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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


How does our partner know we love him or her? What do we do that says "I love you?" In the popular book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, we are presented with five ways love is expressed. In order to remember the five love languages, I made a mnemonic: WRAPQ. The W stands for words of affirmation. This is when we affirm and acknowledge the things our partner does and is. R stands for receiving gifts. One of the ways love is expressed is by gift giving. A stands for acts of service. This language is expressed by doing helpful things together. P is for physical touch. This love is expressed by such action as holding hands or hugging. Q is quality time - when we spend time in talking and sharing ourselves.

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Each of us has a primary and a secondary language. We measure whether or not our partner loves us by our own love language. If our partner is not speaking our love language, we may believe that he or she doesn't love us. The truth may be that our partner is expressing love but it is according to his or her language but not ours. A vivid example of this mismatch came during a class I was holding on love languages. A man had spent a lot of time refinishing an antique piece of furniture for his wife. He did a beautiful job. When he presented it to her, she was furious. Why? Her love language was quality time and to her this piece of furniture symbolized so much time away from her. His love language was gift giving. This is what would make him happy but did not work for her. That is one of the problems in relationships. We express our love the way it would make us happy but we may not be speaking his or her language. The obvious lesson in this is to discover what each of us means by love.

Often we measure how good our relationship is working by unexpressed role and love expectations. These expectations often come out as criticisms or complaints such as "If he loved me, he would be expressing his love by the way I express it to him." If our partner's love language is acts of service, it may not occur to him to initiate quality time. He is not doing this because he doesn't love his partner. It may not be natural for him to think that way because he has a different definition for love.

It would be prudent for us to remember that for a relationship to be satisfying we can never assume that our partner knows what we need without our teaching him or her. We have to be good relationship teachers.

Dr. Austin has decades of experience dealing with relationships. He charges clients on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay. His first book, Creating Our Safe Place: Articles on Healthy Relationships, was published in 2004. His second book, Keeping It Safe, was published in 2009 and can be purchased through,, and at the Parrish Book Store in Virginia Beach.  He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and seminars.

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