“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct.”
― Gary Chapman
A great deal of your success in relationships—or lack thereof—can be explained by how you learned to relate to others throughout your childhood as well as later in life. We learn our love language from a very young age and we don’t even realise that we are conditioned to love in a certain way. It begins as children with our attachment to our parents. The nature of this attachment, and how well it’s fostered and cared for, will then influence the nature of our attachment to romantic partners later in our life
Your love language doesn’t explain everything about your relationships, but it probably explains a great deal of why your close relationships have succeeded/failed in the manner they did, why you’re attracted to the people you are attracted to, and the nature of the relationship problems that come up again and again for you.
The Four Pillars of Love Languages
According to psychologists, there are four love strategies adults can adopt: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.
People with secure love strategies are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent and display a healthy level of self-confidence. They’re able to correctly prioritise their relationships within their life and tend to draw clear boundaries and stick to them.
Secure love types obviously make the best romantic partners, family members, and even friends. They’re capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain but are also capable of being loyal and sacrificing when necessary. They have little issue trusting people they’re close to and are trustworthy themselves.
Secure types comfortably form intimate relationships not only with partners but also with friends. They have no trouble revealing themselves to and occasionally relying on others when the situation calls for it. And they are excellent caregivers.
According to research, over 50% of the population are secure love types.
Anxious love strategies are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They’ll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships.
Anxious types have trouble trusting people, even if they’re close to them, yet excessively rely on others for their emotional needs and to resolve their problems. Their behavior can be irrational, sporadic, and overly-emotional. They’re the ones complaining that everyone of the opposite sex are cold and heartless. And probably bursting into tears while doing so.
This is the girl who calls you 36 times in one night wondering why you didn’t call her back—let’s call her Anna. Or the guy who follows his girlfriend to work to make sure she’s not flirting with any other men along the way.
Women are more likely to be anxious types than men but it’s okay, there’s still plenty of insecurity to go around.
Avoidant people are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They’re commitment-phobes and experts at rationalising their way out of any intimate situation. They regularly complain about feeling “crowded” or “suffocated” when people try to get close to them. They are often paranoid that others want to control them or box them in.
In every relationship, they always have an exit strategy. Always. Avoidants often construct their lifestyle in such a way to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact.
In surveys, avoidant types score uniquely high on self-confidence and uniquely low on emotional expressiveness and warmth. Im sure you all know Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother right?They not only reveal themselves far less to their partner and friends, but also tend not to rely on others, even when they should. They score lower than other types as caregivers, meaning they’re not to be relied upon when in a pickle.
It’s a sad fact that relationships tend to be controlled by those who care least. Therefore, avoidants tend to be the ones in control in both friendships and romantic relationships, as they are almost always willing to leave. This is opposed to anxious types, who let themselves be controlled in both.
This is the guy—we’ll call him Alex—who works 80 hours a week and gets annoyed when women he dates want to see him more than once on the weekend. Or the girl who dates dozens of guys over the course of years but tells them all she
doesn’t want “anything serious” and inevitably ends up ditching them when she gets tired of them.
Men are more likely than women to be avoidant types, but as always, there’s plenty of neuroses to go around.
Anxious-avoidant types (also known as the “fearful or disorganised type”) bring together the worst of both worlds. Anxious-avoidants are not only afraid of intimacy and commitment, but they distrust and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Anxious-avoidants often spend much of their time alone and miserable, or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.
Anxious-avoidants are low in confidence and less likely to express emotions, preferring to suppress them. However, they can have intense emotional outbursts when under stress. They also don’t tend to seek help when in need due to a distrust of others. This sucks because they are also incapable of sorting through their own issues.
Anxious-avoidants really get the worst of both worlds. They avoid intimacy not because they prefer to be alone like avoidants. Rather, they avoid intimacy because they are so terrified of its potential to hurt them or its potential to satisfy them.
According to studies, only a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.
As with most psychological profiling, these types aren’t monolithic qualities, but scalar in nature and somewhat independent.
For instance, according to the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, Amir scored about 75% on the secure pillar, 90% on the avoidant pillar, and 10% on the anxious pillar. And his guess was that 3-5 years ago, the secure would have been lower and the anxious would have been higher.
The point is, you can exhibit tendencies of more than one pillar depending on the situation and at different frequencies. Although, everyone has one dominant pillar. So someone secure will still exhibit some avoidant or anxious behaviors, someone anxious or avoidant will sometimes exhibit secure behaviors, etc. It’s not all or nothing. But the anxious-avoidant will score high on both anxious and avoidant types and low on the secure scale.
Like I said previously, our love language as adults is influenced by how we related to our parents (or one parent/primary caregiver) as young children. As helpless little babies, this is the first and most important relationship of our lives, so it naturally sets the “blueprint” for how we perceive all relationships as we mature.
We use this relationship blueprint as we age into late childhood and adolescence where we typically start to form important relationships outside of our immediate relationship with our parent(s). Our peer group takes on a larger role in our lives as we continue to learn how to relate to others. These experiences further influence our love language as we eventually become romantically involved with others, which, in turn, also influence our love language.
So while your early experiences with your parent(s) do have a considerable influence on how you relate to others, it’s not the only factor that determines your love language (though it’s a big one) and your love language can change over time (more on this next week).
As always, hope you and yours are safe. We will wrap this one up next week when we talk about how your love language is formed and how it changes.