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Marriage Problems: Non-reciprocal Love

Many fiction works and films are built on the same plot: the heroes love each other but cannot show it. Based on misunderstanding, many stories unfold: sometimes funny, sometimes sad and tragic. Often, a couple’s life is full of misunderstandings and difficulties in developing a meaningful dialogue. Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Languages of Love. How to Express Love to Your Companion, believes that people speak different languages with their partners.

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He identifies five ways in which individuals express their love and calls them languages. The language a person speaks depends on a number of factors: upbringing, parental family model, and character traits. People tend to “inherit” the language of love, grow accustomed to express themselves in it and expecting the same understandable love formulas in return. There are often situations when partners follow entirely different codes. Chapman puts it this way: “Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand how to love each other “(p. 6). People can completely differ in expressions of attention and love.

For some, the actual manifestation of love is constant care and help; for others it can be signs of attention in the form of surprises, gifts, and flowers. To some, all this seems unnecessary if the partner is never around. It is useless to declare love to someone in one language if an interlocutor speaks another. Everyone has their own understanding of how they want to be treated. This is a kind of native language that does not always coincide with the partner’s mother tongue.

Description of the Language of Time

Chapman singles out the language of time as one of the languages of love. For someone who speaks it, the main value is to spend time with their partner. When people pay attention to each other, and not just being close, they can talk, focusing on the other person, and not create the illusion of spending time together.

Sometimes learning to listen is almost as difficult as learning a foreign language. Chapman proposes not to advise but to sympathize, try to understand rather than offer a solution, ask more questions, and focus on the person. Spending time with someone means giving them full attention. It is necessary to learn not to interrupt: instead, it is preferable to observe a partner, their facial expressions, intonations, and gestures, which will help feel and understand them better.

It is also worth making an effort and sharing the partner’s hobbies. When partners do something together, shared memories emerge and, in turn, can become an infinite source of delight. Chapman argues that a critical aspect of quality time is closeness, which is defined by focused attention. Quality implies that people are doing something together and giving our attention to another person. The emotional importance of this is that partners are entirely focused on each other during this time, and actions give a sense of intimacy.

Like all languages, the language of time has many dialects. One of them is a quality conversation, that is, a quality dialogue, during which two people share their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and desires in a friendly way and without interrupting each other. For most people who complain about their partner, not talking to them does not mean they literally do not speak a word. This means they rarely engage in a sympathetic dialogue: a good conversation means focusing on what one hears (and not on what one is talking about). Frankness is another essential condition, and one of the tips on the way to achieve it is to pay attention to how one feels outside the home. That is, it is an introspective method of teaching the dialect of candor. This technique helps let go of the awkwardness after a few days of practice and learn how to feel comfortable discussing one’s emotions about anything.

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Time is the most valuable resource. Therefore, if an individual sacrifices their time for a person’s sake and is ready to take a break from everything for a couple of hours to be around, they really love them. This is how the one who speaks the language of time thinks. Moreover, only the time is considered when a person is concentrated exclusively on a partner. Thus, watching TV together, as Chapman argues, does not count. Walking together, dinner without a TV in the background, notifications on the phone, and other things that distract – that is what a person who speaks the language of time needs.


Chapman distinguishes the concepts of falling in love and love. Falling in love is a temporary emotional outburst that unexpectedly comes into life and also unexpectedly leaves it. Love is a choice, an act of will that recognizes the need for growth and requires discipline. A person tries for another person, and if they succeed, then they are glad they really love. Conscious choice is contrasted with the euphoria of falling in love. It is possible to love each other even after the feelings are gone. The question is to make the right choice in favor of love and respect for the partner’s interests. In this case, the main point is to speak with one’s companion in their language.

It is important to understand when and why a person feel loved. If they find it difficult to answer, it is possible to go from the opposite asking what is most lacking in a relationship. If criticism and condemnation of the beloved hurt the most, then the language is words of encouragement. If the lack of flowers at home and rare surprises upset, the language is gifts. If it hurts that the companion is always at work and partners spend little time together, time. Another way to understand one’s love language is to think about how a person expresses love and what they do in a relationship: they probably would like to get the same answer in return.

Love languages apply to children too: to be a good parent, one should practice communicating with children in every language. The most important language is the language of approval. When teaching children, people often tend to criticize their failures. Overdoing it can have devastating consequences in their adult life. For the language of quality time, one needs to discover their interests and learn more about the child. It is worth making it a priority to spend at least a few minutes of quality time with the children every day. It is more difficult with the language of gifts: gifts, if too many, can lose their meaning and instill in the child a false set of values. However, gifts that parents give from time to time accompanied by words of encouragement, such as: “I love you and therefore I have a special gift for you,” can help satisfy a child’s need for love.

Although it manifests itself frequently in parenting, the language of the acts of service is not always supported by a suitable accompaniment. Every time a parent does something meaningful for their child, it is necessary to say that they are doing it because they love their child. Moreover, physical touch is crucial: hugs, kisses, and appropriate touching are essential for the emotional vessel of the child. It is necessary to consider the age, temperament, and love language of each child and find an individual approach to each of them in this area. As they grow older, parents will need to be very sensitive about the situation and maintain a consistent habit of touching for support.

It is crucial to try seeing the world through the eyes of another person in any relationship. All people have different needs, and that is normal. Sometimes, in order to save a relationship, it is enough to understand in time what is important for a partner, and not just for the individual. Besides, marriage is a big and laborious job: if suddenly it seems that love is gone, a divorce should not be the first conclusion, it is better to start working on oneself and the relationship. Expressing love to an unloved spouse, although difficult, is possible. The converse is also true: the ability to love, especially when your spouse does not love you, may seem impossible for some people. Such love may require the involvement of all of our spiritual resources. However, there are always ways to improve and reinvigorate love and mutual understanding in marriage.


Chapman, G. D. (2004). The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Northfield Pub.

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