values, interests and life goals, and in general I feel like we’re a good match for life partners. My hesitation is that I just don’t feel loved the way I’d like to. I don’t need to be adored or cherished, just to feel like I’m cared about and appreciated. I often compliment him and make little compromises to try to make his life easier and just don’t feel that back from him. I believe he cares about me but not sure if he’s willing to love me to the degree that I’ve been loving him. Sometimes I worry that we’re together because I keep showing up and have made it easy for him to not have to. How do I know?
Wanting to Feel Loved
Lori and Jeff: Feeling loved and appreciated are essential elements in most relationships. And though most of us have these feelings, communicating them effectively is a struggle for many couples. Even though the book “The Five Love Languages” was written in 1992, we still find it very relevant today in helping partners to bridge this gap.
Jeff: My primary love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service. I feel loved when Lori verbalizes her feelings for me and when she makes little efforts to let me know she’s thinking about me. The problem used to be (until we learned to prioritize one another’s love languages) that she didn’t express her feelings in these ways. To further complicate matters, I also used to try to express my love and appreciation for her through words of affirmation and acts of service. No matter how many times I told her how I felt or did little things for her, my efforts never fully translated. Her primary love languages are quality time and physical touch so I needed to learn to designate time to spend alone with her and to connect with her through physical affection. We both needed to adapt our ways of expressing our feelings to match the other’s preference so that the message got across. You and your boyfriend also will need to learn these things in order to truly give and receive love in ways that you each fully understand.
Lori: I truly respect and appreciate the effort that you’re putting into your relationship and no partner is perfect; you included. First, don’t assume that your boyfriend feels satisfied by the efforts you’re making. It’s quite possible that the energy you’re expending is missing the mark for him. Second, ask yourself why you are giving to a place of resentment. Often partners who over-give or over-love are overcompensating. At some point in your life you stopped seeing your innate worth clearly and to enhance your sense of lovability, you over deliver. If you’re consistently giving more than you’re receiving, or, as you allude to, showing up more to close the gap, then you’ve missed an important opportunity along the way to set crucial boundaries. You haven’t been clear about advocating for yourself and what you need to feel loved. Why? This pattern of loving beyond the middle ground also means you likely haven’t stepped back far enough to give your partner the opportunity to lean in. If you truly had, you would have a much clearer sense of what your partner is willing and able to give.
Lori and Jeff: Take a love language quiz or pick up a copy of the book. Find out specifically what it is that you need to receive from your boyfriend and tell him. And, be curious if your compliments and efforts are translating into feelings of love for him. Then take a step back to the middle and see what happens.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.
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