I was really shocked when Mark told me that my criticism felt like a knife in his heart! For a split second I thought he was being melodramatic, but as I looked into his face I realised he was deadly serious.
We pressed pause and talked about what was going on.
Mark explained that he felt really hurt by my critical words. Of course I quickly apologised, I had never meant to cause pain. My intentions were to help. How can a motivation for good turn so bad?
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and my communication can easily slip into ‘improving’ or ‘fixing’ Mark (although not exclusively so, I can ‘improve’ family members and co-workers too!) My intentions are good, but we realised that since Mark’s top Love Language is words, it drains his ‘love tank’ VERY quickly when my words come across as critical and he feels unloved and hurt.
Imagine we have an inner emotional ‘love tank’ and how full or empty the tank is represents how loved we feel. When the tank is full we are flourishing and our relationships are close, the reverse is also true, when love tanks are empty we can feel frustrated, low and distant.
All of us have the power to fill — and drain — one another’s love tanks and so it’s vital for a relationship to thrive to show love in ways that keeps your partner’s love tank topped up. We explored this theme in our blog ‘How full is your love tank?’’ which looked at the 5 Love Languages as a great way of ensuring we express love in ways that our partner can understand and receive it.
The 5 Love languages can also help us understand what drains our partner’s love tanks.
1. Words of affirmation
Criticism for the partner whose love language is words of affirmation may well feel like a “knife in the heart”. It’s not that you can never say anything negative to a words-person, it’s just really important to choose words carefully and it’s worth telling them upfront how much you love them. Find ways of affirming, encouraging and showing your appreciation to show them your love.
2. Quality time
How do you feel when your partner responds immediately to the ping of their phone? Allowing interruptions like texting in the middle of a conversation will really annoy someone for whom quality time is important, they probably also feel quite rejected. This partner needs your undivided attention.
3. Physical touch
Holding back from physical affection will drain the love tank of a partner who needs your touch. If you pull away when they’re trying to kiss you, beware that they will feel unloved, even if you’re juggling ten different things at the time. Make sure you hug, kiss and cuddle your partner regularly to ensure they feel loved.
4. Acts of service
There’s a saying: “actions speak louder than words” and never more so for a partner who needs your physical help and support to feel loved. If you say you’re going to do the shopping, or clean the bathroom, or tackle an ironing mountain and don’t do what you said, you are pulling the plug on the love tank! Doing chores and lifting this partner’s physical burdens speaks love to him or her.
5. Thoughtful gifts
A partner who feels loved through gifts — bought, found or made — will feel unloved if you discard or don’t value their gift.
If you want to make sure you don’t drain your partner’s love tank and leave them feeling unloved, make sure you know the opposite of their Love Language and try not to do it. I’m learning to think more carefully before I speak so I don’t hurt Mark. I also make a conscious effort to say affirming things and show appreciation for my wonderful husband, whom I love very much.
Toucan Together’s Loving Module gets beyond the cliches about love. Learn to speak each other’s Love Languages ®; explore how your experiences growing up influence the ways you give and receive love; and understand any barriers you may have. Part 2 helps create a conversation around intimacy, romance and passion to help you grow a thriving sex life. GET STARTED NOW | LOG IN