Love Languages: Chapman vs. Gottman

Love. It’s a tricky business isn’t it?

It can be hard for two people to fully understand one another when it comes to love. And in turn, feel as if they are truly understood by those who “love” them. A common struggle in all relationships from beginning to end. There are ways to conquer this struggle, though. And we’re about to dive in.

“We don’t choose who we love, it just happens.” A great saying, yes. And this is true in many ways. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its all rainbows and butterflies from that point of falling in love to the end of the story. There comes a point in any relationship, where conflict occurs. At that point, loving that person becomes a choice.

There’s a wide scope of different beliefs in what love languages can provide us and our relationships. Despite what yours are now, I’d like to take a minute to talk through the experts of these different languages, and how it could help you prevent and manage conflict within your relationship. All while building a strong foundation of communication and mutual understanding.

The popular book, “The Five Love Languages” written by: Gary Chapman, was born out of patterns he observed in couples in his private clinical practice, seeking ways for their emotional needs to be met. 

What he found was that conflict was often difficult for couples to resolve when they felt their emotional needs were not being met as a part of the resolution to conflict.

Interestingly though, he also found that people attempt to meet their partner’s needs by showing them love in the same manner they wished to receive it.  When, psychologically speaking not everyone perceives love the same way. And, that’s how most conflicts begin. With misunderstanding of the other person.

While more research is needed to validate Chapman’s theory, there is real value in increasing your self awareness of what makes you feel loved while also integrating a willingness to love your partner in ways that make them feel loved. 

When two people can seek to mutually understand how to give and take in a relationship, the real balance and partnership is formed. Being heard and understood is a foundational element to great communication. 

Chapman described the 5 most common love languages as follows: 

Receiving gifts – a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”
Quality time -giving your spouse your undivided attention.
Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person.
Acts of service (devotion) -Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. 
Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all
expressions of love.

While the research may not be clear here; it seems clear to me that there is real value in each of these traits. The bottom line is, if it works do more of it! If it doesn’t do something else. 

So, if you identify with one or more of these traits and your partner provides them for you, which makes you feel valued and creates a space for you to also give to your partner, then do more of it! 

Now let’s look at it from another angle. The clear and valid work by relationship experts Dr.s John and Julie Gottman. Their lifelong research and study of couples has resulted in the Gottman Method Couples Therapy based on these foundational principles of building a healthy relationship: 

Build Love Maps
How well do you know your partner?
Gottman describes a Love Map as the part of the brain where spouses store all the relevant information they have gathered about one another, ranging from the important stuff (like their belief systems) to the more mundane (like their favorite foods). Relevant information for Love Maps also includes details about what makes the other person feel good.

Share Fondness and Admiration
The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)

Turn Towards Instead of Away
State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of a relationship.

The Positive Perspective
The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.

Manage Conflict
We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.

Make Life Dreams Come True
Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.

Create Shared Meaning
Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.

This occurs when a person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and he/she is there for me.”

This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it).

It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others. Rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.

At some point in all relationships and marriage there comes a point where love becomes a choice, it cannot be coerced.

So, get to know your partner on a deeper level than the mundane information, and really find out who they are and what makes them happy. Once you’ve done that for yourself and your partner, your relationship is free to grow and improve in so many ways.

In better words, you can make it through anything.

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