Having a different love language than your partner can sometimes present challenges. At times, you may feel lonely, resentful, or like your affection isn’t being appreciated or reciprocated. Love language incompatibility doesn’t mean your relationship can’t work, however. There are several things you can do to ensure you and your partner feel fulfilled and satisfied in the relationship — even if you show and receive love differently.
Love language incompatibility is often the result of poor communication
There are five love languages: Acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation. The love languages are simply meant to serve as a framework to help partners communicate wants and needs when it comes to giving and receiving love.
While having a different love language than your partner can present challenges, more often than not, the tension stems from communication issues. When partners have different love languages and fail to communicate wants, needs, and desires, they may end up making assumptions about what the other needs to feel romantically secure and fulfilled.
7 things you can do when love languages don’t align
Consider these seven tips for meeting in the middle when your love languages don’t align. Bear in mind that establishing strong communication is at the basis of each suggestion.
1. Identify your primary love language(s) and tell your partner about it.
The first step to meeting in the middle is to know what your love language is and communicate that to your partner. To understand what your love language is, first learn the five love languages and what they mean. Recognize that you might have more than one primary love language and that your love language may change over time. Communicate which love language resonates most with you now, and tell your partner about it. For example, you might say: My love language is receiving gifts. That’s why it’s so meaningful to me when you bring me a souvenir when you travel. To me, it means you truly care and are thinking about me.
2. Introduce your partner to the five love languages and ask which resonates with them.
In the same way your partner cannot read your mind, you cannot know how they best receive love without directly asking. If your partner is not familiar with the five love languages, introduce them to a book, article, podcast, or video explaining what each love language means and ask what resonates most with them. Even if you think you know your partner’s love language, or certain things seemed to have “worked” in the past, it is important to ask directly.
3. Get specific about wants.
Tell your partner specifically what you would like them to do. For example, if one of your love languages is acts of service, what specific actions do you want your partner to perform? Do you want them to make you breakfast on a stressful work day? Would you like help building that complicated IKEA desk that’s been sitting in a box the last three months? There are many different acts of service, and some may resonate with you and others may not. Let your partner know exactly what makes you feel good so they don’t have to guess. Ask them to get specific about the ways they’d like to receive love.
4. Learn what doesn’t make your partner feel loved.
Perhaps you’ve been spontaneously giving your partner gifts because you think gift giving will make them feel loved. If your partner’s love language has nothing to do with receiving gifts, however, they may not enjoy the gifts as much as you think. Learning what your partner doesn’t like can prevent you from making efforts that will go under appreciated.
Know that giving love is more about your partner’s love language than your own.
When you have different love languages, it can be hard to understand why certain acts may signify love to your partner when they don't at all mean that for you. For example, if your partner requests words of affirmation, specifically compliments, but compliments personally make you cringe, it can be hard to dole them out. But remember, sometimes, it isn’t about the act itself at all. The love lies in you having listened to your partner’s needs and then responding in a way you know brings your partner joy. Giving love, then, should not be based on your own love language, but your partner’s. If your partner is also doing this for you, then you will be receiving love in a way that makes you feel best.
5. Present alternatives.
If you have a different love language than your partner, giving them love in the way they prefer may not always come naturally to you. That’s why it’s important to present each other with options and alternatives. For example, say your love language is physical touch and you listed some specifics for your partner. You may have included hand-holding and kissing in public on this list. Your partner may not be able to deliver on those specific acts because they don’t feel comfortable with public displays of affection. (PDA). In this case, offering an alternative, like Please hug and kiss me when I get home from work, is a good way to meet in the middle.
6. Engage in activities and gestures that fit both your love languages.
Sometimes, an activity or gesture can fit both of your love languages. For example, “If quality time is how you receive love, and it is not how your partner gives love gifts [are], maybe planning a date night at a nice restaurant to satisfy both of your needs,” Aydrelle Collins, sex therapist at Melanin Sex Therapy tells O.school. Or if your love language is quality time and your partner’s is acts of service, you could cook dinner for your partner while they relax in the space while engaging you in meaningful conversation.
7. Make lists to find compromises.
In order to find activities and gestures that both of you are willing to do, you can use lists. Start by making a list of the things that would make you feel loved, and have your partner make one, too. Remember, be more specific than just naming your love language. Show each other your list and have the other mark things they want or are willing to do for. This will help both of you discover specific ways the other wants to be loved and compromises that can be made.
Love language compatibility
No matter what your love language is, there are ways to compromise and ensure love in a relationship. Sometimes, it can even be a good thing to have different love languages as certain love languages go well together. You can check a love language compatibility chart for detailed information on that, but for a quick look, here are some love languages that pair particularly well together.
- Words of affirmation / Quality time. Quality time is about uninterrupted time together and feeling connected. Words of affirmation can actually be an element of feeling connected during quality time. If you and your partner’s love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, consider incorporating a conversation about ways you appreciate and admire one another into your quality time.
- Acts of service / Receiving gifts. Sometimes, acts of service and receiving gifts overlap. If your partner’s love language is acts of service and you express love through giving gifts, you can bring them their favorite lunch or coffee on a stressful day, or find another way to give a gift that also takes a load off their plate.
- Quality time / Physical touch. Quality time and physical touch can overlap when your quality time includes physical intimacy. In fact, physical intimacy can even enhance quality time for some people. This could look like cuddling, having sex, holding hands, or giving each other massages while enjoying each other’s uninterrupted company.
The bottom line
Having a different love language than your partner is common. It doesn’t mean you’re not compatible or that things can’t work out. It does mean that you’ll have to find ways to compromise and strengthen communication in your relationship. If you’re still having trouble meeting in the middle, consider seeking a couples therapist to help you mediate a conversation about how love can best be given and received in your relationship.