I’m sure most people have heard of it by now, but if you haven’t, the Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an extremely popular relationship framework that’s designed to help couples understand each other better. As a recent research study showed, lack of intimacy is a relationship killer. In a lot of relationships, difficulty can arise not because there isn’t intimacy — but because the intimacy that is felt by each partner isn’t communicated or demonstrated in a way that the other person can understand.
I’ve written a lot about the love languages on this blog. Quickly, they are:
- Words of Affirmation – saying loving things, giving compliments, praising a partner for accomplishments or attributes
- Quality Time – spending time together, doing stuff and interacting, especially participating with your partner in activities that they personally enjoy
- Gifts – gift-giving, and not just on birthdays or holidays
- Acts of Service – being helpful to the person you love (could include cooking, doing chores, fixing things, etc.)
- Physical Touch – any form of physical contact, can span the entire gamut from a nonsexual hug or massage all the way up to sexual act
In one past essay, I described the process whereby I, a person whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, managed to meet in the middle re: showing affection and appreciation with a partner whose primary love language is Acts of Service.
There’s a way forward like this with every combination. And the best way will depend on what your partner actually likes and is interested in.
But the important part is that both people try — and that they try in both directions. That is, they try to use their partner’s preferred method more and they try to recognize better when their partner is making an effort.
Cats Have Their Own Love Language But Tolerate Ours
Really, when you strip away a lot of the details and the trappings of the Love Languages framework, the core concept is rather simple: People can show love and feel loved in different ways. And there’s nothing shameful or lesser about working a slightly different way. It just must be recognized and accounted for.
And the other day when my cat was aggressively loving my partner in a feline way — booping my partner with his head, nibbling on my partner’s fingers — my partner said, “You know, cats have their own love language.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, laughing.
“I tolerate nips from them. They tolerate hugs from us,” my partner explained, swooping our cat up into a tight hug. The cat very predictably wasn’t super into it but tolerated it — just like I deal with the occasional love bite (our cats do ones that are very gentle and don’t break the skin, it’s more like a mama cat napes a kitten).
“I guess cats have a lot to teach us about love languages,” I said.