Your Long-Distance Relationship Isn’t Doomed If Your Love Language Is Quality Time

Your Long-Distance Relationship Isn’t Doomed If Your Love Language Is Quality Time

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So you set up a date for tonight two weeks ago, but bae says they have to cancel at the last minute because a work event came up. They make it up to you by bringing you flowers and your fave ice cream, but somehow you're still upset, even though you know it's not completely their fault.

That's because your love language is quality time—you know, one of the five languages Gary Chapman writes about in his 1992 book, The Five Love Languages. The book basically explains that every person has a primary and secondary love language, a.k.a. how you prefer to show and receive love from your partner. These are: quality time, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, and receiving gifts. Here are some examples of what each love language might look like:

  • Words of affirmation: Sending your S.O. a text expressing how thankful you are for their support after you had a hard day at work, and telling them that your life is better because they’re in it.

  • Acts of service: Taking care of your partner’s laundry for them when you know they’ve got a super busy week.

  • Receiving gifts: Spotting a super cool baseball cap while you’re out running errands, and snagging it for your S.O. because the logo is their favorite team.

  • Quality time: Giggling the night away while sharing a game of mini golf together and chatting about life.

  • Physical touch: Cuddling in bed for 10 minutes first thing in the morning before you each get ready for work.

Make sense? A person whose love language is receiving gifts may have been totally overjoyed that their partner showed up with dessert and flowers, but a person who prefers quality time—not so much. They're all about spending precious minutes together, rather than lots of money.

When it comes to the quality time love language, Randy Schroeder, PhD, a marriage and family counselor and author of Simple Habits For Marital Happiness, says that a couple's biggest asset has to be planning. "Those who plan time together proved to be far happier than those who let it happen by chance," he says.

Meet the experts:

Randy Schroeder, PhD is a marriage and family counselor and the author of Simple Habits for Marital Happiness.

Chloe Carmichael, PhD is the author of Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating.

Jaime Bronstein, LCSW is a licensed relationship therapist and author of MAN*ifesting.

Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, PhD is a professor of sexual communication at California State University Fullerton and host of the Luvbites by Dr. Tara podcast.

Easier said than done, amirite? Don't fret, though. You and your S.O. already love spending time together (duh!), but here's everything else you need to know about quality time as a love language from these dating experts.

So, what exactly is quality time love language?

Put simply, "[it] means you really enjoy spending time where you are focused on your partner and your partner is totally focused on you," says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating. I'm talking no cell phones, no TV, no podcasts, no music, just you, your beau, and a lot of eye contact, which is actually a tall order in our highly-demanding and tech-cluttered lives.

If you find that you’re spending a lot of time with your partner, but still not feeling truly seen or heard—this might be a sign your love language is quality time. Do you prefer a night out at dinner with stimulating conversation over a night snuggling in bed watching a show? Well, that's another sign.

Quality time isn't just being physically present in the same space as your partner. It's engaging and being intentional about how you spend that time bonding and strengthening your connection with a meaningful conversation or learning a new skill together. "It is uninterrupted time—time where you are not talking about the brakes on the car or who is going to take out the trash," explains Schroeder.

That doesn't mean you should awkwardly sit across from each other at the dining table. But it doesn’t have to be a five-star dining experience either. It’s really the little things, like a day at the beach, a car ride to somewhere special, a trip to the local bakery, or just chatting over a cup of coffee in the morning. Small actions make big differences, say both Schroeder and Carmichael.

Need some date ideas? Look no further.

What does it mean if quality time is my partner’s love language?

If you know their love language is quality time, you're off to a great start. There are lots of things, big and small, you can do to make your partner (or friend, or FWB really) feel the love.

One great way to do this? Practice reflective listening, says Carmichael. Instead of responding to your partner’s story about their crazy boss with a story about your own even crazier boss, ask some follow-up questions. Really lean into what they're sharing, rather than playing a game of verbal volleyball, advises Carmichael. "This where you dig into what’s important, instead of both talking past each other and staying on the surface," she explains.

How can I incorporate this love language into my relationship?

Giving or receiving love in the form of quality time doesn't mean you need to rack up hours and days physically spent in each other's presence. Instead, focus on the quality of that time together by being intentional about how you spend it, which can mean anything from making your partner feel heard about something important to them to traveling somewhere you've never been and experiencing that with each other. Here are some tips to make the most of every minute together:

1. Before your date, reflect on what your beau mentioned last time you were together.

Think of this as some light homework. Just as a therapist might reflect on their notes before a patient comes in, give yourself a refresh on what you talked about last time, so you’re ready to drop right in and build on whatever you last spoke about. "[Doing] this helps set the stage for quality time," says Carmichael.

2. Follow the three 10's rule.

Here's a fun, simple tip that might actually make a massive difference. Couples should aim to have 10 minutes of sustained eye contact daily, a 10-second hug, and a 10-second plain kiss, says Schroeder. Schroeder swears by the "three 10's" rule, which he outlines more deeply in his book. There's just one caveat to this: "No grabbing of the bottoms or the breasts!" Schroeder says. Save that for later.

3. Take turns planning dates.

Setting aside time to actively date your partner is key, but trouble strikes when only one person does all the heavy lifting. That’s why Schroeder suggests taking turns: "When you’re planning the date, really think of what the person you love would enjoy, not what you want to do."

4. Think about what you want to share before you meet up.

Just as you might reflect on previous conversations you had with a partner before a date, also take a moment to think about what you want to share. "Go over your week. What stood out? What’s important? What are you excited about?" says Carmichael. These are all great conversation starters.

5. Plan a mini-vacation.

Finding time to get away can be challenging, especially for couples with kids, but it makes a big difference, says Schroeder, even if you're just going to the next town over. "Just try to stay in a hotel room overnight, just the two of you, ideally in a different city," he says. The change of pace does wonders for connection.

6. Put your phones away.

The cell phone is the "cancer of quality time," says Carmichael, so take that to heart. Not only should couples try to stay off their phones during QT, but if your partner needs to answer an urgent work email, don’t reach for yours on instinct. "Spend some quiet time reflecting on where the conversation might go next," Carmichael suggests.

7. Allow yourselves to be bored (together).

"Psychology studies show the biggest breakthroughs happen after a moment of boredom," says Carmichael, and the same can be true for couples. "If you actually just sit through it, and wrestle with the silence together, you may just come out of it closer."

8. Try some people-watching together—seriously.

"Sitting together in a park or cafe while people-watching, sharing with each other stories or speculations about what you imagine people around you are up to is a great way of getting inside of your partner's head," says Carmichael. You've probably done it alone, so you can only imagine what kind of comic relief you might get from doing it with your partner. Sign me up!

9. Go for a walk.

Inviting movement into your routine is a beautiful way of breaking up some of the monotony of everyday life, and getting some conversation in, between breaks. "Any sort of journey or activity together is great," Carmichael says.

10. Enjoy a cup of coffee together.

This one goes along with Schroeder’s three 10's rules. Keep that eye contact, and keep the conversation fun. "This is a great time to plan what you’re going to do this weekend or your next great vacation," says Schroeder.

11. Go out to dinner.

One truly wonderful thing about going to restaurants is that there is a whole staff of people there to take care of you, notes Carmichael. Embrace this time and let the conversation (and perhaps wine!) flow.

How can I implement quality time into a long-distance relationship?

Spending quality time with your partner is, believe it or not, totally possible in a long-distance relationship. Although the locations may present logistical issues with in-person quality time, experts say there are still plenty of ways to bridge the distance gap regardless.

“Set aside daily time dedicated to a FaceTime or Zoom date. During that time, talk about positive things in your life, and the positive aspects of your relationship, versus complaining about the distance,” suggests Jaime Bronstein, LCSW, a licensed relationship therapist and author of MAN*ifesting. “Accepting the distance versus resisting it can make room for a deep emotional connection and a feeling that quality time is being spent regardless of geography.”

Embracing the digital age can have a great impact on your LDR, and give you an opportunity to connect with your S.O. just as much as within traditional dates. “Get creative! [You] could make dinner together while on FaceTime and then sit down and have dinner as if it were an in-person date,” Bronstein says.

Your intimate connection together doesn’t have to suffer because of the distance, either. According to Dr. Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, professor of sexual communication at California State University Fullerton and host of the Luvbites by Dr. Tara podcast, sharing intentional and even sexual time with your partner doesn’t have to be an elaborate production.

“Block out at least an hour to do a Zoom (or other video call services) intimate night,” she says. “Chat about your intimacy goals and have a little cyber sexy time with each other. Quality time can be short and focused. You can schedule a morning routine where you chat on the phone every morning for 20 minutes while making coffee and prepping for the day.” Starting your day being present with your partner can have a considerable impact on how connected you feel toward each other.

What does it mean if my partner and I have different love languages?

It may seem like sharing the same love language with your S.O. provides a superior connection, and while it’s true that the task of expressing love to each other is a little easier in that case, having different love languages doesn’t have to weaken your connection by any means. “Communication is key,” Suwinyattichaiporn says.

Even if you value thoughtful gifts when your partner prefers a weekly date night sans screens, staying consistent with your emotional efforts can mitigate any disconnect in how you give and receive love. “All in all, the best way to overcome these challenges is to clearly communicate with and teach your partner about your preferred love language, as well as to learn how to best speak their love language,” Suwinyattichaiporn says.

Advocating for your own needs and addressing deficits in how appreciated or loved you’re feeling is a necessary step, as well. “If a couple has different love languages, they should be very deliberate about expressing their feelings and not holding back issues that bother them about how the other one operates,” says Bronstein. “They need to convey their needs and what makes them both individually happy.”

Although it may take a little extra consideration and intentionality from time to time, Bronstein says that having a different love language than your partner never has to result in disappointment or hurt. As long as you’re willing to show up for each other, a healthy and fulfilling relationship is more than possible. “Validating each other's needs is vital for the differences not to impact the relationship negatively,” she explains. “All it takes is two people willing to make a relationship work for it to work.”

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