In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I delve into the topic of why lack of awareness of our needs and what’s driving us causes misunderstandings in our interpersonal relationships. I share insights from finally reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I’d had various people mention the book to me over the years, but felt somewhat bemused by the theory. None of the love languages resonated as mine (a mystery that was finally solved by reading it). His theory offers another lens for us to consider our needs, including why we’ve sometimes felt neglected, abandoned or misunderstood. I also, though, address something that the book doesn’t: the need to be aware of our ‘why’ when our pursuit or desire for something overshadow everything else or has become a blind spot.

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Some nuggets from the episode:

  • Every single person on the planet has the same needs. We each have them to greater or lesser degrees depending on our past experiences, backstory, fears, desires, motivations, hopes and aspirations. Our needs are also based on our present circumstances: the quality of our interpersonal relationships and the way in which we’re living. There’s a context to why our needs may be a certain way at a particular point in time. It’s also about where we’re hoping to go in the future.
  • Some needs are driving us that feel like hidden forces, or even hidden destructive forces. These influence us to feel, think and behave in certain ways. We can recognise what’s driving us through the things that we keep on doing, our frustrations, and what we pursue. Understanding what drives us and what we perceive as “love” helps us to take better care of ourselves. It allows us to make better choices and to be conscious, aware and present within our relationships.
  • Each person feels and perceives love in different ways. Our emotional well-being reflects how well our needs are being met.

  • As humans, we tend to give what we feel like giving because…
    • It’s less vulnerable than getting to know that person’s actual needs that might require us to stretch ourselves.
    • We’re hinting at what we want to get back.
    • It’s what we’re used to doing even if we don’t always or even ever feel good doing so.
  • According to Gary, we each have a primary and secondary love language.
    • Quality time – He emphasises that this is not about spending time near each other. It’s about activities and conversations — focused time, undivided attention.
    • Acts of serviceDoing useful things. “People unwittingly slip into roles. They slip into habits of thinking, feeling and behaving, and they don’t realise how they’re falling into stereotypes and creating expectations based on that…. ‘I’m the one who does all of the things around the home and I expect my partner to provide’… ” And, yes, this can and does occur in same-sex relationships.
      Gendered roles cause us to do things not because we want to but because we think it’s expected of us. We feel obliged to play a role because it’s “how things are done” but then feel resentful.
  • Friction can arise because we might have needs that don’t fit within the stereotypes [we’re inadvertently pigeon-holing ourselves into].

  • Words of affirmation – Affirming that you appreciate and value that person with compliments, praise, admiration. Basically, encouragement.
  • Physical touch – Not just sex! Physical affection.
  • Receiving gifts – “Visible symbols of love”. And it’s not about the money! Although, actually, I think that for some people, it is.
  • “I’m more than happy to buy gifts [for my mom] but I don’t want to buy them in a race to please and impress.”
  • “When we acknowledge why a need is so prevalent in our life, it’s often because of a story we’re telling ourselves based on an experience from the past that has told us, ‘Well, you’re only a person of value if you get this.’ Or ‘It’s only love if you get this’ – and some of those things that we tell ourselves are quite simply not true.”

  • “Yes, it’s nice to receive gifts, but do we really want to burn down our relationship if we’re not receiving gifts all the time?”
  • When we can approach our relationships from the place of the autonomous give (as opposed to shamed, guilted, obliged), it takes a lot of the tension out of them.
  • It all comes down to empathy.
  • Sonder: the realisation that each random passerby has their own internal dialogue within that is as vivid and complex as our own.
  • Most friction in our relationships is caused by expecting others to be like us. “If it were me…” Empathy is about meeting people where they’re at. It’s essential for us to step outside of ourselves so that we can see and hear others clearly.
  • Each and every single one of us has our own specific language informed by our experiences, fears, desires, intentions, motivations, dreams, hopes and aspirations.

  • My husband has his way of communicating, I have mine, but what we’ve had to do is learn how to get to know each other.
  • Misunderstandings occur in relationships because each person thinks that the other person is speaking their language. Each relationship has its own specific language co-created by the two people in it as a result of them getting to know each other.

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