Romantic Love: What is it and How to Maintain it

“Love is the most important word in the English language and the most confusing.” – Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts ~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #87 If you have ever taken a foreign language class, attempting to learn a language that is not your native tongue, perhaps you have […] Listen now or continue reading below.

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“Love is the most important word in the English language and the most confusing.” – Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #87

If you have ever taken a foreign language class, attempting to learn a language that is not your native tongue, perhaps you have had a similar experience to mine: wanting to communicate, knowing what to say in your native tongue, but not knowing how to accurately convey it in your new medium.

The frustration level is exasperating; however, the only solution is to continue to practice, continue to attentively listen and with patience and diligence the new language is learned.

In Gary Chapman’s 1995 New York Times #1 Bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, he equates the learning of a foreign language to discovering the love language of your partner. While understanding how we best receive love, identifying the love language that communicates love to us when received, knowing our partner’s love language is akin to learning a foreign language especially when their language is different than ours.

“If we speak only our primary language and encounter someone else who speaks only his or her primary language, which is different from ours, our communication will be limited . . . we can communicate, but it is awkward . . . If we are to communicate effectively across cultural lines, we must learn the language of those with whom we wish to communicate.” – Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages

But I am getting ahead of myself. How do we know if we’re involved with someone whom we truly love, and aren’t merely “in love” with during the endorphined state of euphoria which clouds our rational mind?

Chapman reminds us that late psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tennov found after much research and study, the infinite feeling of being “in love” lasts about two years. And so the question, many of us want to know is, “How can I ensure that when I descend of this blissful state, I will still want to be in a relationship with this person?”

Great question, and while I don’t suppose to have the concrete answers, I came across three questions proposed by two of my favorite life-advice, inspirational bloggers, Marc & Angel that I found to be quite helpful. If you can answer yes to each of the following questions, it is a high probability that you have found yourself, as they say, a life partner worth devoting yourself to:

  • Does he/she treat you with respect at all times?  
  • If he/she remains the exact same person ten years from now, would you still want to be in a relationship with him/her?  
  • Does he/she inspire to be a better human being? 

For the purposes of today’s post, let’s assume you have answered yes to each of these three questions without hesitation, but thoughtful contemplation. Now to the love languages.

First let me begin by recommending you pick up Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love LanguagesIt is a short, but compact book which will, I am confident, serve as a valuable resource. What I am going to do in this post is share an overview of the five love languages, which is something that can be found on numerous other sites. The one thing that is additionally helpful is his quiz at the end of the book to help you determine what exactly your primary love language is. While most of us probably have an inkling of what ours might be, sometimes even we aren’t accurate. One quick check you can do to help garner evidence of what your primary love language is is to recollect moments in which you were most upset with loved ones regarding how they did or didn’t treat you. Often we become most injured when the language that speaks loudest to us isn’t observed.

One of the most significant take-aways after reading Chapman’s book was the aha that what did or didn’t work in past relationships when it comes to love languages may work well or even wonderfully in the next relationship. Why? It is all about getting to know, learning how to communicate effectively, in their love language. As Gail Cornwall, contributor to The Washington Post points out, “That is loving well.” And each person’s love language is different. Which means, we must enter into relationships without assumption, but rather curiosity and willingness to get to know the person. And yes, this means it will take time.

The FIVE Love Languages

~summarized from Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages

1.Words of Affirmation

Defined as “using words to build up as a way to express love”, words of affirmation can be shared in a couple of different ways: verbal compliments or words of appreciation, words of encouragement or as Chapman reminds: encourage means “to inspire courage”, as well kind words said in a tone that is sincere not biting or sarcastic, and making requests rather than demands.

2. Quality Time

Defined as “giving someone your undivided attention”, there are actually a couple of ways to extend quality time to your loved one. First of all, our attention must be focused on our loved one, so we must not only be in proximity with them, but actually be engaged with them. Ways to share quality time could be participating in an activity in which both participants want to engage in and doing so together. Similarly, quality conversation which is “sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts and feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context.”

3. Receiving Gifts

Defined as precisely what it sounds, “giving a gift you can hold in your hand and say, ‘Look, he/she was thinking of me,’ or ‘She/He remembered me’.” However, the gift of one’s presence also falls into this category. The key is to communicate with your loved one and determine what they need, what will make them feel loved.

4. Acts of Service

Defined as “doing things you know your spouse would like you to do”, the list will different for each individual and this is why taking the time to truly get to know someone, being observant and listening to their needs is crucial.

5. Physical Touch 

Expressing love through physical touch may sound obvious, but as Chapman points out there are two types of physical touch: explicit love and implicit love. Explicit love requires more time than implicit love, but neither is more powerful depending upon your partner’s love language. Our entire body is has “touch receptors”, but your loved one has a unique map of what communicates your affection to them. Take the time to find out.

In a nutshell, the above Love Languages, but as you can see, as Chapman defines, within each are different dialects. The key is taking the time to communicate, listen fully and invest in your relationship if indeed you answer yes to the above questions.

One thought I want to leave with you that I quickly highlighted in Chapman’s book is a simple reminder about how we truly are the navigators of our ship when it comes to whether or not we want to be in a relationship and who we choose (should they also choose) to be in a relationship with, “Love is a choice and it cannot be coerced.”

Back to the idea of “in love” versus real love. Feeling “in love” is not a bad thing. It is a wonderful time and amazing experiences and moments emerge that will not soon be forgotten. The key is to understand what this feeling is and not become blind to the truth of who the person is and why we are feeling the way we are feeling. So what is real love, you may be wondering? Chapman explains it this way:

“It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth. Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.” 

In other words, real love is a choice. Not only do we expend energy to live the life of our dreams, but we choose to expend energy to benefit the one we are in a relationship with. An equal partnership where both people feel loved, secure and valued.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES on Love that you might enjoy:

~What Love Is . . . 

~The Prerequisite for a Healthy Relationship

~Why Not . . . Make Someone Feel Special?

~7 Components of Strong, Healthy Relationships (podcast)

~View all of TSLL archived posts on Relationships here.

~Did you know that all of the books recommended here on TSLL over the past six years are available here? Books on love, the French culture, happiness, cooking and much more. Enjoy perusing!

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5 thoughts on “Romantic Love: What is it and How to Maintain it

  1. I recognize so much truth in this post from my own experiences! I can attest that the “feeling in love” stage of my relationship lasted just under two years. Around that time, we started to talk through how to best meet one another’s emotional needs. We haven’t mastered each other’s love languages yet, but the communication is there, and we just got engaged in December.

  2. Thank you very much for these great thoughts! With Valentine’s day around the corner, it’s nice to think further then just menus and gifts 🙂 Valentine’s Day can be a very commercial celebration, but it can also be a great way to stop and give our relationship the time and attention it disturbs and to celebrate it once a year, at least 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day !
    xo
    Claire

  3. Just started listening to your podcast, but been following your blog for many years. This made me really think about my relationship and how to communicate better with my life partner. Thank you

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