Love languages

Love languages

William Shakespeare once said "They do not love that do not show their love." He meant of course that love is expressed by actions and emotions. We asked five couples for their love languages, and their secrets to a happy, healthy relationship. 

Interviews Natalie Cyra. Hero photography Sara Orme

20s - Kate and Tim Hall 

How did you meet?
T: I’ve known Kate’s family since I was 11 (I’m now 27). Her dad, a vet, put my family dog down. So, growing up, I loosely associated Kate with that memory. But I don’t hold it against her… much. Fast forward over a decade, and we had stayed in touch via the local youth group, but our friendship only began to take off when we started playing in a musical duo together, called Becoming Mesha. A long story short, I was messing about with music, and after hearing Kate sing I invited her to collaborate on a project I was working on. Her mum heard us sing together and offered our services for a mutual friend’s wedding – we ended up playing them down the aisle. I think it’s fair to say you can’t practice singing love longs with someone and not fall in love with them. The rest is history.
K: In December we will have been together for five years.

How did you know you had fallen in love with each other?
K: Our relationship grew over time, there was never a pivotal moment, but several little moments and gestures that were built upon - and are still growing today. I remember a few moments, like when he boldly (and unexpectedly) stopped at my house on Christmas day and introduced himself to my extended family with great confidence. My mum called it at the beginning- she had never heard me laugh so much than when I was around him.
T: We started out as friends. Through and through, nothing more. We have a fairly large age gap, so she didn’t even cross my mind for years. But after our musical collaboration, and spending months together (glorious summer months may I ad) rehearsing romantic songs for a wedding, it became undeniable that feelings had emerged. How could I tell I was in love with her? I had peace in my mind and in my chest when I thought of my future, and wanted her with me in whatever life held (soppy, but true).

How do you balance a relationship with all of the commitments that come with everyday life?

K: We both work full time in the city, and have other projects on the side too, so this is a super relevant question and important topic for us! It helps that we car pool to and from work (this helps the environment too!), and get that time together to plan and reflect on our day. We often have to book nights in advance to hang out together, but we are also really good at doing our own thing, yet in the same space. This means we get to imput into each other’s projects, whilst spending quality time together. We play music together and have other shared interests, so its fun and super handy being able to share these with each other.
T: It’s a balance, and we don’t always win, but we are always trying. To say that we lead busy lives is an understatement (for Kate at least). While she’s running around like a mad woman, I’m usually somewhere taking it easy, asking her to sit down with me for 20 minutes and enjoy a hot drink. It’s our differences and unique strengths that balance each other out, and help us meet in the middle. My placid and relaxed nature helps slows her down before she burns out, and her whirlwind of activity and passions edges me on and helps fuel my own drive. Together we make a good team.

Have you ever had to overcome differences in values? Or in general, how do you overcome your differences?
K: We have similar values in the way that we live - we live a zero-waste lifestyle, shop ethically, and go op-shopping a lot. I feel very lucky in this sense, but it’s not always easy. When differences are highlighted as points of contention, we talk it out. We have always been really good communicators, we just say it how it is, and know and trust each other well enough to listen, solve the issue, and move on.
T: Disagreements are often the zest of life. I’d get so bored if Kate always agreed with me. For me, the trick is to always stay open to receiving feedback and criticism. I don’t always take it well, but I try to shut up and listen. I believe listening is the foundation stone to any good relationship. Listening isn’t just being quiet while the other speaks, nor is it hearing them and forming your rebuttal at the same time in the back of your mind. It is the act of hearing their perspective, asking for clarity and not cutting them off till they’ve finished. This way they have felt (and are) heard, you fully know their perspective, and can then deal with the issue at hand, and not bicker over the petty offences and the bitter emotions of being spoken over or ignored. True listening helps us overcome differences.

Have you ever been given some really great advice from someone about relationships you can share?
K: The best thing I have ever learnt is from my parents. Go on dates, have adventures and don’t forget to hold hands! My parents have been married for 27 years and they still giggle like 18 year olds watching movies together, go hiking and windsurfing together. I suppose it is easy to get into the rhythm of life and forget the fun you had when you were young.
T: Be completely honest, transparent and sometimes blunt with each other. It’s more important to have clear and open dialogue than hide thoughts and emotions.

How do you keep your relationship exciting and fresh?
K: We travel together, try new restaurants and places to adventure, and never have the same routine every week. Tim and I also connect with different groups and people, so our interesting community and external relationships keep our own relationship fresh.
T: I usually leave that up to Kate. Each day seems to bring all sorts of freshness. I just let her do her thing. Brilliant. But I like to bring my fair share if fresh people, thoughts and ideas to the table.

Do you have any relationship ‘rules’?
T: When we are having a serious, emotional, vulnerable or difficult conversation, it’s our rule make sure we are touching in some way. This could simply be holding hands, putting my arm around her or sitting so close that our knees touch. My personal favourite is cuddling on the couch. Verbally we may be disagreeing or critiquing one another, with emotions running high, but by touching we are subconsciously affirming and supporting one another. Touch can say “I’m here, even though I disagree with you right now”, “I’m not going anywhere, even though it may sound that way” and “I still love you, even though I’m mad”. The hard part is to not let go.

What value or trait do you hold the most important?
K: Humour! I can’t get through my day without a good giggle, and Tim makes this happen REGULARLY.
T: Kindness. Above all be kind.

What is your love language? (i.e the way you express your love for your significant other).
K: My love languages in receiving and giving are different. Physical touch is my number love language to receive. My problems are often solved with a hug, and a squeeze of the hand or kiss on the lips. I love giving with gifts- handmade, recycled, and things made with a lot of thought.
T: My ‘love tank’ gets filed in many ways, the major being quality time and words of affirmation. But I can sniff out a fake a mile away, meaning it must be given genuinely. But when it is, it makes me feel appreciated, loved and seen.

30s - Nick Thomson and Johan Niemand 

Have you ever been given some really great advice from someone about relationships/marriage you can share?
N: A friend of mine told me that ‘the wrong relationship will teach you how to recognise the right one when it arrives’.

Have you ever had to overcome differences in values? Or in general, how do you overcome your differences?
N: You have to respect that everyone has different values and put in some effort to understand what is truly important to your partner.
J: Nick and I are very different – I often say that I am the Dharma to his Greg - but we have a good overlap in values. Like with many things in life there is sometimes a need to sensibly compromise.

How do you keep your relationship exciting and fresh?
N: Our spare time is really important to us so we try our best to get away to our bach and relax as much as possible. To do this, we had to make a decision to stop spending our spare time doing all the household chores that others could help with like gardens and cleaning.
J: Getting a cleaner was a game changer! We usually have a date night in Auckland in Mondays – Nick is up there for work, so I’ll drive up, stay the night and drive back to Hamilton the next morning.

Do you have any relationship ‘rules’?
N: We acknowledge disproportionate reactions can happen from time to time and we get over them fast. We never go to bed on an argument and we always say “I love you” before we go to sleep or when we are away from each other.

What value or trait do you hold the most important?
N: For me, I think it all comes down to respecting each other.
J: Trust and respect. And I’ll add to that our ability to work as a team.

What is your love language?
N: We have cute pet names for each other that we randomly change and we love a good cuddle. Johan is also very clever and I will often receive a cute voicemail, note or even a song to show his love language.
J: We will often squeeze in on the piano stool and have a sing together. Nick leaves notes occasionally and often will just ring me on his way somewhere to check in and, in his words, “just wanting to hear my voice” which I think is quite sweet.

40s - Sarah and Vincent Heeringa 

What is some great relationship advice you've received? 
Someone once told us that life is longer than you think. There are different seasons to go through and the important thing is that your relationship can adapt to change. It helps when you respect each other. 

How do you keep your relationship exciting and fresh? 
Making time to be alone together from the mundane. Celebrate the simple things.

Do you have any relationship ‘rules’?
Always try to be kind to each other. Try not to go to bed mad - but don't stay up and fight either. Give yourself time to get perspective before talking about difficult things. Sometimes it's better not to put every thought you have into words. Don't say what can't be unsaid. 

What is your love language?
Having both been journalists, it should be something word based. But it’s probably acts of service or quality time.

50s - Lynne and Steve Dickinson

What do you think the secret is to a long-lasting relationship?
Making sure you are both on the same page about what you want in life, with each other and your family and then regularly check your emotional compass to make sure you are heading in the same direction.

Every relationship has hard times – how have you managed to get through yours?
We've learnt to identify issues early rather than leave things to get worse.  Steve laughs and says "sometimes it's better to value happiness over being right."

What traits do you value most in your relationship?
Respect is key - we are quite different in many areas yet we genuinely admire those differences in one another.  

What is one relationship-rule you would never break?
We try to never go to bed on an argument, however we have both learnt that sometimes a good night sleep is all that is needed.

What is your love language?
We both know the importance of making sure we each feel loved and I think our key is awareness - it's never just one thing. Sometimes it maybe flowers or cards and other times it's help where most needed. Because we work together all day every day, we are very aware of each other's needs and stresses - sometime simply making a nice lunch when the other person is busy is just what is needed.

80s - June and Tom Fisher 

What do you think the secret is to a long-lasting relationship?
Making long term goals and supporting each other. Never argue about finances - have a joint account! Enjoy spending time together.

Every relationship has hard times – how have you managed to get through yours?
By talking things through, looking forward to the next step in our marriage and having a close family network. A sense of humour is a big help!

What traits do you value most in your relationship?
The support we give each other through career choices, further education and bringing up our family. We have always worked well together and still do even though we have slowed up!

What is your love language?
After nearly 60 years it is daily things - like Tom cooking lovely meals.

What is one relationship-rule you would never break?
Never bear grudges - talk things through and move on.

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