Relationship counseling – 5 attachment languages that will transform your relationship
Today you will learn the 5 attachment languages I teach in my relationship counseling and how you use them to get more joy in your relationship.
I have provided relationship counseling, marriage therapy & marriage counseling to hundreds of couples over the years.
As a relationship coach, I have seen the same issues repeat themselves in relationship counseling again and again.
So, today, you will learn how you can change frustration in your relationship into intimacy.
Let's learn the 5 attachment languages that changed my relationship counseling and marriage therapy.
The attachment languages are ways we feel important, valued, and cared for by others.
We all experience feeling valued and important in different ways, so to connect with your partner, you must learn what their attachment language is so you can make them feel safe and cared for.
If as a child your father gave you gifts when he came home from his long business trips, you might have associated being important as someone giving you gifts, so this is what makes you feel special and close to someone.
For someone else, they might have had a lot of cuddling and stories on the couch with their parents, so they feel important, valued, and connected when they get touched.
These attachment languages are learned based on how we were made to feel important and special.
We can have more than one attachment language.
The reason it’s so important to know your partner’s attachment language is that you can spend all your energy and money buying gifts for your partner, but it will have no impact if their attachment language is something different.
By knowing their attachment language, you can make them feel valued, safe, and loved.
So here is the first thing I teach people in relationship counseling.
So how do we identify what attachment language our partner is?
Many people are not aware of their attachment language, and so you can ask questions to help them uncover it.
A good starting point would be to ask about how important attachment figures showed them love and made them feel special, valued, and cared for.
- How did your parents (or their primary carer as a child) show you love or affection?
- How did your parents (or their primary carer as a child) make you feel special or valued?
These two questions will tell you how they learned to experience feeling important, and this is likely their current attachment language.
Did their parents hold them (touch)?
Did they give them a lot of dedicated attention (quality time)?
Did they buy them gifts (gifts)?
Did they complement them (praise)?
Did they do special acts for them (acts of service)?
It’s not what the parents (or primary carer) did for them; it’s what impact it had. What made them feel special.
When you know which of the 5 above made them feel special, you know their attachment language.
Here are a few more options for how to find their attachment language in a more indirect way.
If your partner is complaining about you not doing enough of something, then it will often indicate their attachment language.
If your partner often or repletely complaining about not getting enough massages, then their attachment language could be touch.
Or, that you never do anything special for them, then it’s likely acts of service.
That you never buy them flowers or gifts, then it’s likely gifts.
That you never give them dedicated attention or are always busy with other things, then it’s possibly quality time.
That you never say anything nice about them, then it’s likely praise.
So, it’s straightforward to decode their attachment language by listening to what they are frustrated about when it arises.
I complain about not getting enough stroking on my back… Guess what, my attachment language is?
A third way to figure out their attachment language is to look for what they do to show you affection or that they care.
People often give what they want themselves as we understand the world from our perspective.
People that like to receive gifts tend to buy gifts for others to show they care.
People that like touch tend to touch others to show affection and that they care.
Look for what your partner is doing to show you they care about you.
I touch people I care about a lot, and that correctly shows that my attachment language is touch.
Now you have more awareness of your partner and your attachment language, try to see if anything has changed.
Ask them about how they feel loved now
- What makes you feel loved/close now, and can you give me a few examples?
I recommend you both sit on your own when you write down the answers to these questions.
Then share them afterward.
- How did your parents (or your primary carer as a child) show you love or affection?
- How did your parents (or your primary carer as a child) make you feel special or valued?
- What do you wish more from your partner?
- What does your partner do for you to show you, love? (this is their attachment language)
- In the past, when you have done something to make your partner feel special or show you care what had the most significant impact?
These questions should help you uncover each other’s attachment language.
Here is a useful check-in tool to use regularly.
When you see each other ask “how full is your love tank tonight” and you both score it from 0 = empty to 10 = full.
If it’s below 10, ask what you can do to fill it back up.
This is an excellent way to ensure you don’t run dry as that will cause disconnect and often resentment, so a regular check-in will ensure you can fill up the tank before it runs dry.
5 attachment languages
Some people respond highly to appreciation to feel valued and special in their attachment.
Examples could be:
1. Thank you so much for making a wonderful meal tonight
2. I love how your voice is so gentle
Be aware that if this is their primary attachment language, then it still matters what you say as the praise should be individual for it to have maximum impact.
If you are dating a model and you keep complimenting her physical appearance like everyone else, it might have much less impact.
If you instead value and complement traits, she feels insecure about then the impact is likely to be much more significant.
Time is an investment, and so is our attention.
When we choose to spend time with someone and give them our full attention, it communicates that we value and care about them.
For people where this is their attachment language, it will have an even more significant impact, so making time for them and giving them your uninterrupted attention is essential.
All-time is not equal, hence why I call it quality time.
If you are constantly checking your phone, take calls or keep split your attention between your partner and the TV, then they have your time but not your focus.
They need both for it to be quality time.
It can be doing an activity together, or it can be turning off all distractions and sharing some secrets.
It could be sharing vulnerabilities or anything that matters to you, or even just sitting and looking into each other’s eyes.
We all like it when someone does something for us, but for people with this attachment language, it is even more critical.
They feel loved and important and attach to you when they experience you do things for them.
Again, making it individual is vital, so find out what they would like to have done for them.
You could spend a lot of time and energy cleaning the car and picking up the kids, but if that’s not the acts of service that connect with your partner, then it might not have the desired impact.
It could be making them their favorite meal when they are sick or planning a date with an activity they like or helping look after their ill mum.
Ask them and then make it an integrated part of how to communicate your love for them or that you care.
Your initial reaction might be that it’s superficial to want gifts to feel loved, but it makes complete sense from an evolutionary perspective.
Resources are critical to survival, so someone willing to share resources with you, must love you and care about you.
It also shows investment when we give something to someone making them feel safe, as we tend only to do this to people, we value and care about.
Being specific is important, so find out what gifts they value.
Touch release oxytocin and is critical to connection.
For some, it’s the main route to feeling connected and important, and for these people, it’s imperative to get the regular touch.
Many men are so touch neglected because men most often only get touch through sex.
Even this is usually limited to their genitals and less the rest of their body.
For women, it’s culturally more acceptable to touch each other, and women often get more all body touch.
So many men crave more touch but don’t feel they can ask for it.
They often don’t even have the awareness to know that is what they need as it has been suppressed for so long.