Is loving your partner enough? The real question should be, does your partner feel love? Research states that the key to a healthy relationship is ensuring that both parties feel loved and cared for by one another.
But what is love exactly?
Despite being easy to say, love is hard to define. The most common meaning is that love is felt in the heart. When we care for another person, it is said that we feel something for them. Yet, when it comes to love, there is so much more to it than our feelings.
For different personalities, love means very different things. In fact, we all feel, receive and express love in various unique ways in the contexts of our romantic relationships.
Do you know what makes you feel loved? A kiss? Undivided attention from your partner? A considerate gift? How is it that you express your love?
The Five Love Languages
According to Dr Gary Chapman, author of the now well-known book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, there are ﬁve universal ways that all people express and interpret love.
These ways of receiving and expressing love are called love languages and include:
Words of affirmation:
This love language speaks to the idea of expressing love through encouraging and kind words. If this is your love language, receiving unexpected compliments, hearing the words, "I love you" and the reasons behind that love is likely to be important to you.
Acts of service:
Easing the burden of responsibilities weighing on another person is what this love language is all about. It speaks very much to the idea of loving and valuing others by serving them without feeling obligated to do so.
There is a very good chance that the words that will be music to your ears are: "Let me do that for you" if this is your love language.
Far from being materialistic, someone who has this as their love languages views gifts as a heartfelt symbol which expresses someone else's affection and love for them.
Therefore they feel most cared for when they receive the perfect gift or gesture applicable to them. It is all about the thoughtfulness, effort and love behind the gift.
Those who have this as their love language are likely to feel deep connections with someone else when they share their complete attention and uninterrupted time with them. To make them feel truly loved and special, it is all about really being present and in the moment with them.
This love language speaks to the idea of expressing love through physical touch, be it a kiss, a hug, a pat on the back, a thoughtful touch on the arm, holding hands or sex - these are all ways in which those who have this as their love language show love, care, concern or excitement.
According to this theory, we each have one primary love language (which speaks more deeply to you than all the others) and one secondary love language. We also tend to give love the way we naturally prefer to receive love.
While we or our partner may have one primary love language that we particularly favour above the remainder of the love languages, this does not mean that we should stop expressing the other love languages, especially because we still enjoy traits of the others as well.
It can therefore be said that, when we know our love language, we are better equipped to express our needs to our partners while also understanding how to make them feel loved in return. Discovering, exploring and learning to regularly speak (even when it does not come naturally to you) to our partners' primary love language can drastically improve and strengthen our relationships with them.
Similar to Dr Gary Chapman's theory of the five love languages, George Gurdjieff, who developed the modern Enneagram diagram along with other significant teachings about human development, spoke of three centers of energy and the idea that love could be expressed from each.
According to George Gurdjieff, every human possess three "brains" or three centers of energy and intelligence, namely the head center, heart center, and body center. He believed that love can be expressed from each center, each with its own result and quality. Thus, comparable to Dr Gary Chapman's, the work of George Gurdjieff gives us a practical outline for understanding how we love and how we want to be loved.
Enneagram Centers - An Integrative Approach
At Integrative Enneagram Solutions, we believe that individuals have access to three Enneagram centers of action, thinking and feeling. While a person accesses all three, they give different priority to each, using them in different ways and sequences.
Three ways of working with the Centers
Based on our observations, we at Integrative Enneagram Solutions believe that there are three different yet equally valid ways of working with the centers: As Centers of Expression (interpersonal), Centers of Structure (intrapersonal), and as Centers of Intelligence (transformational).
The interpersonal perspective relates to the external world and an individual's largely behavioural participation in it. The intrapersonal perspective offers a pathway for exploring how emotional themes might play out in a person's life. The transformational perspective becomes more 'intelligent' after deep work with mindfulness and presence.
Given the interpersonal nature of love, we will be looking at the three centers from the perspective of the Centres of Expression.
Centres of Expression relates to how individuals show up in the world and how they are likely to be perceived by others. As humans we have access to all three Centers of Expression, as each person has the ability to think, feel and act.
However, when we interact with people we tend to see that some are doers, some thinkers and some more emotional. While some people project and connect to their emotions, others are more connected to their thoughts or gut instincts. Exploring the centers helps to understand, at a much deeper level, the way in which we show up in the world, process external stimuli and information and make decisions. And in this case, express love for others.
Similar to the idea that we may have one primary and one secondary love language that we particularly favour above the remainder of the love languages, the Enneagram states that we all have a dominant center of expression. While a person accesses all three centers, they give different priority to each, using them in different ways and sequences.
Expressing Love Through The Centers in Romantic Relationships
Body Center Love
The body center is expressed as 'hot' energy and relates to movement, action, instinct and physical sensations. People with strong access to their body center tend to engage with the world in an active, energised way and may be described as someone who makes things happen. They are determined, bold and brave.
Frequently tuning in to their instincts and intuition, they somehow 'know' what is happening or what needs to happen without necessarily being able to explain how they know. Quite aware of their environment, they are good at picking up on opportunities to change a situation or move it forward.
Similar to the 'Acts of Service' and 'Physical Touch' love languages, Body Center Love is all about 'doing love.' According to Che Guevara, "we must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force."
In other words, it is about doing for another, and taking action on their behalf. For example, this could include knowing that your partner needs food, shelter, money, sex etc and doing the work in order to take care of and provide for their perceived needs.
Heart Center Love
The heart center is expressed as 'warm' energy and relates to the gifts of emotional self-awareness, connection and relationships. People with strong access to their heart center are likely to be emotionally intelligent, self-aware and highly perceptive of their connections and relationships with others. Inclined to be collaborative and consultative, they prefer working through challenges with others rather than acting alone. They like to relate to others in an inclusive way as they move to understanding, which is effective in building strong relationships.
Comparable to the 'Quality Time' love language, Heart Center Love is all about 'feeling love.' For example, it is about romance, being told that we are loved and experiencing the feeling of being in-love which is the fuel for the fire of the heart center.
We know when someone is truly present and listening to us in the moment and in turn we empathise with their heart. When we feel and care for someone, we have a strong emotional response towards them and in turn, we are capable of showing them love, compassion, empathy and devotion.
Head Center Love
The head center, also sometimes referred to as the thinking center, is expressed as 'cool' energy and relates to rationality, information, ideas, planning and prioritising.
People with strong access to their head center tend to be rational, strategic planners who are able to see things clearly and move from insight to action without being distracted by subjective emotion. They are likely to excel at analysing an issue, generating a number of possible actions or ideas and assessing these based on a solid understanding.
However, it is important for them to check in on the quality and focus of their busy mind. It may help to ask whether they feel connected, confident and clear in their thinking or whether they are hijacked by feelings of anxiety, second-guessing or doubt.
Much like the 'Word of Affirmation' and 'Receiving Gifts' love languages, Head Center Love is all understanding and 'intellectualising love' in order to really see who your partner is and fully appreciating your partner. It is about fully understanding and expressing the reasons behind why you love them be it through words or gestures.
Relationships often become problematic because we do not all have the same preference as our partners when it comes to expressing and receiving love. Like the idea of the love languages, the way we use our Enneagram Centers to express love might not map to our partner's use and expression.
It is for this reason that by understanding not only our partners' inherent love language but how they express love through the Enneagram Centers that we can begin to tear down walls in our romantic lives - allowing us to communicate and express love better.
Understanding the role of our three centers will help us appreciate how we already love others and how we can further develop our capacities in the head center, heart center, and body center.
So some of the work is making both our patterns apparent and working to develop the centers that resonate for the other. This way, we can explicitly show our partners that we care and make them feel loved and appreciated.
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