The Golden Rule of treating others how you’d like to be treated works well in grade school. In relationships, though? Maybe not.
“Most people treat others the way they want to be treated,” says Philadelphia-based matchmaker Erika Kaplan, “instead of treating others the way others want to be treated.”
As Valentine’s Day approaches, so does the pressure to plan a romantic gesture for your partner.
The solution: Romance your person based on his or her love language.
The five “love languages" — words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts, and physical touch — were first outlined by marriage counselor Gary Chapman in his 1995 book, The 5 Love Languages, geared toward helping people understand how they receive love.
To start, you’ve got to take the 5 Love Languages quiz and successfully convince your partner to do the same. (A suggestion from personal experience: Ask the person to take it when he or she is in the passenger seat of your car — nowhere to escape to.) The 30-question quiz asks the person taking it to choose “what’s more meaningful” between two actions that are mostly false binaries. For example: Is it more meaningful when you and your partner hug? Or when he or she sends you a loving note for no reason? Would you rather sit close to your partner, or be complimented for no apparent reason? The result will be one of the five languages.
We talked to Philadelphia matchmakers about how to make your bae swoon based on his or her love language. For each language, they suggested one idea that’s free or low-cost and one that will require perhaps a bit more commitment from your wallet.
These people want to be reminded why they’re important to you. A well-placed compliment and saying “I love you” at random times goes a long way. Kaplan, the vice president of client experience for matchmaking service Three Day Rule, says these people “need to feel they’re loved and respected and cherished.”
Free or low-cost alternative: Design and write a card, which has become something of a “lost art” in 2019, Kaplan says. This is an especially good option if you’re in a new relationship and don’t want to go all out in the romance department. If you want to do something with a bit more commitment, Couillard suggests texting your partner once an hour throughout the day, saying something you love about him or her.
These partners want to spend time with you and really connect — and Netflix and chill does not count, Kaplan says. Your undivided attention while spending time together is most important.
Idea that may cost you: The possibilities here are really endless. If your relationship is newer, make a brunch reservation — it’s a little bit lower-commitment than dinner at Vetri. Otherwise, you could ice-skate at the RiverRink, see an upcoming show, or hit your partner’s favorite winery or beer garden. Couillard recommends a cooking lesson to get the two of you working together (Cozymeal has options that are generally less than $100 per person). Whatever you choose, “It’s not really about the money," she says. “It’s about the thought.”
Free or low-cost alternative: Kaplan recommends picking a day — maybe next Saturday? — to gallivant around the city for a few hours, just the two of you, with minimal distractions. (If you want to try something really novel, leave your phones at home.) If the weather cooperates, try picking a neighborhood you’ve never been to and use this map to visit as many murals as you can.
These people are really turned on when you do the laundry. They feel your love when you do something nice for them that requires even a tiny bit of effort.
Idea that may cost you: Lucky for you, those whose love language is acts of service don’t need grand gestures to feel that you care. Kaplan suggests bringing over your partner’s favorite takeout meal and setting up a dinner at home in recognition of a crazy workweek.
Free or low-cost alternative: Couillard recommends letting your partner sleep in and starting the day by making breakfast. “Try to give them the day off,” she says. “Take over chores, even if it means getting the kids ready. Let them know, ‘Hey, not only do I take notice of everything you do, but I appreciate it.’ ”
These people aren’t as materialistic as they sound. The key, matchmakers say, is that they respond particularly well to thoughtful gifts.
Idea that may cost you: Kaplan says there’s a real art to gift-giving, which can make couples in newer relationships particularly stressed. She recommends getting your new significant other something like a good bottle of wine or whiskey — “it’s not too personal.” Been together longer? Couillard says she loves The Night Sky, a service that allows users to input a date and get a matte print of what the stars looked like on that day. (A framed 18x24 map will run you about $60.) Try it with your anniversary or the date of your first kiss, she says.
Free or low-cost alternative: Couillard suggests making a playlist of songs that either your partner loves or that you associate with him or her. The important thing for someone who responds well to receiving gifts isn’t that it costs a lot. She compared it to when a child picks dandelions for a mother: “You’re feeling love. They don’t have to cost anything.”
These folks feel intimacy through physical closeness — holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc.
Idea that may cost you: Your partner responds well to touch, so if you want to give him or her an actual gift, consider something silky or cashmere, or perhaps a plush blanket to cuddle up with, Couillard says. She adds: “If you want to get a little more intimate, give this partner a gift certificate for a massage from you along with essential massage oil and some couples' robes.”