Last week, I had the most honest conversation I’ve ever had with my partner about our relationship.
The catalyst? An online quiz that took all of two minutes.
(And no, it wasn’t ‘How much do you really love Garlic Bread’ although arguably it would have been equally enlightening).
It was the Five Love Languages quiz and it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done for my relationship.
An Oprah-approved theory successful couples have sworn by for years, the online quiz is based on a bestselling book of the same name. I'd been aware of it for a while, but it wasn't until a friend was recently waxing lyrical about how helpful the free quiz had been for her relationship that I decided to take the plunge and do it.
The premise is simple. We all communicate our love in different ways, which author Gary Chapman distills into five main languages - words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.
The 5 Love Languages official assessment asks a series of A or B answer questions to rank which language is your most dominant. They're simple, straightforward and take just a few minutes. The answers are then emailed and explained to you.
My results showed that the most important ways of showing love to me are quality time, tied with words of affirmation, followed by physical touch, acts of service and then gifts.
Listen: The Well gets deep on all things love. Post continues after audio.
I didn't really learn anything new by doing the quiz - I've always been someone who needs to be regularly told/reminded that I'm loved - but seeing it in front of me validated that I wasn't being needy or overly emotional; it was my language. Everything just made a bit more sense.
On a whim, I texted my partner asking if he'd take the quiz. Surprisingly, he agreed and within 10 minutes we were swapping our results, with the promise we'd speak about it properly that night.
Looking at his, it was like a lightbulb pinged above my head.
Interestingly, we had a lot more in common than I had expected given how different our personalities are. We both valued quality time top and gifts last. But it was our second languages that were most conflicting. As with a lot of couples, while I was all about words being most important, for him it was actions.
Suddenly all our seemingly pointless, frustrating and reoccuring problems and arguments made sense. Why I got upset when he wasn't always telling me he loves me, while he seemed indifferent when I did. Why for him doing practical, everyday things for me were a big gesture, when to me they just seemed ordinary.
We were expressing our love for each other the way we wanted to receive it, rather than the way the other actually wanted to receive it.
That night, we sat over wine and dinner and talked. Really talked. Having the results in black and white in front of us, with a shared language and terms to communicate how we were feeling meant we were finally able to express to each other things we'd never been able to explain in a way that both of us understood before.
For the first time in a while, we were on the same page. We finally understood how we'd been frustrating or upsetting the other and were able to work out little ways we could ensure we were meeting the needs of the other as well as our own.
It's a small and simple discussion that can make the world of difference.
"We all give and receive love differently. We often give love in the way that we want to receive it - but that isn’t always the way our partner understands," relationship coach and sexologist Isiah McKimmie tells Mamamia.
"If we’re not giving love to our partner in a way they understand, if can make them feel unloved and cause tension and distance in the relationship."
The 5 Love Language theory/quiz is highly recommended by experts.
"When you understand the ways your partner is trying to show love - you notice more of them - and feel more connected. It can make a big difference to relationships," she says.
Listen: How to break the cycle of bad relationships. Post continues after audio.
I've since recommended it to anyone who will listen - and discovered it's the relationship secret plenty of people have sworn by for years.
Josie* found out about the quiz through her psychologist.
"I was wondering why my partner and I kept fighting about really stupid stuff and I didn't feel like he was pulling his weight and at the same time he kept asking why I never said 'I love you' or if I still found him attractive constantly," she says.
"We were just on a different level and kept clashing."
The quiz showed them their love languages were different. He was all about words, whereas she needed actions.
"Now we really make a big effort to do something every day. So I'll say a compliment in the mornings before we go to work - even though I feel really awkward doing it - and he's started doing things for me like tidying our room," she says.
"They're small but we both really appreciate them."
It's the same situation for Mary, who's first love language is gifts while her partner's is physical touch.
"We both make extra effort to make sure we do those things e.g. he now buys me little gifts every now and again, I make sure I just go up and hug him," she says.
Alison says the quiz helped her really understand the differences in the way her and her partner demonstrate their love - and realise neither is more valid than the other.
"I think it was more for me than anything; it helped me understand how him doing the dishes before I get home from work is the equivalent of me giving him a big cuddle when I walk through the door. Same, same, but different," she says.
"I think I now just stress less about me wanting more physical touch than him. I understand that it's not a personal thing about me, it's just differences in how we show that we love and care about each other.
"I doubt he even remembers doing the quiz - but it's been really good for my peace of mind."
Rachel's* partner also asked her to take the quiz and it's benefitted both of them.
"After an argument, my partner Jane wants to hug and be affectionate and she couldn't understand why I can't do that. Now she understands it's not my first language of love," she says.
"I’ve learnt that she needs reassurance and physical touch when she’s upset so I’ve learnt to soften and give her what she needs."
McKimmie says this is a great way to action your love languages once you've identified them.
"Try to bring in small things each day that help the feel loved. For example - if their love language is words of affirmation, tell them at least one thing everyday that you appreciate about them. If their love language is time, try to build in a small amount of time everyday and try to have date night once a week," she says.
"Small actions can make a really big difference. The beautiful thing about doing loving things towards our partner is that it actually makes us feel good too, as we’re wired to be altruistic."
Not sure how to bring it up with your partner? McKimmie says to start with the positives.
"This can help stop them feeling like we’re being critical - or that we’re saying something is wrong - which we usually get a defensive response to," she says.
That said, even taking the quiz alone can make a big difference to a relationship.
"Even if our partner doesn’t do the quiz with us, it’s likely that we can start to guess their love language and how it might be the same or different to ours," she says.
"This allows us to show our partner love in ways they understand and also to notice when our partner is trying to show us love."
The 5 Love Languages, whether in book or quiz form, is certainly not the magical solution and it won't make all your relationship problems go away.
But if you're both willing to make an effort and try to make change, it's a bloody good place to start.