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South Asian Couples: What Language Do You Speak?

April 27, 2011 · Leave a Comment

South Asians whether living in their country of origin or growing up abroad are often raised with the cultural value of providing care and doing things for others. The concept of seva or service is one that repeatedly arises throughout a South Asian’s life, emphasizing the importance of “the other”.

Girls even more so than boys are raised to believe that you show love and caring by doing and serving others. Although the message may be more skewed by gender, boys also may grow up being taught that providing money and financial support as well as doing the heavy lifting around the house, literally, is what makes for a strong and successful husband.

The assumption that comes with this cultural value is that all people appreciate and feel loved when others do for them. Unfortunately, especially in a marriage, this is not always the case as there are several different ways of showing love and how we like to be shown affection differs based on the individual.

Dr. Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor for more than 30 years, developed the Five Love Languages. These are the five most commonly used ways of expressing and interpreting love and affection.

Acts of Service

The love language that many South Asians, especially women, mistakenly assume is what their partner speaks is actually only one of five common languages. People who speak this language will do anything for you and show you they love you going out of their way to make your life easier. They feel loved when they you offer to take some responsibilities off of their shoulder and make them your own.

Words of Affirmation

People who speak this language relish constant, repeated and unsolicited verbal compliments and feelings. These are people who need to hear things such as “I love you” or “You are so strong” to feel loved and hold onto the sentiments behind those words for a long time.

Quality Time

South Asian individuals who rely on this language to communicate love and affection thrive on undivided attention and predictable time alone with their partner. This person is very sensitive to a shift in your attention if they are speaking or sharing something. To them, postponing a plan or having the TV on while they are talking makes them feel unloved.

Receiving Gifts

Beyond being superficial and materialistic, the people who speak this love language cherish the thought and sentiment behind procuring the gift or gesture. They will respect and appreciate the sacrifices and effort that you took to get the gift for them.

couple affectionPhysical Touch

This language is not just about sexual pleasure but this language is primarily about physical affection of all kind. These people like to hug, kiss and hold hands. They will reach out and touch your arm if you are feeling sad or jump in your arms to show their excitement. They feel loved when you extend yourself to be physically close with them as well.

According to Dr. Chapman’s research, we tend to be drawn to partners who have a different love language than our own. How many times have you heard the stereotypical situation of the woman asking her husband, “Why don’t you tell me you love me more?” and the husband responding, “Of course I love you. If I didn’t love you, would I have built that bookshelf for you?” This is a clear example of how two partners show and interpret love in entirely different ways.

Making assumptions about each other’s communication styles of love and affection often result in missing opportunities to appreciate your partner’s gestures. Constant lack of appreciation will make your partner feel resentful and this can create a negative cycle of communication in your marriage.

Similarly, if your partner does not know how you interpret loving gestures, they will act in accordance to their own communication style, which will not necessary translate to you feeling loved. Once again, miscommunication arises and can be the foundation to built up contempt and arguments.

Talking to each other about what each of you need to feel appreciated and cared for can be a very positive conversation to help build and strengthen your relationship. You will start to see a cycle of appreciation which will lead to even more expressions of appreciation and love.

What is your love language? We would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below.

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