The quality of our relationships with other people and ourselves is a direct result of the quality of work we invest in building and developing them. Why, then, does it sometimes feel like, despite our best efforts, something is still missing and the gears of love and friendship mesh somewhat reluctantly? The secret is to work smarter, not harder.
The Honeymoon Phase
Building and maintaining strong and nurturing relationships can be an intense process. Once the butterflies fly away and the effects of the cupid’s arrow wear off, love graduates to another real-life level. Various trials and tribulations will raise their heads and some of our relationships might not stand the test of time, distance, or other challenges. How do we weave the threads that bond us with other people into thick unbreakable nets? We work on understanding who we are and what we and those we care about need.
The Bingo Theory
One of the aspects of human nature that matters when choosing partners and friends is our feminine and masculine energy. The Bingo Theory, a book written by Mimi Ikonn, brings this concept to light to help us understand where some of our motivations come from.
The feminine energy is creative, expressive, compassionate, and loving, whereas the masculine energy is strong, powerful, charismatic, and driven. Not all women are feminine and not all men are masculine. A woman is a feminine strength or a masculine strength female, and, by extension, a man is a feminine strength or a masculine strength male. Each of us is a combination of both energies, yet one of them tends to be dominant in a person.
In pursuit of balance, self-awareness is key. In order to become the winning combination of 50/50 feminine-masculine (a bingo), you first need to determine which energy reigns within you. Then, you can either look for the opposite strength in a potential friend, love, or business partner to balance you out, or, if you’re a bingo, it should be easier for you to attract the winning combination in other people.
The Five Love Languages
Your emotional intelligence, Myers-Briggs personality type, and many more can play their part in predicting various styles in which you express emotions and interact with others. However, communication channels between people can differ as much as Chinese differs from English. Two people might operate on opposite wavelengths without even realizing it. Hence, in order for our new and existing relationships to thrive, we not only need self-awareness, we also need the tools.
The Five Love Languages, defined by Dr. Gary Chapman in his bestselling book, are communication strategies to annihilate any potential cracks in your interpersonal relations. They focus on feelings of love and developing a deeper connection with others, yet we will argue they can be successfully applied to self-love as well.
Figure out your love language (e.g. start with all five and one by one eliminate those you could live without) and help others do the same to understand the inner mechanisms of your relationship. There’s a 90% chance you’ll see a tremendous behavioral difference from day one. Without further ado, here are the five love languages according to Dr. Chapman.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Of all five communication styles, this one certainly resembles actual language the most. Here, we express love through verbal or written compliments, words of kindness, appreciation, encouragement, and reassurance articulated purely for the purpose of building our loved ones up. No need for fancy statements or complex screeds. For example:
“I really appreciate that you cooked dinner last night.”
“Thank you for taking the kids for a walk so that I could rest.”
“No one can make me smile like you do.”
“I want you to know that I never take you for granted. Your strength is my inspiration.”
“You look lovely in this dress. Your new hairstyle really suits you.”
“I love you. You mean the world to me.”
“I admire your intelligence.”
“I hear you, I’m here for you.”
If you find expressing love and gratitude out loud challenging, start taking notes. Anytime you think something nice about the other person or hear somebody else say it, write it down to create a list of options. Still verbally shy? Leave short sticky notes around the house. Texting counts, too. The important thing to remember is that the tone and intention behind the words matter the most. You need to really mean what you express.
This language is all about focus. If it resonates with the person you love, they need your undivided attention and being present in the moment with them. It’s not a 24/7 commitment, yet when your other half really needs it, be there to listen. As in, devices put aside, TV switched off, looking directly at each other, focusing fully on the depth of the conversation – mindfully listening to understand, not to respond. If you’re busy, finish your work first to clear your mind and be fully present for the other person.
Quality time is also doing fun activities together. Combining your strengths to solve a riddle, hiking, visiting a museum, having a picnic in the park, going on a date, or doing arts and crafts. Whatever brings the biggest smile to your loved one’s face – do it with them mindfully and they will feel loved.
Self-love tip: devote time to self-care and make your wellbeing a priority. Schedule some alone time to rest and do whatever makes you happy and relaxed. You deserve it.
Giving and receiving visual symbols of love has nothing to do with extravagance. Of course, showering the other person with purchased presents can be a love language, however, anything you create yourself is as much a token of love as an expensive watch.
The material value of the gift is insignificant. What matters is how much heart we put into preparing it. A picked up flower from your morning walk will tell the other person you were thinking of them. A symbol of your love they could hold in their hand and remember the time you two shared together has emotional value. There’s a reason your mom still has a picture you drew for her when you were 5 years old. Mindful gift giving has invaluable significance when performed with love.
Buy experiences, not things. Gift somebody your time, attention, and emotion in the form of a kind word, meaningful conversation, or doing something fun together. Whether it’s a trip to Italy or a weekend in the countryside, a dinner in your favorite restaurant or a picnic in the park, a concert in the Royal Albert Hall or a quiet romantic performance by a street artist - what matters is your intention behind the gift of experience.
Self-love tip:reward yourself with me-time and go on an adventure. Document your journey in journal entries, photos, and/or videos. Then, add those special moments to your home gallery, photo album, or even Instagram to remind you of all the gifts life has to offer.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Doing something you know your partner would like you to do is very nice. Doing it with a positive attitude, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, is a huge sign of love. Performing a task without the other person asking you to – that’s love in its purest form. Relieve your other half of the household works to show them that you care about what you two have built together.
Investing your time, effort, and energy into something your partner or friend does not enjoy doing will be appreciated. Whenever you perform an act of service for the person you care about, they feel the way you do when you receive love in your language. Pick up kids after school, cook dinner, or weed the garden – what they will hear is I love you.
Holding hands, kissing, embracing the other person when they’re cold, wiping the tears off their face, carrying them to bed after they fell asleep watching a movie, or a simple pat on the back are all physical displays of love. Both implicit and explicit touching matters. Putting your arm around your loved one when you’re among friends or a kiss on the cheek during a family dinner reassures them of your love. A mindful massage is gold to a person whose love language is touch. If physical connection to somebody we love can make us healthier and happier, snuggling is medicine. Do it regardless of what your love language is.
Self-love tip:wrapping yourself in a blanket to feel cozy or gently massaging your face with a gua sha stone can all be you speaking the physical love language to yourself.
It’s All About the Tank
The five love languages are never to be used as manipulation but only to fill up our emotional reservoirs. Dr. Chapman speaks of an inner love tank that, depending on the level of our happiness in a relationship, can get either full or empty. Speak the language the person you love understands to fill up their tank with love and they will be able to return more of it to you. When you receive it, you’ll have excess to give to others and to yourself.
Understanding social roles, reading emotions, comprehending relationships, or effective listening. These are some of the social intelligence skills. Continue reading to discover what social intelligence is and how you can reap its benefits.