Learning to Speak Another Love Language
Understanding our native language makes it easier to speak to the needs of another's desires
The only word I learned in my high school Spanish class was baño. My teacher rolled her eyes when my hand went up and responded, "¿otra vez?".
Yes, it was an emergency.
I needed to escape that class. I didn’t understand the purpose when everyone spoke English. At least, that’s what I told myself and my parents when my less than surprising C+ grade arrived.
I was naive and sheltered. And years later, when I found myself working with people who only spoke Spanish, I realized my immature assumptions were totally wrong.
Now, I was the one speaking a foreign language.
With no Maestra, I had to learn a new way to communicate. Though my peers tried to teach me, I struggled to grasp the subtle nuances. And wound up repeatedly offending females with the wrong gender noun.
But my fumbling made them laugh and resonated with their difficulty learning to speak English. This formed a connection that broke down the language barrier. Becoming the foundation of our relationship.
It was a lesson teaching me there is a whole different language beyond the spoken word.
I also found it’s true what they say, the older you get, the more difficult it is to learn a new language.
Understanding our different languages of love
You’ve probably heard of The 5 Love Languages, a book by Gary Chapman written over 25 years ago. It empowers people to understand the different languages of love to strengthen their relationships.
Through words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and quality time, we all have a primary language for giving and receiving love.
Chapman helps us understand the different ways of expressing emotions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. And how our relationships develop stronger when we learn our individual language, as well as our partners.
Typically developed in early childhood through past connections, family relationships, and experiences. This personal style gets instilled in who we are and determines how we fall in and out of love.
Words lost in the tone of translation
Just as our native dialect gets ingrained in our programming, our love language becomes an automatic default setting. It becomes a part of who we are, and we aren’t always aware of how it limits our communication and relationships with others.
For me, words of affirmation are my primary language. I grew up sensitive to criticism from loved ones. Harsh tones were the sound of my dreams being shattered. I learned to fear the rejection of a partner’s disapproving words. And became driven by an emotional response, shutting down to protect the vulnerable parts of my identity.
However, my boyfriend is much more pragmatic. He analyzes and assesses every situation to find the most reasonable solution. Usually, directed in a curt, matter-of-fact type of tone. And for a sensitive soul like myself, is one that stings like the rejection of the past.
The more practical he was, the more I pulled away. I felt misunderstood, hurt, and rejected. Making it impossible to embrace him with a warm, gentle demeanor. Without knowing, now I was the one neglecting his primary needs of physical touch.
Entangled emotions become barriers to connection
Our language barrier grew out of a misinterpretation of the other's style. Sure, we had previous relationships with those from different backgrounds and desires. But our signals felt completely foreign to each other.
At times, it felt we would never figure out how to speak to each other.
When you grow up speaking English, you don’t think about why you use certain words, phrases, or slang. Even as a fluent speaker, you don’t fully understand the reasoning behind it. And to teach someone else, you have to go back and understand the meaning behind the words inherent in your history.
The same is true with love. Your language is embedded so deep in who you are, over time, you forget how you learned to speak a certain way.
Learning the linguistics of love
Since we had no formal translator, we first had to understand our individual language to find out how to communicate with each other.
Together we had to break down the root causes. And to dissect the different rhythms, patterns, and origins of our personal beliefs.
I looked back at my misuse of gender nouns when speaking Spanish. It became my guidance to explain how an innocent gesture could feel so offensive and hurtful.
Though neither of us is a fluent speaker of the other’s language, the connection comes from breaking down barriers standing in our way. Being open to making mistakes and fumbling over subtle cues create the foundation to build our relationship without misinterpretation.
Discovering our own dialect of desires
The same lessons learning to speak Spanish taught me, help navigate the complicated communication that comes with opening up about desires for love.
There are many ways to connect when the words don't always make sense.
To be patient with another, not taking misunderstandings as bad intentions.
To listen beyond the words and tone of what the other is saying, even when the conversation is difficult.
It’s not always an elegant flow or seamless interaction of two native speakers, but together we find connection through the shared struggle of learning a new language.
Like I said before, it gets harder and harder as you get more set in your ways.
But with the effort to learn and understand one another, it becomes easier to speak to the needs of the other person's desires.