Aug. 21, 2013 at 5:55 PM ET
Do you ever feel like your man doesn't really "get" you? He's good at cuddling with you on the couch, but what you'd really wish he'd do is compliment you more. Are you sure you know what he needs? Maybe you think you're showing him endless love by making his favorite dinner once week, but what he'd really prefer is you just listening to him talk about his day.
If it seems like you're speaking a different language lately, figuring out which "love language" you speak could take your relationship in a positive direction.
Gary Chapman, Ph.D., relationship counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages, developed this concept after recognizing that couples don't always know how to show each other love. He says that by learning your love languages, you can communicate how you feel more effectively -- sometimes you don't even need word. When you each know what makes you feel the most loved, you can get closer to each other and deepen your sexual intimacy, according to Chapman.
"Discuss what kind of things would be meaningful for you based on your dialect," says Chapman. "Put this on the front burner of your mind or on a Post-It note where you'll see it on a regular basis. Always choose to speak the other person's language." If offering love in any of these ways feels uncomfortable at first, Chapman says to keep practicing. "You can learn any of the languages and any relationship can be enhanced."
The first step is to figure out what your primary love language is and have your man identify his. Here are the five languages; see which one speaks to you:
Do you feel happiest when your partner compliments and encourages you? Do you find yourself wishing he would tell you your legs looked nice or that dinner was fantastic? Does your heart swell with happiness if he sends you a sweet text, just because? Then your primary love language is through sharing kind words with each other.
Get what you need: Ask him to offer you praise more often. Tell him that you need to hear positive feedback, says Chapman. You can even mention specific occasions. You can ask him to compliment your physical appearance or tell him how great you feel when he verbalizes his appreciation (and ask him to do that more often). How about asking for a sweet note or card from him every now and then?
Show him love: If he's the one that thrives on compliments, then don't hold back your praise -- to him it means you love him. "Make a point of offering positive feedback whenever you can. Look for something about him, whether it's physical, his personality, or something he's done for you. You can speak or write the words," according to Chapman. It takes little effort or time to send a text with an affirmation.
Has your man ever said, "I love you," and in your mind you think, "Then why don't you do the dishes?" If actions speak "I love you" louder than words, then you want him to show his love through what he does.
Get what you need: Tell your guy exactly what he needs to do to let you know he loves you. They don't have to be big actions, Chapman says. "It may be getting bugs off the windshield, vacuuming their car or cooking a meal." Ask for things that are the most important to you. Ask him to take on more chores or go to boring work events with you to show support. That's not too hard, right?
Show him love: Try to pay attention to what he needs and help out where you can without being asked. If he says in passing, "I have to remember to take that package to the post office," then do it for him. He'll know that you listened to him and took the time to do something for him simply because you love him.
At first this may seem shallow, but it really isn't. Many people feel deeply loved when someone offers them a gift. It shows that the person thought ahead and went to some effort. This is where "it's the thought that counts" comes into play, says Chapman.
Get what you need: "A gift doesn't need to be expensive; it can be picking a rose or wildflower," says Chapman. For those who speak this language, it's never the cost that counts, it's the gesture. Tell your partner how much little tokens means to you, that they are the ultimate symbol of demonstrating his love. And let him know that forgotten or thoughtless gifts on birthdays and anniversaries hit you hard -- he may not realize how much he's hurting your feelings.
Show him love: Chapman says to pay attention when your guy says he likes something -- for instance if he's passing a store window or flipping through a magazine. "Make a note of that. The gift says 'she was thinking about me' and that's a very thoughtful gesture."
You speak this language if you feel frustrated when your husband is distracted by the computer/phone/TV, but love it if he drops everything to spend time with you and put you first.
Get what you need: Tell your man how he can spend time with you. It can be simple: "Sit on the couch with the TV off and talk about your days with each other. Or work in the garden together. The main purpose is to be together, not the task," says Chapman.
Show him love: You may have to put your tasks on the back burner at times. If it's important for him to have breakfast together, get up 30 minutes earlier so you can be at the table with him.
In a world where casual sex is practically as prevalent as handshakes (well, maybe not quite…), physical touch may not seem like a genuine way to show love. But for some people a heartfelt hug, cuddle or, yes, sex, does equate to feeling loved. "It's an affirming touch; it can be a pat on the back, a hug, kiss or the sexual part of a relationship," explains Chapman.
Get what you need: What it is that you would like more of from you mate? Ask for it in a positive way. Say, "I love it when you give me a long hug at the end of the day" or "I feel special when you hold my hand in public." Tell him sometimes you just want to make out. (Who doesn't want to hear that?)
Show him love: Don't assume he's going to say "I want to have more sex," though he might. You need to have an open and honest discussion about what he needs. Maybe he likes to cuddle more than you thought or would like you to initiate sex sometimes.
Once you figure out your language, talk about what that means for both of you. Ask for what you want and encourage him to do the same. "Share what kind of things would be meaningful for you and offer examples," says Chapman. It will take conscientious effort, but practice makes perfect. "These languages will eventually become comfortable for you," says Chapman. And the effort will pay off.
Meg Hemphill is a regular iVillage contributor. Find her on Google+