So, a book that has proven very useful for me in understanding dating and relationship dynamics (especially as aspie person) is the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's useful to read but if you do so please be aware that it is a little laden with God stuff, as the author is I think a like, Christian marriage counselor person, but regardless he suggests a model I find really helpful and I'd like to summarize here and then blog a little about my relationship with the content. The 5 love languages basically suggests that love and affection can be expressed in a variety of different ways, and one of the keys to a healthy relationship is figuring out how your partner best experiences love and demonstrating it that way. I've also personally applied this a step further and suggest that figuring out how your partner is attempting to express love, even if it's not your primary love language, can be a useful part of relationship stability as well.
The love languages, as I refer to and think of them
- Acts of Service: Doing kind things for another person- such as ironing their shirt for work, or helping with housework, or making dinner. Some ways I express affection this way is cooking for somebody, or helping them with tasks.
- Quality Time: Spending quality time doing shared activities with one another. To me, this means shared focus on some task- either working on creating something with one another, or enjoying a shared sensory experience etc.
- Physical Affection: Touch, massage, and general physical closeness. My way of expressing this is often simply reaching out and touching my partners leg while we're sitting together, or cuddles!
- Meaningful Gifts: Here, value is measured in sentiment, not in price. One way I express affection in this way is if I see small items that I just know my partner will love, like a tee shirt or a type of cookie or whatever, bringing it to them. To me it's a sign of, like, "I was just out and this thing reminded me of you."
- Words of Affection: Communication, either through conversation or text or letters. I will never tire of hearing a partner tell me how they feel about me, and really enjoy physical letters.
I view the 5 love languages not just as a way of finding the best way to express affection, but a way of making sure you are expressing affection a variety of ways. It's like creating a balanced meal with salty, spicy, sweet, sour, and bitter taste elements: a relationship may prefer more of one or the other, but a well rounded presentation will be the most satisfying on the palate.
My Love Languages
I have a lot of trouble articulating what my primary love languages are. I have a tendency to do all of them, and see what my partner responds the best to, but still maintain a steady diet of multiple types of affection throughout a relationship.
I default to acts of service, but in some ways I wonder how much of that has been socialized to feel like I only have value if I'm doing something for another person. I know I love doing loving acts of care, but my main squeeze right now has some difficulty accepting too much help with projects, and finding other ways to express affection has been empowering for me. I have a lot of trouble accepting other people doing things for me, which, as I get older and my fibromyalgia days have gotten worse, I've needed to get more comfortable with, and I am deeply grateful to people for helping me with things.
I think quality time is intensely important to me in a partnership. It's possible this is the main way I experience love, since shared activities, or even working on different projects side by side, gives me enormous amounts of motivation and helps me feel close with a partner.
I am a highly sexual person and love touch as well as other forms of physical affection. It's hard for me to tell what of this is the touch specifically, or the kind of shared attention nature of it. The fact that I'm able to maintain long distance relationships suggests to me this is not my primary form of experiencing love.
I do know gifts go a long way with me, if they are meaning-laden. I am delighted when a partner brings home gluten free cookies, or draws me a little doodle, or writes me a letter. I think I'm a reasonably thoughtful gift giver, and I do like giving people little things I've found or made for them. I think about people I like a lot and this is one way of me avoiding being all up in their shit all the time- if I know they're busy and I want to spend time with them, I will instead work on a project for them because it's like spending time with the thought of them.
I am not sure I would function in a relationship lacking words of affirmation. I'm not sure this is so much a function of it being a love language for me, or me being kind of an insecure person who has some trouble trusting that things are good and thoughtful or calming words helping me a great deal with my anxiety.