If you’ve never gotten into a fight with your partner, I’d love to know all your secrets. However, most of us have been in relationships with both quickly-resolved arguments and passive-aggressive stand-offs that last for days. While you never want to be mistreating each other, working through conflict can lead to some healthy new agreements. The real key to respectful communication that leads you to growth mostly has to do with how your approach fights — and that can be described by your *taps mic* love language.
This idea originates from the book The Five Love Languages by relationship therapist Gary Chapman
, who says that there are five primary ways we express love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving and giving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. For personality-type obsessed people, the love languages are a critical barometer in our self-perception of how we feel we are truly loved.
If you’re not sure what your love language is, think about what usually causes you to lock horns in your relationship. What do you complain about most often? If you say “I wish you would pay more attention to me” when your significant other is glued to their phone during dinner, you’re revealing that “quality time” is your love language because you want their undivided attention. When your partner continually leaves household chores up to you, and it’s emotionally upsetting in a deep way, you’re revealing that “acts of service” are your love language. Your vexed grumbles divulge what your heart wants most, and they also say a lot about your fighting style. Here’s what you need to know:
People with this love language understand the value of time and attention. It’s not enough for you and your partner to be in the same room, they need to give their full eyes and ears. It makes sense then that, when you fight, you like to keep open lines of communication. Stonewalling? Never heard of her.
You tend to communicate assertively through direct interaction and connection, because time is a precious commodity. However, if your partner is treating your disagreement with indifference, you cling even harder to a particular issue because you’re fighting for engagement. Briana MacWilliam , licensed and board certified creative arts therapist, says that people with the “quality time” love language are at risk for over-control during arguments. “The first thing to remember is that whenever we are feeling triggered it is usually because we are experiencing a threat to our connection on some level. Some of us cope with that by trying to grasp for control, which can come across as criticizing or nagging.”
People who give and receive love through physical touch are often uncomplicated and straightforward. You’re comfortable in your skin, which is why you have no problem holding hands, playing with hair and squeezing hard.
As such, being distant and cold with your partner is not the vibe, because even in the middle of a fight you’re probably longing to be held. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a formidable foe when you go toe-to-toe; with an action-oriented mentality, you have no problem speaking your mind and telling your partner exactly how you feel. The one thing to watch for in the middle of a disagreement? Placing too much blame, hello.
“Notice how you’re communicating with your partner,” advises relationship coach Amanda Blair. “Are you owning your feelings? So often when we communicate we say things like, ‘You make me feel X.’ And that comes across as blame and will make the other person defensive and shut down. Instead try, ‘When X happens, I feel X.’” When you communicate like this you are taking ownership of feelings, and doing so allows the other person to hear what’s really going on and show up in the same way.
Acts of Service
First of all, love you. So let’s be honest: people who prefer acts of service as their love language can be a bit utilitarian. I may be biased because this is my secondary love language, but here’s the way I see it: productivity and efficiency are flowery and romantic. You’ve got a soft spot for people who mow the lawn and make you a coffee in the morning while you’re answering emails. That means when you fight you’re focused on what’s practical and useful, and as such you might be abstracting yourself from true intimacy.
Even though you view your partner as your ultimate support system, you tend to be avoidant with your head firmly buried in the sand, keeping them at arm’s-length through “acts” and delegating, safely distanced from other displays of love that might lead to resolution.
People think the “gifts” love language is materialistic, but it’s really about surrounding yourself with objects that make you feel sentimental. You love when your partner surprises you with something that says “they remembered me” — the cost or the value doesn’t matter, only the effort.
MacWilliam notes that those with the gifts love language have a tricky time during fights. The opposite of receiving gifts in a loving way is vamoosing out of there real fast because you feel downright uncomfortable.
“We give up and shut down because we think the conflict is creating a threat,” she explains. However, preemptive withdrawal is really just an expression of fear and needing reassurance. And maybe that means you need a physical reminder of your partner’s love for you, such as a bouquet or printed photo.
Words of Affirmation
As a person motivated by words of affirmation, you rely on external sources to keep you feeling good through approval and reassurance. You tend to be the most sensitive to people’s words — the critical ones especially — about your opinions and actions. Fighting makes you feel miserable because you hate ugly language, and heated arguments are the worst case scenario. However, you’re not quick to forgive. Not to be dramatic, but it might take a while before words of reassurance from your partner feel lasting again. You want the fight to be reconciled, but you do not want to ignore wrongdoing.
In the middle of conflict remember that it’s all right to feel extreme emotion! And as a strong communicator, it’s acceptable if in a disagreement you want to talk through, well… everything. Just try to resist letting insecurity and codependence take over. If you do, you risk becoming a pit that no daily barrage of compliments can fill.
The success of long-term relationships really comes down to a shared ability to communicate. Love is often put to the test with stress, set-backs, and disagreements — but they don’t have to become stumbling blocks. Much of communicating effectively relates back to understanding your partner’s needs and how they communicate, which is where love languages come into play. No matter your fighting style, if you want to find resolution you can always listen to understand your partner’s point of view as it relates to their love language. Offer them empathy and try to walk in their shoes, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.