As the lyrics of the famous song by The O’Jays put it, finding love is one thing but managing it is a completely different story. So, what is the secret to maintaining a healthy relationship? Counterintuitively, it was at the London Marketing Week 2014 event that I found the answer to this question. The last thing I was expecting to hear about while attending a talk on how to keep your clients happy was the use of the 5 projections of love. But what are they?
The 5 projections of love
To begin with I’d like to draw attention to the word projection which is defined as “a thing that extends outwards from something else”. So, even though love is abstract, the word projection implies something concrete, material and measurable, namely quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service and receiving gifts. According to this theory, all acts of love fall into one of these 5 projections. People tend to have preferences as to how they express love which interestingly enough match with their preferred way of receiving love. Therefore, the first step in maintaining a healthy relationship is to pay attention to the way in which our partner projects love and then reciprocate using the same projection which will make it easier for him/her to understand our feelings.
Elsewhere, projections have been referred to as languages and I find this metaphor quite apt: if people within a relationship speak a different language, they won’t be able to communicate effectively and may leave room for misunderstanding. In the long run, this language barrier might ruin the relationship as everyday gestures are not appropriately understood. Let’s look at each projection of love individually.
If the schedule above sounds like you, you are not the only one who leads an insanely busy life, so spending quality time with your partner might be a challenge. Some couples meet when they go to bed and by then they are completely exhausted. If your partner projects love in terms of the undivided attention you are able to pay to him/her, then your relationship might suffer. You can make a difference by listening carefully to what your partner is saying, by engaging meaningfully in the conversation and looking into his/her eyes. Putting your mobile phone away (or even switching it off) while he/she is talking to you will signal to your partner that he/she is important to you and you are willing to set time aside for him/her. Finally, your partner will sense that you are showing interest in the things he/she cares about.
In the same way in which physical touch is indispensable for babies to form a bond with their parents and grow healthily, so it is for a relationship to develop and flourish. Why is touch so important? Hugging, cuddling, snuggling and kissing are ways of increasing the release of oxytocin in our body which increases the degree of attachment.
Those in a long-distance relationship need not despair: the same result can be achieved if we imagine hugging someone we love. If your partner expresses love through touch then making physical contact with him/her on a regular basis is essential. A gesture as simple as laying a hand on his/her shoulder while driving or sweeping the hair off his/her forehead will suffice to communicate love.
Words of affirmation
As children, we can all remember our parents prompting us with the sentence “What’s the magic word?” to elicit Thank you. We were all taught to show appreciation when people did something for us.
However, after a while, taking each other for granted can easily happen in a relationship. But if your partner’s preferred projection of love is expressing gratitude, then you need to let him/her know that you appreciate their help, their suggestions, their cooking or their support in a specific matter. While praise will not diminish the actual workload, it can go a long way in motivating your partner to continue to carry out boring or repetitive chores such as cleaning or taking the rubbish out.
Acts of service
If actions are the preferential way int which your partner expresses his/her love, then words might not be enough. As a perceptive partner you should become aware of those situations in which your help is needed in practical ways. This might involve running errands if your partner is too busy, nice gestures like washing the dishes or taking the dog out if your partner is tired, more generally doing anything that will release the pressure off your partner. Just remember that you are a team and you are there to support each other, so go the extra mile by taking care of some of the responsibilities of your partner if he/she is not coping. Acting upon your consideration will express love.
Does your partner have the tendency to give gifts to you and to other friends and family? This indicates that his/her preferential projection of love is giving and therefore being given a gift will clearly communicate love to him/her. Moreover, you will benefit yourself from giving a gift: the underlying psychological mechanism is intriguing.
If you invest your money on someone else, you body presumes that this person must be safe and as a consequence releases oxytocin. This will strengthen your relationship. Gifts don’t need to be expensive, after all it’s the thought that counts. Even better is when we give our partner something that he/she needs as this displays consideration and care.
So now you know what to with to maintain a healthy relationship: love needs to be nurtured and treasured and these things require both time and effort.