This time of year sometimes feels the hardest. It’s the coldest time of year (if you live in a cold climate) and it can be a lonely time of year for many as well. But before your heart freezes over, let me offer you some validation:

The cupid’s holiday puts a lot of pressure on everyone to feel some sort of perfect-blissful-movie-worthy romantic love. It’s a lot to live up to. So if you’re feeling down, you’re not alone.

The pandemic has not helped. A lot of my clients are telling me being stuck at home with their spouses, spending time home-schooling, and worrying about finances to boot, has put a strain on their relationship. Parenting is hard enough, how do we also find the time to nurture our relationship on top of it all?

As scary as it is, it is normal to occasionally feel a bit *blah* with regards to your romantic life. If that’s the case for you, fret no more. I know I usually talk about parenting, but today I want to talk about your romantic relationship instead. After all, your romantic relationship sets the tone for your kid’s future romantic relationships.

It’s true: tweens and teens observe how we interact with our partners. Patterns of communication often get carried on from generation to generation, and the treatment we give and receive lets our kids know what is and isn’t acceptable.

We want our tweens and teens to thrive and have a love they truly deserve. I want to start by ensuring you have a love that you enjoy and deserve too.

The 5 tips I am sharing in today’s post will go a long way in helping you and your partner communicate love more effectively, which will have long lasting benefits for your kids as they observe and eventually mirror your relationship patterns.

I have built a successful coaching practice helping couples improve their relationships. My years working as a couple and family therapist taught me many things, but nothing more important than the fact that no matter how much you love someone, if you can’t communicate it effectively, you may experience relationship struggles and disappointment.

I can’t tell you how many well-matched couples have sat in my office absolutely flabbergasted that they have ended up in therapy when, in their eyes, they have been working their butts off to show each other just how much they care for their partner. How can it be that two people, who love one another, and who are genuinely trying their best, have ended up on my couch?

It is typically believed that love is a universal feeling and if you simply have enough of it, you and your partner will be set for life. After all, how could you possibly love someone so much and them not realize it? (The exception being me in high school when my way of showing that I had a massive crush on someone was to avoid them at all costs…)

Back to the present day, so many couples have told me that after 5, 10, 15 years of marriage, they are still uncertain whether their partner really cares about them.

Sound familiar? How can this be?

One theory is that everyone uses a distinct language of communicating love and that language isn’t always the same as one’s partners. What this means is that if your way of communicating love doesn’t match your partners way, then an entire relationship can get lost in translation.

Author Gary Chapman published a bestselling book exploring this very concept. He suggests there are 5 distinct “languages” people “speak” in order to show their love, and that these 5 distinct languages also determine how we receive love (aka whether we feel and believe we truly are loved by our partner).

His theory is that relationship strife stems from couples who experience a mismatch in terms of the way one person communicates love and the way the other person receives that love.

In case you haven’t heard about this book yet, allow me to summarize.

Chapman’s 5 “Love Languages” are:

Physical touch (hugs, kisses, intimacy)
Words of Affirmation (compliments, verbal recognition)
Quality Time (spending enjoyable time together)
Acts of Service (doing things for your partner)
Giving Gifts (presents and tokens of affection)

Here’s an example of how the 5 Love Languages may play out:

Clare loves to shower her partner, Dave, with gifts. She assumes he knows how much she adores him because she is always showing up with something special to give him. She doesn’t compliment him much, it’s just not her style to be so vocal. Dave, however thrives when someone tells him how important he is. He needs that validation to understand what he means to someone.

Dave is always doing things for Clare. He changes the oil in her car, and does the laundry and dishes and a lot of the domestic work. He didn’t grow up in a touchy-feely home and so he shies away from displays of affection. However, Clare needs to receive hugs and kisses, and other types of touch from her partner to feel close and connected.

Dave and Clare are madly in love with each other. And both are sitting in front of their therapist saying how lonely and empty they feel, wondering when their partner stopped loving them.
I love the way Chapman puts it: They are pulling up to the gas station, and then letting the fuel spill all over the ground, leaving the gas tanks empty, and driving off expecting to last the journey.

Luckily, there is a quick fix. By learning how to speak the other’s love language, both Clare and Dave can get back on the same page and can stop feeling empty.

Of course not all couple’s issues can be solved so easily. However, if you are feeling the romance has died, maybe don’t be so quick to assume the love has dried up too. Perhaps all your relationship needs to be boosted is to find out what love language your partner speaks and to share what yours is.

There’s even a quiz you can take here.

Just so you know, we don’t receive anything by sharing that link. I simply want to offer you a new understanding of your partner in case it helps. Because what it could mean is that without doing anything differently in terms of parenting, you have already made a huge improvement in the chances of your child having a healthy and fulfilling romantic relationship in the future.

Sometimes what is best for you is best for your child too.

Before I go I want to remind anyone who is worried, that being a good parent doesn’t mean you have to be married or partnered up. The way we communicate with our exe’s, or our dates, or our co-parent, all matter just as much. Being a single parent definitely does not set your child up for unhealthy or unfulfilling relationships (so if you ever worry about that or have heard that rumour, please erase it from your brain immediately).

Being single can sometimes be the best choice as a parent if it means honouring your needs and what you deserve. Showing your child that strength lets them know that they too never need to settle simply in order to be in a relationship. Being happy and well treated is more important than being partnered, which is a lesson most teens ought to learn. Here’s a fact: too many tweens and teens fear being alone, more than they fear being in an unhappy relationship.

We need to change that statistic.

When we support all types of parents in having fulfilling and healthy relationships on their terms, then we are supporting our tweens and teens in having healthy and fulfilling relationships on their terms too.

[Stay tuned next week to learn all about how these 5 languages can be used to help you communicate more effectively and become closer with your tween or teen]