By Adam D. Blum, MFT, Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director
The beginning of a relationship, during the “in love” stage, is delicious. We feel euphoric. We enter into the intoxicating feeling that we are “at one” with another person.
However, according to long-range studies, the romantic obsession stage only lasts an average of about two years.
The first romantic stage happens by instinct. The second, longer stage of relationships, takes some effort.
When you and your partner move into the reality that you are two different people, you are going to need additional food to sustain the closeness over the years.
There are five major food groups for relationships. If you know which of the five your partner wants the most, you can focus on giving them food that best nourishes them.
And once you know your own favorite food you can ask for it often.
Dr. Gary Chapman calls these five food groups “The 5 Love Languages” in his very popular book of that title.
Here they are. Which is your primary dialect?
1. Words of Affirmation
Some of us especially need to hear that we are good, attractive, funny, kind or loveable.
2. Quality Time
This is when your partner has your focused attention. In quality time, there are no electronic screens present.
3. Receiving Gifts
For some people, visual symbols of love mean the most. This doesn’t mean diamonds and furs, but can take the form of love notes, token surprises, and thoughtfully conceived homemade gifts.
4. Acts of Service
These are actions like making dinner, dealing with the landlord, or doing the laundry. (Full disclosure: my husband put fixing my computer in his wedding vows.)
5. Physical Touch
This includes sex, but can also be hugs, cuddling, back scratches, or holding hands.
What If I Don’t Know My Language?
If you are trying to figure out your primary love language, Chapman suggests you ask yourself one of these questions:
What have I most often requested of him?
What does he do–-or not do--that hurts me the most deeply? The opposite of that could be your love language.
How do I regularly express my love? You may offer you, yourself most need.
If you don’t know your partner’s primary love language you could be spending a lot of energy giving him something that doesn’t have much impact. If their love language is physical touch and you put a lot of time into creating thoughtful gifts, you still might not be giving them what they need.
With less energy expended on your part you could be stroking their head while you watch the dog sleep, and it could be a much more powerful way to express your love.
Is This The Whole Answer?
So if I figure out their favorite love language and give it to them regularly, can I be assured of a successful long term relationship?
While Chapman’s book makes it seem like that’s all we’ll need, I believe there’s a little more to it. (Easy answers sell a lot of books, but they don’t usually work out so well in real life.)
However, customized expressions of love plus good communication skills are a powerful combination that can get a couple through a lifetime of trials.
What are good communication skills? If you can talk about a difficult subject with your partner and end up feeling closer afterwards rather than farther away, then you already have very good communication skills.
If you can’t do that yet, there is always time to learn. I admit to being biased, but couples counseling is a great place to learn it.
Want to read more? Check out our articles with gay relationship advice.
For more information about how we help LGBT individuals and couples please visit our website at www.thegaytherapycenter.com. We offer services in our San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles offices or by Skype or phone worldwide.