Communication is an essential part of maintaining a healthy relationship – it’s how we share our thoughts, ideas, feelings, and desires with our partners. But, in a relationship where one partner is living with a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, communication is likely even more important. Communication allows my husband and I to face chronic illness as part of a team with a united front. It allows us to address conflicts, cooperate through difficult times, ask for help, and assure that our own needs are met. It’s also key to intimacy and maintaining a healthy sex life. In short, good communication allows our relationship to weather the storm of chronic illness – and maybe even grow stronger in the process.
My husband and I are always looking for ways to improve our communication, because we know just how important it is to our relationship – and to our family as a whole. But I have to admit that when I first heard about the idea of the five love languages, I wasn’t interested. It honestly sounded pretty cheesy to me! However, when both my doctor and my therapist recommended it, I decided to take a closer look.
The 5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages is a book written by relationship counselor Gary Chapman in 1995. His theory is that there are five different “love languages” that people use not only to express love, but also to experience it. Chapman theorizes that people tend to naturally give love the way they prefer to receive it – which means that if you and your partner express love in different ways you may, more or less, be trying to speak to each other in different languages. By figuring out each partner’s primary love language, you’ll both be able to communicate love more effectively. So, at my therapist’s suggestion, both my husband and I took the online quiz to determine our primary love languages.
Here’s a brief rundown of Chapman’s five different love languages:
- Words of affirmation – this person needs words to affirm their partner’s love
- Acts of service – for this person, actions speak louder than words
- Receiving gifts – this person feels most loved when they receive a gift
- Quality time – this person needs their partner to give them undivided attention
- Physical touch – for this person, nothing speaks more deeply than touch
Our results honestly surprised us.
I turned out to have two primary love languages – equally split between acts of service (9) and words of affirmation (9). Those were closely followed by quality time (7). Less important to me was physical touch (4) and receiving gifts (1). To me, this score clearly demonstrates the impact of RA on my life: what I find most important is help getting things done and confirmation that I am worthy of love. And it makes sense that physical touch is near the bottom for me, as RA can often make it painful to be touched or touch my partner.
While my husband also ended up with two primary love languages, they weren’t the same as mine at all. His primary love languages were physical touch (10) and quality time (10). Those were pretty closely followed by words of affirmation (7). At the bottom of his list he had receiving gifts (2) and acts of service (1).
Although we turned out to have similar opinions on the importance of receiving gifts, we were both pretty shocked to discover that one of my top love languages – acts of service – was at the very bottom of his list. Likewise, one of his top love languages – physical touch – was near the bottom of mine. And because people tend to express love in the way they prefer to receive it…
We realized that we were missing each other’s messages.
Now that we are aware of each of our preferences, we each make an effort to express our love in the other’s preferred language. For example, while my husband certainly appreciates a clean house and a hot dinner when he gets home from work, what matters more to him is being welcomed with a hug and a kiss. And, while I certainly appreciate a kiss or a shoulder rub, what really makes me feel loved is for him to unload the dishwasher or put the kids to bed, taking the pressure off me.
While I certainly don’t think the five love languages are the ultimate relationship solution, for my husband and I they have served as an excellent tool for improving our communication. And, in a relationship facing a chronic illness, communication is definitely key.