By Sarit Swisa – Clinical Psychologist

One of the key outcomes of a successful relationship intervention is increased empathyEmpathy is defined as the ability to share or understand the feelings of another. Of course, this is only successful where followed by action. For example, if someone understands the great comfort his/her partner receives from something as simple as making a cup of tea for him/her, then consciously bringing said partner a cup of tea every now and then shows that there is greater empathy and atonement in this relationship.

In his 30 years of working with couples, Dr Gary Chapman identified five ways in which people either tend to give love or feel loved and wrote a book describing this phenomenon. He understood that “love” is essentially something that everyone experiences differently and that healthy relationships are marked by the ability to communicate one’s own love needs as well as understand and act on the other’s needs.

Using these five love languages see if you can identify the languages that the people in your life (including yourself!)  use and respond to.

Verbal Affirmation: While we may know that we appreciate the things that people in our lives do and are, there is nothing quite like sharing the compliment with them. Words are powerful and have the strength to uplift or denigrate. Being generous with praise can go a long way to showing someone that you see their efforts and their intrinsic value.

Quality Time: Setting aside time just to be fully engaged with people you care about is an important indicator of love. It demonstrates the other’s importance to you in a life where time is limited and our choices highlight our priorities.

Receiving Gifts: This does not need to become an exorbitant exercise – the idea of choosing out a gift for someone lets them know that you were thinking of them when they weren’t around and have something symbolic to prove it. It is an act of generosity that reflects your willingness to share resources unselfishly with the people you love.

Acts of Service: These are things you do because you know it pleases the people in your life to have them done such as setting the table, doing the washing, cooking a meal and so on. It’s as simple as doing what you know will be helpful or pleasing to your partner or family members.

Physical Touch: Some people feel cared for through hugs, kisses or just physical closeness like sitting right next to their partner in a movie. For some of us this needs to be learned but if you recognize that your partner appreciates this, there are many ways you in which to show your love.

All of these languages apply not only to significant others but to families as a whole. Giving thought to what others might need from you and recognizing your own needs is an excellent start to communicating and creating greater awareness of each other and more fulfillment in all relationships.

If you are struggling to connect in your relationship, to give and/or receive love, or experiencing much conflict or dissatisfaction, then couple’s therapy can bring positive change for you. Please contact PsychMatters on 0114503576 or info@psychmatters.co.za to book a couple’s therapy process with Sarit or any of our other team members.

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