Mo & Phindi: learn your partner’s love language

Relationship strategists Mo & Phindi take a look at when one partner is more affectionate than the other and the frustrations this can cause.

Partners who do not usually show affection in their relationships tend to view the world from a logical and often impersonal perspective. Not surprisingly, their behaviour can be very frustrating for their caring, warm, and more sensitive partner to understand.

Sindi’s biggest frustration with her husband of two years is that not only is he the silent type, he is also unaffectionate and distant. She loves him to the moon and back, but doesn’t feel her love is reciprocated.

“I find myself admiring other couples holding hands in malls or at church a lot,” she says. “I can’t even remember the last time he told me he loves me or how beautiful I am.”

It can be quite tricky determining the meaning of affectionate displays a partner may leave out like holding hands and kissing in public.

But, once you understand him and how he communicates love and affection, you may appreciate him a lot more. The only issue that will remain is whether or not you can live with the way he communicates love, as opposed to how you want to be loved, for the rest of your lives together.

The essence of love in a relationship is that everyone deserves to be loved the way they desire to be loved. And this is the challenge we come across quite often with lots of couples.

Individuals in a relationship often express love the way they themselves want to be loved, but not how their partner wants to be loved.

For example, a partner whose love language it is to receive gifts and surprises often expresses love in that manner to his or hertheir partner, even if that’s not the partner’s love language.

Like Sindi, you may find that when you talk to your husband about his unaffectionate behaviour, he doesn’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. Because, in his eyes, he’s doing his best to show you he loves you.

Hence we always ask couples, especially women, without disregarding how they want to be loved, is there anything he’s doing to show you his affection?

Partners, mainly men, who usually don’t show affection often, will make up for this emotional void by showing their love through other gestures, like being handy around the house, or ensuring he’s always there for you in some way or other, or being protective of you, or ensuring you are taken care of with most of your material needs, or seeking to give you words of encouragement. Think objectively about how he shows you his love. There must be a way.

He may have communication challenges, but we are often quite positive that he has feelings of love and affection for you. He may just be showing them in ways you’re not familiar with. Stoic and pragmatic men have feelings too, they just show them in different, and perhaps more simplistic, ways. The trick is to recognise and appreciate these moments along with their meaning whenever they happen. This sets a good basis for conversation.

Lots of guys find it hard to get openly emotional and vulnerable with their women, and it comes out physically. Some simply aren’t socialised to publicly show affection, and as a result they really don’t know how to.

Often and generally, he’s worried about what other people think. Remember, men are “pack animals” and they often worry about what the rest of the pack is going to think if they, you know, get all mushy and goo-goo-eyed in public. Or even in private sometimes! Sounds stupid, we know.

However, many women tend to settle for second best in their relationships, for a variety of reasons, and not make demands for how they wish to be loved. They will proceed with an unaffectionate man from dating to marriage in hopes that he will change or that they can handle it.

It’s like leasing a car that keeps stalling half the time, but still trying to negotiate a deal to own it for life hoping that it won’t give you problems. Why?

You might understand the concept of “actions speak louder than words”, but until you start living your life by that rule and making sure there are consequences for his sheer coldness towards you, you may be hurtling towards a lifetime of unhappiness.

You have to understand each other’s love languages. It’s critical. He has to appreciate that you want not only to be loved in the way he shows love, but you want to feel loved the way you want to be loved. If one has to be in a relationship, then this ought to be a common standard for anyone to live a fulfilling life. If physical touch and verbal expression of love are the most dominant ways through which you wish to receive love, then he needs to know this.

Women tend to have a better pulse on the relationship, and men often don’t do something about it until they realise there’s a real problem. Take the initiative to ask him about his thoughts and feelings. His reluctance to show physical affection could be due to negative past experiences, or simply a lack of knowledge on how to express himself affectionately. The more you can learn about where he is coming from, the better you will be able to work together towards a solution that meets both of your needs.

  • Mo & Phindi are relationship strategists, radio contributors and co-authors of the book: Love Isn’t For Cowards

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