Military love languages: How to love from afar
(Photo: Unsplash, Brooke Cagle)

Have you ever thought that despite knowing your spouse loves you, you just don’t feel loved in that moment? This is a concept that Dr. Gary Chapman addresses in his bestselling books The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages: Military Edition. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five primary “love languages” that are used to convey love to another person, and each person feels loved when treated with their primary love language.

This is difficult to do when you’re separated from your service member due to deployment, training and more. Here you will find some suggestions to speak your spouse’s unique love language, regardless of how many miles are between you. Need to figure out what love language your spouse most closely identifies with? Sit down together and take this quiz.

1. Words of affirmation

The first love language, words of affirmation, consists of compliments, words of encouragement and support, and acknowledgement of your spouse’s accomplishments in a positive and intentional manner. The following strategies will help you convey your love to your spouse through your words:

Love letters: Write a love letter or poem to your spouse, and go heavy on the cheese. Tell them the things you love about them, the things you miss about them, your dreams for the future, recollections of fond memories and more. A love letter is a tangible form of words of affirmation that your spouse can return to when he or she is feeling down.

Phone calls/FaceTime: Store up your compliments for your phone calls or Skype/FaceTime calls, if you’re lucky enough to get them! Give your undivided attention to your spouse during your conversation and take note of his or her accomplishments, struggles that have been overcome or anything your spouse has worked hard at to use as fuel for words of encouragement and praise.

A compliment a day: For one week, send a special compliment or note of encouragement to your spouse every day. Your spouse will feel loved because you’re thinking about him or her and they’ll have something from you to look forward to each day.

Brag! Many people whose primary love language is words of affirmation enjoy being bragged on publicly. Whether that’s a social media post acknowledging your spouse and all their hard work or talking them up to your friends and family, bragging on your spouse will make them feel loved.

2. Quality time

Quality time is more than just sitting and watching TV together; it is doing something meaningful and enjoyable with your spouse. Quality conversation is another important part of this love language. But how do you experience quality time when you can’t physically be together?

Undivided attention: Whether you’re together or long distance, your quality time spouse needs to know you’re listening and paying attention. When you get the opportunity to talk on the phone, give them your undivided attention. Listen and get involved in the conversation with your spouse.

Conversation topics: When you’re long distance, quality conversation is going to be the bulk of your “quality time,” so make it count. Sometimes it can be difficult to think of everything you want to say while you’re talking, so start writing down things that pop into your head throughout the day.

Spousal interests: Find something that your spouse is very interested in (particularly something that you may not be as interested in) and make a point of staying up to date on it. Use this as fuel for conversation when you talk to your spouse. He or she will feel special because you care enough to follow one of their interests and give them a chance to talk about it with you.

3. Receiving gifts

If receiving gifts is how your spouse interprets love, don’t panic — it doesn’t have to break the bank. The gifts you give your spouse don’t even have to cost money; the only requirement is that they are thoughtful and meaningful to your spouse. Here’s how to convey love to your spouse through your gifts:

Care package with a twist: One common long-distance gift is a care package. To make it even more special, place individually wrapped gifts inside the care package and label them with the dates when they are to be opened. Each gift can be something small that would have been in the care package anyway. This will amp up the anticipation as well as the surprise factor, giving your spouse something to look forward to, and making them feel special and loved.

Mementos: Give your spouse something sentimental. Send a postcard from the place where you first met or give them a copy of the menu from the restaurant where you dined on a special occasion. Gifts that remind your spouse of significant moments throughout your relationship will be cherished.

Handmade gifts: Lastly, you can give your spouse handmade gifts. This can be a note that you wrote, photos or a photo album, or a handmade card, painting or something you sewed/knitted/crocheted. It can be a recording of you singing or speaking a message. Handmade gifts are some of the easiest but most meaningful gifts you can give your spouse.

4. Acts of service

Simply put, a person whose primary love language is acts of service is someone who feels loved when you do things for them without being asked. This can be tricky when your spouse is long distance, but it can be done!

Don’t complain: When your spouse is away, it falls to you to pick up the slack in the areas that your spouse normally handles. One of the best ways you can serve your spouse during this time is by not complaining about the extra work, which will only put stress on your spouse. Instead, say things such as, “You always do such a good job taking care of the lawn! You won’t even recognize it when you get back!” Complimenting the work your spouse does while remaining cheerful about the extra work you’re putting in will make your spouse feel appreciated and cared for.

Pay for help: Since you can’t be there to physically serve your spouse, you can surprise your spouse with paid help. Whether it’s a gift certificate for a car wash or a Groupon for a cleaning service (if they’re renting while TDY), surprising your spouse with an act of service in your absence is sure to make them feel loved.

5. Physical touch

Physical touch is, for obvious reasons, one of the hardest love languages to maintain when your relationship is long distance. This love language is a non-sexual way of reminding your spouse that you are present with them regardless of how many people are in a room. But don’t give up — there are ways to effectively show love to your spouse whose primary love language is physical touch.

Talk about touch: And no, I don’t mean like that. Tell your spouse the things you miss: holding their hand, the warmth of their hug, or putting your cold feet on them in bed. Conjuring these images of physical touch, and expressing your enjoyment of them will make your spouse feel almost as loved as experiencing the physical touch itself.

Something to cuddle: Sending your spouse something of yours to cuddle (a sweatshirt, stuffed animal, etc.) will serve as a good placeholder when you’renot available to cuddle.

Send your scent: If the above cuddle item smells like you, even better! Sending a love letter with your perfume or cologne is corny but effective — your scent will conjure the same loving feelings as physical touch in a spouse who has this love language.

Send your voice: Sending a recording of your voice speaking a message to your spouse will be another good substitute for physical touch. Send a USB drive with various messages labeled with the date you want them to be heard, a Build-a-Bear with a recording of your voice inside or a card that allows voice recordings. Sending components of yourself in this way will convey love to your physical touch spouse.

Being apart from your spouse is hard, but learning how to speak their love language from a distance (and having them learn to speak yours) will help make the miles seem fewer as you overcome another challenge of military life.

By Amanda Haworth,

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