Knowing how to help your partner relax can take time and practice. Should you rub their shoulders? Listen to them vent? Bring home a carton of their favorite ice cream? While any of these gestures could work, relationship experts believe learning your partner’s love language is a sure-fire way to help them de-stress. But what are love languages, anyway? There are five love languages—physical affection, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service—and they can help us distinguish the different ways we give and receive love.
“They’re important because they help us communicate what we really want; help us understand the way others are showing love, even if we aren’t feeling it; and give us insight on how to show love in a way that is received by the other person, even if it’s different from our own love language,” Michelle Baxo, international love coach, tells HelloGiggles.
However, it’s important to note that most people have more than one love language and may even have multiple ‘primary’ love languages. “Some people have a singular clearly preferred love language whereas others may have several,” says clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear Dr. Carla Marie Manly. “And an individual’s love language may vary across relationships or remain relatively fixed.”
Either way, knowing your partner’s love language(s) will help you connect with them on a deeper level—especially when they’re going through a tough time. Not sure what your partner’s love language is? Click here to have them take the quiz and scroll down to find out exactly what Baxo and Dr. Manly say you could do to help your partner relax, based on their love language. While it’s not our responsibility to fix every one of our S.O.’s problems, it is important to support them in their time of need.
Words of affirmation
“People with this love language want to be told that they are appreciated, so if they are in a stressful situation, it may be because they feel as though their efforts aren’t being recognized, or they are being taken for granted somehow,” says Baxo. “You may hear this person complain a lot, seek verbal comfort from others, or validate themselves a lot to try to feel better about the situation and themselves.”
If this sounds like your S.O., Baxo says you can show them love by saying, “You are working very hard; I appreciate how hard you work; I can see this is really important to you, and I love that about you.”
According to Dr. Manly, if your partner’s love language is quality time, sharing dedicated time together as a couple can greatly reduce their stress. However, it’s important for your S.O. to identify what kind of quality time they’d prefer.
“Each person may have a different definition of quality time, so it is important for individuals to be clear on what type of quality time is meaningful and stress-reducing. For example, one person may want to sit side-by-side reading to reduce stress, whereas another person may find a couple��s hike in the woods relaxing,” says Dr. Manly. “The key is to know what would feel right—given the situation and nature of the stress—and [for your partner to] clearly communicate [their] preferences [to you.]”
“This love language is about being thoughtful, so it doesn’t have to be much. Anything that says ‘I was thinking of you’ will do the trick,” says Baxo.
Ultimately, a person with this love language normally doesn’t care about the amount of money you spend; what matters most to them is the thought behind the present. “I would steer clear of things that cause more clutter unless you know your partner will love it. A small crystal that is known to clear stress or negative energy is much more meaningful than a little statue with no meaning.”
Acts of service
If your partner has this preferred love language, a great way to help them relax is by seeing how you can physically take their stress away. “Those who feel loved through acts of service may feel particularly loved by simple acts of kindness during stressful times,” says Dr. Manly. “As such, preparing a hot bath, making a home-cooked dinner, or doing a surprise house cleaning are acts that could feel very loving, stress-reducing, and supportive.”
Just be mindful that you’re not creating more chaos for your partner. “A person who values acts of service would feel more stressed if their S.O. does not contribute to general tasks to help reduce stress. As well, an S.O. could increase stress by unintentionally doing tasks in a way that created upset, confusion, or havoc.”
Despite the name, sex is not what matters most to a person with this love language. “These people often appreciate eye contact, hand-holding, and a slow kiss without the intention of sex,” says Baxo. “It’s important that a person with this love language doesn’t feel like being affectionate has to lead to sex, even if it often does.”
So, what are some ways you can give your partner a little TLC when they’re having a hard time relaxing? Reference their love language. Giving them a long reassuring hug, stroking their hair, giving them a shoulder massage, or taking a warm bath together could do the trick.