Though our instinct is to move away from the pain by numbing (hello, ice cream!), the best way to begin untangling our shame and pain is to step back and ask ourselves how our partner communicates.
Often, it isn't that anyone has fallen "out of love." It's just that as time passes and we move beyond courtship, people in relationships demonstrate their love with their own preferred love language (or a combination of love languages).
If this scenario sounds familiar, it's the perfect time to figure out your own — as well as your partner's.
1. Words of affirmation
When a client frets that her husband doesn't send romantic texts or say, "I love you," this clues me in that her love language is affirming words. Hearing or reading words of affection make her feel supported and cared for.
If your spouse's love language is words, remember that insults are usually taken to heart and a great way to build intimacy is to verbally praise your partner and put notes in his lunch box.
Wasn't it Elvis who asked for a little less conversation and a lot more action? For some people, actions speak louder than words. Doing tasks like making his lunch and matching up his suits with shirts and ties speak volumes.
2. Acts of service
Does your sweetie bring you thoughtful gifts? Then it's probable that his love language is receiving gifts. This isn't about materialism, it's simply that the receipt of thoughtful gifts expresses the feeling behind the gift.
If your partner’s love language is receiving gifts, then forgetting a birthday or anniversary is hurtful. Saying "I love you" during the course of an ordinary week with flowers or a book by a favorite author will speak volumes.
3. Quality time
Though we all enjoy quality time with our partner, receiving a partner’s undivided attention is what some crave. For a person whose love language is Quality Time, nothing says "I love you" like a quiet dinner with conversation.
Want to make your partner feel truly special? Turn off the TV, put your iPhone down, and listen in! Quality time means sharing not only quality conversation but participating in activities together.
4. Physical touch
And then there are those of us for whom having our hand held feels like love. Physical touch isn't just about a rich sex life; it's about the affirmation of love through stroking or caressing our partner. Hugs, kisses, and the stroking of your spouse's arm are all ways to show interest. It also fosters feelings of security and belonging.
As anticipated, my client realized that her husband regularly makes her lunch, folds the laundry, and always brings her funny gifts when he travels. Though he may not say those three words, he expresses it through actions and gifts.