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How analysing my parents’ love languages completely changed my relationship with them.

When you and a loved one have very different communication styles and express and receive love differently, it can make things rather tricky. 

I should know from experience.

But I haven't found this difficulty in romantic relationships. Nope, I've experienced it with my parents.

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According to The 5 Love Languages by marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, there are very different principles of communicating love, whether it be platonic or romantic.

As devised by Chapman, the five different love languages are: 

1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Quality time
4. Gifts
5. Physical touch

Most people are a mix of all five, but usually have one or two primary love languages. 

Although you definitely don't need to speak the same love language in order to have a successful relationship or friendship, it can be challenging. Especially when you don't even have an understanding of what one another's communication style is and how best to navigate that.

So here's a bit of background on my situation. 

I'm an only child. Mum and dad divorced when I was 12.

Image: Supplied. Something that contributed to their divorce, from my perspective, was the fact their love languages were completely different and they struggled to get past their differences. But of course, the demise of their relationship can't just be blamed on their opposing love languages. Marriage is far more complicated than that.

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Dad's an executive chef who loves to cook (obviously) and he shows his love through that, and any other acts of service as well as gift giving. He isn’t one for words or physical affection. 

My mum on the other hand, is someone who is very affectionate and expresses her love verbally, meaning her love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation.

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So how do I come into this picture?

Well, my love languages are very similar to my mother's. And from that perspective, I've always seen my dad as someone who is pretty emotionally constipated. He doesn't respond well to emotion. He often gets uncomfortable. And that doesn’t exactly do wonders for bonding. 

For quite some time, there's not only been physical distance between us, but also emotional distance too. And for personal reasons, it's been a rather rocky relationship. 

Now that I'm an adult, I've had to ask myself: Should it really just be up to my dad to fix the fracture between us? 

So, while I was in a particularly utopian mood, I decided to see whether getting to know one another's love languages and putting them into practice could mend our father/daughter 'friendship' if you will.

Putting this to the test proved difficult initially. You see, my dad actually lives interstate due to work. 

And given I'm someone who craves a hug and words of affirmation, trying to gain this remotely is complex. Simply put, trying to improve or nurture a relationship (platonic or romantic) when there's a s**t load of distance has its challenges - something many would be well accustomed to in the age of the pandemic.

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First and foremost, I sent my dad a text with the love languages quiz - even though I already knew what the order of his results would be. And I was spot on: 

1. Acts of service. 

2. Gifts.

3. Quality time.

4. Physical touch.

5. Words of affirmation.

So, with the confirmation, I then let him know what mine were. And for the next month, I tried my best to do things he would appreciate based on his quiz results.

And it worked.

I sent him a football jersey from his favourite team and a second-hand copy of a chef's autobiography I thought he might like (despite postage costing an arm and a leg). Later on, I found an artisan food shop in his local area selling chocolates online so I bought him some of those too. 

Acts of service was a little more difficult to put into practice. I organised some paperwork for him that needed doing. I also researched potential flights, accommodation and the relevant border restrictions so we could catch up in the near future.  

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Last but not least, I decided to FaceTime dad rather than a usual phone call, as it felt more personal and the conversation lasted longer: hopefully ticking the box of quality time.

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And by the end of the month, I really did feel closer to my dad. 

I also think he cottoned on and tried to do the same for me. He began putting in the effort more, calling more regularly and saying he was proud of me. It may not sound like much, but to me, it meant the world.

So has analysing my mum and dad’s love languages changed my relationship with them forever? I really think so. 

It's not only made me re-evaluate my parent's former marriage, but that sometimes our differences aren't the be all and end all. Rather, if we make the effort to understand our loved ones a little bit more, great things can come from that effort.   

Of course this doesn't now mean everything will always be peachy between dad and I. Life isn't like that. 

But there's far more optimism and hope now. And that's something to celebrate.

Image: Getty.

Feature Image: Supplied/Getty.

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