There are times when no matter how much we try to understand our boyfriend or girlfriend we only manage to drive ourselves into an abyss of confusion and anger. In Andrew G. Marshall’s book I Love You but I’m Not in Love with You, the author explains that given our upbringing and personal history the way we learn to understand what it means to be loved and to express love differs dramatically from person to person. Marshall outlines five basic languages of love:

Spending time together: these people enjoy going to coffee shops, restaurants, long drives, vacations and even relaxing on the couch to watch a movie.

Caring actions: taking care of your partner by going the extra mile (i.e. baking a cake, washing the car, installing a new chandelier).

Affectionate physical contact: massages, hugs, kisses, intercourse.

Present-giving: anything from an expensive gift to a flower picked spontaneously by the side of the road.

Compliments/Appreciative words: verbally communicating affection.

It is immensely important to the health of your relationship that you understand your own and your partner’s language of love. Consider two people, Anna and John, both deeply in love with one another but constantly arguing. In fact, despite their love they are continually on the brink of breaking up and both complain that they feel undervalued in the relationship. Anna communicated her love through affectionate physical contact: after a long day at work she shows John she loves him by giving him a hug, or massaging his shoulders. Unfortunately, when John is busy he frequently tells Anna he has no time for hugs. Instead he tells her he loves her and that she looks beautiful. For John, love translates to compliments and appreciative words. For people like him the verbal communication of love is of utmost importance and when Anna fails to do this, John will feel unloved. Hugs may be pleasant for John, but they do not translate to love despite the fact that, in effect, that is exactly what is happening. In their relationship hugs = appreciative words = love. Until Anna realizes that John’s “I love you” is essentially the same thing as her hugging him, and vice versa, they will continue to feel unloved in the relationship.