50 Ways to Love Your Lover

Back in the 70’s, Paul Simon suggested 50 ways to run away from the complexities of relationship: “Just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. You don’t need to be coy, Roy….” There may be many ways to leave your lover, but what’s the secret to a love that lasts?
One of my favorite books on relationships is Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. It’s been around for more than 20 years and still speaks to today’s couples about how to express love in a way that fulfills each other’s emotional needs.
What’s Your Love Language?
At the heart of human existence is the need to love and be loved. Marriage was divinely designed to meet this need in an intimate, life-giving way. Chapman explains that we all have a preferred way to experience love, which he calls our primary “love language,” and outlines 5 different ways that we communicate and understand love:
Words of affirmation – Some people feel most loved through words of affirmation, such as compliments, encouragement, appreciation, and other verbal expressions of love. Ideas for words of affirmation include write a love note, send a text, say what you admire about your loved one, praise an accomplishment, express how proud you are of him or her, and say I love you each day.
Acts of service – For others, thoughtful actions speak louder than words, such as helping around the house or filling up the car. More ideas for loving acts of service are cook a favorite meal, help with a project, fix something that’s been broken, bring a glass of water while your loved one is working in the yard, draw a bubble bath for him or her after a busy day, refill the wine glass, turn on his or her favorite music or TV program.
Gifts – Still others feel deeply loved when they receive a special gift from their loved one; flowers, chocolate, a new ball cap or shirt, movie tickets, a sports item, a book or magazine of interest, an object from nature that represents your love, a favorite item from the grocery store, or renting a movie he or she has been wanting to see. Planning a special celebration for birthdays also communicates love.
Quality time – Others thrive on the connection of quality time together, such as a date night, when they can share the other’s heart-to-heart attention. Ideas for spending time together are watch a sunset, go out to eat, linger over coffee, go to a ball game, stay in a bed and breakfast for the weekend, attend church, go for a drive through the country, and discuss a book or a topic of mutual interest.
Physical touch – Some people feel most loved through the language of affectionate touch, such as a lingering hug, holding hands, massage, and physical intimacy. Other ways to express love through touch are snuggle while watching TV, sit next to each other, put your arm around him or her, kiss, stand near each other, and dance.
While we may understand love in all five languages, most people lean toward one or two preferred languages. To find out your primary language, look at how you express love. More often than not, how you give love is how you would like to receive it in return. For more clues to your preferred language, consider what you feel is missing in your relationship or what would make it better.
Learning a New Language
Our natural tendency is to express love in the way we want to receive it, but the key to nurturing a relationship is for both individuals to give love in a way that the other can receive. You may be communicating love in a genuine way, but is it a language your loved one understands?
Rather than expecting each other to know what you need, the challenge is to talk about your needs together and then support each other as you learn a new language. Give each other ideas for what you would enjoy and make a plan to try it. Even for long-time couples, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily-ness of living and neglect to say I love you, in whatever language your loved one speaks.
This Valentine’s, commit to becoming more fluent in each other’s language and experience a greater sense of connectedness and renewed joy in your love. To spice things up, you might explore a new love language together, or take your relationship to the next level and find 50 ways to love your lover.