This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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What is the Quality Time love language? How do I speak it? What if my partner’s language is the Quality Time love language, but it’s not mine?
The Quality Time love language is the “language” of someone who feels loved when she spends time dedicated solely for the purpose of being with her partner without distractions. The concept of the Quality Time love language was introduced in Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.
Learn how to “speak” the Quality Time love language, even if it’s not your love language.
Quality Time Love Language: Why You Should Speak It
People who speak the Quality Time love language require moments of undivided attention from their partners. Spending time together is good. But more than just physical proximity, the Quality Time love language thrives on intentional and focused communication without outside distractions. When you spend quality time with your partner, you are telling them they are important.
Everyone is busy. There is a limited amount of time in every day. You may work during the day and have children to look after in the evenings. You may be pulled in ten different directions daily. You may feel too tired at night to do anything but watch TV.
When time is set aside for the one you love, it may feel like a sacrifice. To the person who speaks the Quality Time love language, that sacrifice speaks volumes. You are giving your partner a dedicated part of yourself, which is a powerful symbol of love.
Limited Time Depletes the Love Tank
When a person who speaks the Quality Time love language does not receive dedicated time, the love tank begins to drain. Even if you say nice things or do nice things for your partner, they will never feel satisfied or truly loved.
If you don’t share quality time with your partner, they may come to resent the ways you spend your time.
(Shortform example: after a busy day, your partner may like to sit on the porch with a glass of wine. They ask you to join them each night, but you prefer jogging to wind down. As your partner sits alone on the porch each night as you jog, they may begin to resent your jogging. Their bad feelings won’t really be about jogging. They will simply see it as the thing that steals your time.)
In another example demonstrating the importance of listening to the Quality Time love language, Andrea appreciated the way Mark worked hard and provided for the family. But because it took time away from her and the children, she started to resent how much he worked. Andrea speaks the Quality Time love language, and the lack of it drained her tank, regardless of all the good things Mark did.
Quality time doesn’t have to mean long hours or outlandish outings. Simply giving your partner moments of distraction-free attention is enough to make them feel loved. Examples of quality time include:
- Taking a walk without checking your phone.
- Simply sitting in the living room together with the TV off and devices put away.
Many couples believe they spend time together, but in reality, they simply happen to be existing separately in close proximity.
- If you’re talking while flipping through a magazine, your attention is divided.
- If you’re raking leaves while your partner watches, you may think you are spending time together. But for the person the Quality Time love language, your attention is still focused elsewhere, so this time doesn’t count.
Understanding exactly what type of quality time is important to your partner will help you understand how to fill their tank. Like Words of Affirmation, there are varying degrees of quality time.
Quality Time Love Language Dialect: Communication
One dialect of the Quality Time love language is communication. Quality communication means engaging in conversation about things that matter. When you share the events of your day, your thoughts, your fears, your hopes for the future, you are emotionally connecting with your partner. When you listen to their thoughts and feelings, you are showing them you care.
For people with this dialect, the act of simply talking is not enough. Discussing the news or the neighbors’ new car is not quality communication. Your partner wants to have meaningful dialogues about life. For instance, talking about your hopes for the future or a memory from childhood opens an emotional door for your partner to walk through.
These types of conversations signify a deep bond. Intimacy will be created, and their love tanks will fill.
The Importance of Listening
When engaging in quality communication, your partner may want to share their thoughts and feelings with you. They will want you to listen attentively and respond in ways that show your engagement. They will want you to ask questions to go deeper.
The act of attentive listening, though, is not just about the good things. Your partner may want to air frustrations or their pain. Listening means hearing them without trying to fix their problems.
Humans are built to assuage negativity. Whether the problem is with the relationship or an external source, you may think you have the answers or solutions. You listen only long enough to formulate your argument or advice—“Just talk to your boss. Everything will be fine.” When those arguments or that advice is given in an unsympathetic way, such as “Stop complaining and do something about it,” the tank begins to drain faster.
People with this dialect seek communication, not ridicule or solutions. They want to share. Your partner will feel loved when you listen patiently to their grievances.
Rather than give advice or argue, ask questions to try to understand their struggles, such as “What do you think might make you feel better” or “Is there anything that will make your relationship with your boss better?”
Advice should be given only when asked for. And it should be given with empathy. This is key in speaking the Quality Time love language dialect of communication.
How to Communicate Well
Focused and sympathetic communication is hard for some. If you have trouble listening, the following techniques can help best speak the quality time love language.
Stay focused on your partner through eye contact. Wandering gazes signify wandering attention.
- When listening, put all other distractions away. Your full attention is desired. Doing other things, like texting or crocheting, takes that attention away.
- If you are unable to provide focused communication the moment your partner wants it, be honest. Tell them you are not able to give them your full attention. Let them know you will make the time soon, and do it.
Listen without speaking. When you interrupt someone, it shows you are not listening completely. You are listening to know how to respond.
- The goal of focused communication is to understand your partner.
- Try not to interrupt or defend yourself or your perspective.
- Wait until they are finished speaking, then respond with affirmations of what you heard before providing your thoughts.
- When your partner feels heard, they will make space to hear you.
While listening, try to pick up on the emotions your partner is expressing with their words.
- If your partner says, “I never feel like I have a voice. Nothing I say makes any difference,” try listening for the subtext.
- If you think you understand, ask.
- You might say, “Do you mean I never consider your opinions or don’t allow you to make important decisions?”
- When you confirm your partner’s feelings, they will feel heard and loved.
Use visual cues to understand your partner’s feelings.
- Not everyone knows how to verbally communicate their emotions.
- Paying attention to what their body language is saying may clue you in.
- If they make fists, avoid eye contact, shred a napkin, or become emotional while talking, they may be feeling more than their words are expressing.
- For instance, if your partner says, “Nothing I say makes any difference,” while gripping the table with white knuckles, you can get a sense of the level of frustration or anger they feel.
- If you pick up a visual cue, ask and confirm your perception.
- You might say, “This really angers you, doesn’t it?”
The Importance of Talking
To fill your partner’s tank, listening is not enough. They also want you to reciprocate by sharing. However, talking about your feelings may not come naturally. Perhaps you grew up in a home where emotional conversations did not occur. But if your partner speaks the Quality Time love language, you can learn to be more personally revealing.
Understand Your Emotions
Getting in touch with your feelings personally is a good place to start. Even if you have never considered your emotional state before, acknowledging you have emotions helps bring them to light.
Your emotions dictate your actions. When you start to understand how you feel, you can begin to understand how you behave and respond to others and life events. When you go about your day, begin to notice how you feel.
- If you have a conversation with a co-worker, take note of how you feel when it’s over.
- On your lunch break, think of three emotions you felt during the morning. Make a list.
- If you felt angry when the cafe ran out of your favorite bagel, write it down. If you were happy when your boss complimented you, acknowledge it.
After a few days, you will begin to understand your emotions better. When you understand your emotions, you will be more comfortable expressing them. You will begin to understand how you feel about your relationship and things at home. You will be able to communicate those feelings more effectively.
Communicate Both Ways
Communication is the end goal. There is a balance between internal understanding and external expressions of emotions required in the Quality Time love language.
Going too far out of balance can lead to situations where there is lack of balance in mutual communication.
- If you speak the dialect of focused communication, you likely have no problem sharing your feelings. You may desire a listener more than a talker in your partner. If your partner is not a great communicator, you may think the relationship is perfect. You get to talk, they listen.
- Likewise, if your partner speaks this dialect, you are likely used to them sharing and have become a good listener. You may believe the relationship is working because you are simply actively listening.
But either of these patterns leads to an atmosphere capable of emptying the love tank. If the balance is shifted toward one person always sharing and one person always listening, the emotional bond is incomplete.
- The person who always talks is well-understood.
- The person who always listens is not understood.
- The person who speaks the dialect of focused communication will likely begin to feel a lack of love from either not being understood or not understanding their partner enough.
Creating a new pattern can help break this mold. Set aside time to communicate, and give each one of you time to share. When you each take turns sharing intentionally, you ensure that each of you is being heard and understood.
The need for this intention will likely vanish. You will have created a new sharing pattern. The flow of conversation will naturally become mutually distributed. The Quality Time love language becomes natural.
Quality Time Love Language Dialect: Focused Activities
Spending time doing something specific and intentional is huge for people with the Quality Time love language. What you and your partner do is secondary to the quality of your attention to each other.
The important element is to do something together. When you join together in the same activity, you are acknowledging that you enjoy spending time together. You are saying you care enough to make time to be with each other. The activity is merely the setting by which you each provide your full attention.
The activity may be something you both enjoy or only one of you enjoys. If you speak this dialect, you may feel love when your partner does something only you enjoy, and vice versa.
- When you do something you don’t like for the sake of your partner, you are signifying the priority of their love over your own enjoyment.
- For instance, you might go to the ballet with your partner, despite hating the ballet, because you know they love it.
- This action will fill your partner’s love tank because they know you are acting only with them in mind.
- This understanding will likely lead them to do the same for you.
- When your partner does the same for you, you will feel loved because of their focused attention and personal sacrifice. Acknowledge it and look for ways to reciprocate.
Because the focus is on spending time together, there are many activities that represent quality time. Making dinner, going to a museum, having a picnic, going to dinner, or exercising together are all intentional joint pursuits.
Intentional pursuits are done solely as a means to be together. This understanding creates an emotional connection and can motivate you to seek other pursuits. You will also have a collection of memories of being together. These memories will be of a loving relationship. Sharing them can bring you closer and keep your tanks full.
Creating space in your life for these activities is as important to your relationship as making time to sleep is for your health. But for the person with the Quality Time love language, the sacrifices and efforts can create a deep feeling of love.
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- How to figure out what your love language is, and what your partner's is
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- How to speak the right love language, even if it's not yours