I wrote this in response to an online post which stated that learning a partner’s love language was never intended for you to feel obligated to fill their needs in that way. The person posting went on to say, “If you tell me your love language as a means of MAKING me do those things, that will just be an OBLIGATION and it will build up MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF RESENTMENT”.
So I began with…I agree that if someone feels obligated to do something, then they will likely feel resentful.
And I continued with…
And…It’s important to step up with providing LOVE in the way your partner RECEIVES it best when and IF you are able to.
If you choose NOT to, it’s like saying “My partner has a favourite healthy food they love, but I just tolerate it or I don’t really like it at all. So, here’s what I’m gonna do…I’m never going to make that food for them or give them a chance to eat it. We only go to restaurants that don’t have that food and since I buy the groceries, I only buy what I want to eat. I don’t want to feel obligated to give them that food.” Using this metaphor you can really see how clearly disconnecting, uncompassionate and hurtful that is. I mean, can they survive without having their favourite food? Sure. But keeping it from them, when it would be easy enough for you to give to them, is certainly going to build resentment, for THEM.
Knowing my partner’s top love languages does NOT place any obligation upon me. It’s just information. I can do with it whatever I want.
Sometimes we know our partner’s top love language and we TRULY are NOT capable of giving that to them; this amounts to a fundamental misalignment – and whether or not you can live with it will depend on the people involved. But most of the time, we absolutely ARE capable of it, however, maybe we don’t even consider it because it’s not something WE value or want for ourselves.
I have a couple I worked with and she has CPTSD and doesn’t like to be touched except in very specific circumstances and ways. For her, touching her partner isn’t something that comes naturally to her. She said “I tell him I love him all the time, and I do nice things for him and we go on dates, and I buy him little special gifts but he still doesn’t believe I love him. I don’t know what to do.” (This is a quote from her.)
For her partner, he became touch-starved and felt disconnected when she hadn’t initiated touch for weeks at a time. She had no idea. It simply wasn’t on her radar. Their connection was eroding and she didn’t know why. He accepted his partner’s trauma and didn’t expect her to touch him. Acceptance was present. But he was still deeply sad and felt unloved by her. Which contributed to her sadness and confusion and fear.
In our work together we found out his top love language was physical touch and that’s how he receives love best. He experienced all the other loving acts she did, but because she withheld affection, he couldn’t truly receive those acts as evidence of her love. His love language wasn’t being spoken in their home. He felt cut off from her because of it.
So she had a CHOICE, not an obligation. She could find ways to touch him that felt safe for her, and that helped him receive her love, or she could hold to her boundary and they probably would have continued down the road to dissolving their connection. Either one is fair and completely up to the individual.
In this case, she chose the door number one. She chose to find ways to do it that she felt okay with and eventually felt good about. In fact, her affection toward him eventually felt really healing for her too and as she said “expanded her horizons”. And now they are engaged. He felt loved and she felt her love was being received. Mission to connect achieved!
So yes, feeling obligated does lead to resentment. But we can also reframe employing someone’s love language as our CHOICE to remind ourselves that this is something we actually intrinsically WANT to do, because we LIKE showing up for someone we love in a way that is meaningful to them.
I always encourage my clients to come from a place of AUTHENTIC intimacy. To do so you really have to ground yourself in “What do I TRULY want?” Instead of following a script or a to-do list and feeling obligated and like you HAVE to, how about figuring out what the outcome is that you WANT and celebrating that you GET to? Do you WANT connection? If so, what is it your partner needs to feel connected to you? Are you able to provide that in a way you are comfortable with? If so, yay! You GET to show them love in a way they understand it! If not, are you compatible? These are the questions to ask.