The first time I learned about Love Languages was on a roadtrip with a now ex-partner. Our relationship was precarious, and the topic seemed chosen by him as a power play that would allow us to talk about our rocky relationship without openly “talking about us.” Presumably, he explained, each of us has a specific ‘language’ we use to communicate our love, and another with which we best receive love.

At the time, this sounded mostly like a horoscope gone wrong, and a recipe for eye rolls, but after some goading, I agreed to take the short online test as he drove—just “for fun.” The questions were simple, even obvious, and would allegedly identify one of five Love Languages:

Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service or Quality Time. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/

I remember mumbling about how no one in their right mind would chose anything but Quality Time, and sure enough, my test results proved as much. (I mean, who would publicly choose “receive an expensive watch” over “go on an adventure” in a hypothetical scenario?) I announced this to my partner but realized, as I was filling out the quiz, that the person I imagined adventuring with was not, at the moment, sitting next to me. Hoping to avoid that harder conversation, I put the test out of my mind, and changed the topic as we continued to drive.

I am now in a new relationship that is considerably healthier, with someone with whom I can actually discuss things—we talk constantly, and it is easy to feel we communicate effortlessly. But, with time, things can get, well, muddled. Indeed, it eventually started to feel like our wires were getting crossed—he started to say he wanted more reassurance inside our relationship, and I couldn’t help but feel like I had been giving quite a lot of it. This is when the idea of Love Languages crossed my mind again.

We discussed the concept casually over breakfast, and again we both decided that Quality Time was the clear winner, before putting the topic away. But as time went on, the Love Languages stayed with me, and began creeping into my thoughts as I went over a more recent argument. How could two people who were constantly conversing so freely, closing down restaurants or staying up late into the night talking, have so much trouble understanding each other? Suddenly this concept of Love Languages, and its inherent goal of categorizing our individual instincts about communicating love, made a lot of sense.

How could two people who were constantly conversing so freely, closing down restaurants or staying up late into the night talking, have so much trouble understanding each other?

I began to allow for the possibility that our intuitive methods of communication were not what we had first imagined them to be. And then it really hit me: we may be speaking completely different languages. I realized Quality Time was something I’d imagined as a thrilling but rare adventure, and not an accurate description of how I expressed my love in our quotidian life, nor was it how my partner was expressing his. Here I was wondering when we would spend Quality Time together, picturing, unfairly, exciting restaurant outings or hikes in foreign lands, while he was constantly doing everything for me, from big things to small almost unnoticeable chores—Acts of Service. And here he’d clearly been expecting verbal reassurance—Words of Affirmation!—and meanwhile I’d been rubbing his shoulders, and kissing his neck as he did the dishes—Touch—and giving love in a way that felt natural to me, but wondering where my messages were getting lost in translation.

I broached the topic again, and offered my most recent epiphany: beyond identifying our new Love Language categories, my biggest realization was simply that the things we’d been looking for in our relationship were, in a way, already there. They were simply in different languages than we expected them to be found.

…the things we’d been looking for in our relationship were, in a way, already there.

There seems to be a pressure, within this whole concept, to learn our partner’s Love Language(s) in order to change the way we give love, and accommodate our partners. But I’ve held onto another lesson: to open up my mind to new ways of identifying, and receiving, all the different Love Languages. After all, we are all complex, ever-changing partners, and we may be using a wider variety of communicating tools than an online quiz could possibly identify. Why wait for one specific behavior to feel the love, when it may, in fact, be present in innumerable everyday actions? I am now choosing to open my ears, and my heart, and to pay better attention to all the forms of love my relationship already has.