Sometimes my boyfriend Zeus and I get into a pattern that goes something like this. I want to do something together, he wants some time to himself. So I get more adamant about spending time together, and he gets more withdrawn. My ideal Saturday is talking and exploring nature together—finding a nice spot in the woods to read and relax—and his ideal is a bike ride by himself to blow off the steam of the week.
Recently we realized that we need to meet in the middle in order to respect each other’s needs. What helped me to realize this was taking a free online test called the Five Love Languages. The idea is that two people might love each other, but show that love in different ways. So even though they love each other, they don’t know how to make each other feel loved.
If people really do have different “love languages,” it made me think about how Zeus and I express our love in different ways. My results showed me I feel most loved with words of affirmation and quality time, so unfortunately I can come across as needy for attention and affection. Zeus on the other hand has a different love language, and as an introvert he also has a need for some space and alone time. I’m not always good about giving that to him.
I used to feel like when he wanted to be alone it was a sign that he didn’t love me. Of course, there are instances when it is a red flag if someone you are dating seems to be avoiding you. For example, here are a few things to watch out for: often coming up with excuses to not see you, cancelling plans at the last second but spending time with friends instead, not returning phone calls or texts about hanging out or going to do something together, or typically making plans that don’t involve you.
But I’ve come to realize that it is just part of his personality, and that if I give him some space, he will feel more loved and be more loving. He also has come to recognize that I feel loved when we spend time together and talk, and so he has become better at doing that even when it isn’t always natural to him.
So what are we doing to keep that feeling of closeness despite our different love languages?
I love to surprise Zeus with little gifts, like picking up his favorite candy from the corner store on my way to see him. But I do this because I can tell it makes him feel loved. Even though I’m sure it is not his favorite thing to do, sometimes Zeus will help me clean my house. That act of service makes me feel loved.
Differences don’t have to be a bad thing in a relationship. They can help us learn from each other. The differences between my boyfriend and I made me realize that everyone needs time alone—important time to think and decompress. And he is also learning from me the importance of connecting and being vulnerable with other people and not just being a loner.
In a healthy relationship people usually don’t act in extreme ways, but instead meet in the middle after talking and agreeing upon the balance that works for them.