Ten Expressions of Love

A system for love-generating communication

How well do you and your partner really communicate? Does it feel like you always understand each other, almost telepathically, or do misunderstandings often occur? Do you feel loved – or neglected? Do you think your partner is good at showing you his/her love, or does he/she leave a lot to be desired? Maybe you just speak different languages.

We express love in very different manners, and also expect to receive love in equally diffrent ways. Of course, this can lead to endless misunderstandings, and that we don’t feel loved, because those around us express their love for us in ways we don’t understand – because our preferences are too different.

This is why we have created the concept Ten Expressions of Love, a kind of phrasebook, a way to show the differences in how we communicate love. The goal is not to rank, or that everyone should give and recieve their love and affection in the same manner. On the contrary, we all have our different preferences, and the particular form of expression that is extremely important to me, may be marginal or even completely unimportant to you. Not being aware of this phenomena, can generate a lot of imbalance in all your relationships. A good way to find out if a language is a primary language is to ask yourself – if I don’t get this, do I feel loved?

For many years, this concept consisted of nine expressions of love, but because we constantly challenge ourselves, never settle for one singular explanatory model that would be the perfect one, and because we are always curious and eager to learn, we have found yet another expression, another language. We’ve been exploring this idea for a long time, and are still researching – so come back in five years, and maybe we have found another language. Eleven expressions of Love – who knows? It’s a bit like relationships – you will never know everything about your partner, nor yourself. There is always something new to discover.

The ten expressions of love that we have identified are essentially about how we give and receive love in practical terms. Some relationships flow perfectly – because they happen to have the same set of primary love languages. Others have incompatible ways of communicating, which makes it more difficult to understand each other. At times it may happen that we do not understand at all when others express love, because we speak completely different languages.

Beng multi-lingual is useful and constructive in any relationship, and it is something you can practice. The better you understand and know how to be able to use all these expressions of love, the better you will also be at understanding everyone you love, and the better you will be at affirming everyone you want to feel seen, needed and loved by you—even those who don’t have the same primary method of communicating love as you do.

Love means taking responsibility for your relationships – and your feelings. An important part of emotional maturity is knowing the difference between mine and yours – that you own your feelings, and to know that your feelings are yours, not something you should project onto the outside world, especially not those you consider close to you. It is not unusual that we sometimes act in a totally counterproductive way – trying to please people we don’t really like at all, and paradoxically enough, sometimes also treat our loved ones with insufficient respect and consideration.

It is also important to understand that these different expressions do not necessarily lead to more love in themselves. It’s the intention that makes all the difference. You can just as well use all these different ways of expressing yourself to push people down. They are tools. A knife is also a tool, which can be used in a variety of creative and constructive ways, such as cooking and woodcarving, but they can also be used to damage. What I call Ten Expressions of Love is thus not primarily about the tools, but ultimately about the intention – they are ways to love, tools to create more love, as long as the intention is to give love. However, it is good to know what you have in your toolbox.

Then, we don’t always want to create intimacy, so it’s always a choice from occasion to occasion. I call it effective, or goal-oriented communication. Some people you want to be close to, from others you want to keep a distance. It’s natural, and nothing to be ashamed of. There is no reason to place any value in this. At the time of writing, there are about 8 billion people on this planet, so we can choose who we want to be around, just as we can choose who we want to avoid. We can do this by communicating deliberately and purposefully, such as to actually choose an intimacy-creating communication with those we want close to us – because it strengthens our love – and that we can choose a distanced attitude towards those we don’t want too close. This may sound harsh and cynical, and of couse it is not about being unpleasant. You can be perfectly polite, without inviting people into your life.

Feel free to go through these different expressions of love together with your partner, exchange thoughts and reflections on the different expressions I describe here. In this way, you can learn more about both yourself and your partner, and how you both want to be treated in love.

”You don’t love me!”
”What? Where did you get that idea?”
”You never tell me you love me.”
” I told you at our wedding!”
”Yes, but that’s 30 years ago!”
”Eh… yes, but… I’ll tell you if I change my mind!”

I may believe that my mother doesn’t love or appreciate me, because she never expresses it verbally. As a verbal person, I will of course interpret the actions of other people from my own perspective, and assume (wrongly) that they express love in the same way as I do. She doesn’t say anything, so therefore I draw the conclusion that she doesn’t love me. But when I move, she comes with a car and trailer, if I have to repaint, she is there with brushes and buckets – and when my washing machine breaks down, she buys me a new. She might also take the opportunity to babysit my children, so I can get out and have some adult time with my partner, without the children. Simply – her way of showing love, by acton, rather than words. And if my primary expression of love is verbal, I might miss that.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you have sex as a primary exprerssion of love, as a particularly important way to give and receive love. If you have a partner who is not as interested in sex as you, that will most probably create an imbalance between you and your partner, as well as a feeling of not being loved – even though your partner may have a deep love fo you, just not the same need for sex. Or maybe you have a great need to express feelings in words. That could make it very frustrating to partner with a non-verbal person. You may give lots of compliments and appreciation, but get very little in return, something can lead to you to believe that you are not loved or even appreciated by your partner

Under some circumstances this kind of imbalance can be compensated – maybe you have a friend you can confide in, if that’s a difficult matter with your partner. Or maybe you feel you need more physical touch than your partner is willing to give – visit a masseuse or body therapist. Sex is unfortunately an area that can become more complicated, since we in our culture are so programmed into a monogamous ideal, particularly with sexual exclusivity. Possibly the imbalance can be compensated with more love in other ways. There are certainly some who choose to engage in open relationships, or even polyamory – but this is still seen as very radical and odd, and most people may not be ready for such a solution. It is also a subject of cultural conditioning.

All relationships present challenges, ups and downs – sometimes euphoria, sometimes boredom, sometimes frustration, and sometimes that deep, heartfelt love – and sometimes that love can feel very far away. One way to change this is to simply reverse cause and effect. If you don’t feel loving – still act like you are. It will affect how you feel. Instead of just being controlled by emotions, and acting on impulse in the moment (which can do more harm than good), you can take control over your emotions. Choose how you want to feel, and act as if you actually feel that way. It gives you more power over yourself and the situation you are in.

One easy way to explore this phenomena is to control your breath. If you feel nervous and tense at the moment – try to breathe and act as if you are calm and collected. It will affect your mood, more than you might think. And if you in your communication with your partner realize that you may actually have different ways of expressing love, and different needs of how you want to be treated, you can adjust accordingly, and communicate from an actual understanding, rather than from frustration.

In short, this concept is intended as a method to identify differences in how we communicate, and thereby increase mutual understanding in every single relationship – not only romantic love relationships, but also with our children, family members, friends, work colleagues, and everyone we want to feel seen, confirmed and appreciated by us.

Giving compliments, praise and appreciation, or reciting poetry and sweet words of love to one’s partner, or just positive encouragement – with presence, sensitivity and awareness – is mostly appreciated. You can make a conscious choice to see exactly what you love, appreciate and/or like in those you meet, and communicate it, to your partner, to your children, your parents, your friends, work colleagues – or someone you only meet casually. If you give compliments with presence, responsiveness and awareness, you will most probably be very popular.

Whatever you focus on will grow. What you give you will get back. So if you choose to see and comment on what you don’t like, that will take up more space, but if you choose to focus on, and openly appreciate what you like, that will be what you see. Remember that if you meet someone, and you can’t see anything positive in the person you meet, it is most certainly not the person you meet who is flawed. You need to adjust your approach. Also remember to receive encouragement, praise and appreciation with joy and an open heart. Every gift has the value the receiver gives it, and that also applies to compliments.

I have made it a matter of heart to often tell my friends how much I appreciate them, how beautiful they are, how creative and wonderful they are. It’s magical. Miracles can happen. Giving a friend just one little nudge of appreciation every now and then can be the difference between victory and defeat, between grand projects and creativ blockage.

More or less, we all suffer from insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of the unknown. Maybe not always, but every now and then. When that occurs, it can be invaluable to be told that you are loved, liked and appreciated. Especially at times when you don’t ”deserve” it. That’s when we need it most. And everyone, EVERYONE, deserves affirmation, love and respect. It is the lack of love that creates contradictions, fear and animosity.

How you see the world is entirely your creation. If you see the world as a horrible place, filled with hate, that’s what it will be. For you. And if you consider the world a beautiful place, filled with love, that’s what it will be. Love – and express it. Everyone has everything to gain from it.

Förtroligt samtal
A fundamental factor in long and happy relationships is true conversation, the kind of serious talk where you practice active listening, moments when you exchange confidences – intimate thoughts and feelings, as well as reflecting and discussing. Above all, that you just listen to each other and are present in your listening. At this very moment you let the other person be the most important person in your life. For real.

A conversation in confidence is not about fixing things, or expressing needs for the other to satisfy, but just being able to share, from the most trivial to the most private, and knowing that you can say just about anything, with complete confidence, and that whatever is said between two people stays there.

An interesting phenomenon that my wife Jennie and I have discovered is that when we quarrel, it is usually about trivial, insignificant, and really it may be an irritation about something completely different that we need to vent. Then we pause, and come back to each other and analyze our quarrel, whch turns the conversation into what we would describe as a ”meta-talk”. That is, we talk about how we communicate – because many of our quarrels or differences simply arise from the fact that we have misunderstood each other. First we thought that was unnecessary, but we have come to value that ”meta talk” as important. It’s actually about being more clear on how we communicate, and since we both want to make ourselves understood, and also understand each other, we talk about everything, including how we talk

Another aspect of relationships that can be very valuable is being able to come back to things that you ned to process. The other person in the relationship may percieve this repetition annoying – ”are you going to nag about that again?” – and thereby imply that the actual processing itself is quite unnecessary. But sometimes we need to air things, and not just once. As in faming, sometimes you have to turn the soil, oxygenate the earth, so that the crop will grow better. From that perspective, the repetition becomes more understandable. For example, if I have experienced something more or less traumatic, I probably need to talk about this experience a number of times, until I have finished processing, oxygenated the soil, so that I can finally sow new thoughts. If you truly love and feel empathy for your partner, have some patience. Your listening may be the best cure.


Love is what you do. Every relationship requires that you do things for each other. Otherwise, it’s not much of a relationship. Actions that clearly convey love are the kind of physical actions and actions that are not the daily chores and routines we all do. It’s the extras, the actions that make a difference. It doesn’t have to be spectacular – no one can bring down the moon for real. It could be as simple as bringing a cup of coffee, or hanging out the laundry, even though it wasn’t your turn. It could be shoveling the snowy driveway in front of the garage for your partner, even though he/she didn’t ask you to do just that. It could also be more elaborate projects like building a kitchen, or organizing a big party.

Maybe you are more verbal in your way of expressing love, and therefore you want to hear your partner confirm your love verbally. And because you don’t get that to th extent that you would like, you may get the idea that your partner/mother/father/aunt doesn’t love you, because he/she never says it, or that they don’t appreciate you because you never get compliments. But pay attention to what they actually do. Maybe you’re in the process of moving – and your mother shows up with a car and trailer. Or let’s say you need to repaint – your father shows up with cans, brushes, rollers and a ladder.

It could be as simple as this – actions may be that particular person’s primary love language, not words. These are the situations where you actually do love each other, but have different expressions of love. It is at these moments it’s particularly important to remember that you may actually just have different languages.

Resa tillsammansActivities:
For many, the best proof of love is that you enjoy being together, and have joint activities. It can be a hobby – a sport, motorbikes, cooking, gardening or anything you do together. It can also be traveling together, perhaps sailing – day trips in the archipelago, or a long trip around the world. Or maybe you run a family business, working together. It can be about bringing each other to an adventure. But above all that, you enjoy being together.

A good relationship does not require sharing everything – on the contrary, it is good for all of us to keep at least some little part of life completely to yourself. But if that particular activity takes so much time and focus away from your partner that he/she never gets to see you, that can cause a lot of friction. You may create arguments and irritation – because you have gotten too little from each other.

A classic in this genre is the phenomena of so-called ”garage widows”. One person in the relationship has a hobby that takees a lot of time and focus. It could mean spending a lot of time in the garage – with that antique Buick, MG, or maybe a motorcycle – or God forbid, a wooden boat. Such an enthusiast can spend an entire evening in the garage rewinding an alternator, straightening and polishing a chrome strip, or adjusting a tachometer, thinking he/she has done a great job, and of course tell this to their partner, with pride ovr their achievement. Then comes the anti-climax when the partner does not at all show the appreciation expected…

Same kind of problem can of course arise for a variety of reasons, such as having different working hours (one of you works as a postman, and the other as an actor – then you have completely different working hours, and are likely to see each other far too rarely), or one of you is engaged in politics, or sport, or is a musician on tour, or engaged in some other time-consuming activity.

During a period of my life I worked as an illustrator artist. One of my specialties is painting and drawing cars. So I met a lot of car enthusiasts, And I heard a really wonderful story about how a couple solved that problem. He had an American car from the 1950’s, so they bought an antique caravan of about the same vintage as the car, painted it in the same colors as the car, and then they moved the sewing machine down into the garage, so that the wife could fix the entire interior of the caravan. And then suddenly they had the same hobby. This became a real hit, and even today at car enthusiast meetings you can see a number of famlies with cars and caravans in the same style. Sometimes they fixed matching clothes for their kids. Now they have a common activity and a good time together. What more could you ask for? So – IF you have very different activities, and feel that you see each other far too rarely, you can always create strategies to be able to spend more time together. It can definitely be a boost in your relationship.

Play may be hugely effective in creating openness, intimacy and connection in a relationship, because it works instantly. Play is about doing things just because it’s fun, not because you have to, releasing the child within us, the unplanned, surprising, preferably a little silly, maybe creepy, to clearly let down the guard and be open to each other. It’s about focusing on humor and fun, making each other laugh.

Of course, play can look very different in each relationship – it could be making ugly faces, inventing weird walking styles, maybe imitating each other, as silly as possible. Putting a finger in your mouth when your partner yawns, or tickling each other, licking each other’s faces, having guerilla wars with snowballs or water guns, having pillow fights, wrestling in the grass, feeding each other candy, making silly noises, or more or less ridiculous competitions where the competition result is not the most important thing at all.

It is the play itself that is central – laughing, bringing the spirits of life with mischief. It costs nothing, requires no preparation, takes no more time than you feel like giving it, and it is undemanding.


The skin is the body’s largest organ, and touch is indeed a physical need. Small children need physical touch to be able to absorb nutrients. But adults can also get what is generally called skin hunger. A lack of touch can make us sick. And vice versa – a single caress can lower both heart rate and blood pressure. Slow and sensual stroking triggers  oxytocin production – a hormone that gives peace, tranquility and pleasure, and which also strengthens emotional bonds. Touch also offers the most basic form of affirmation.

Touch is probably the most essential way of givng and receiving love, as well as establishng a deeper relatonship. We all have very different needs, but I would dare to claim that a majority of the human population does have a strong need for confirmation and closeness through physical touch. By being close to each other, we nourish each other. By touching the surface we can reach the heart. Loving touch is food for the soul. Closeness is nourishment for the heart. If I receive loving touch, it means that I exist, that I confirm that I am loved and needed. Touch is not equally important to everyone, but for most pople it is extremely necessary to feel loved.

Touch is an art. In order to be perceived as a loving form of communication, it has to be practiced with consent, respect and sensitivity. And before we can fully embrace intimate touch, such as sensual or sexual touch, we need to receive large amounts of social touch. A hug, a caress, a pat on the back. A little massage, an affectionate physical closeness.

However, oxytocin is not the only substance that creates well-being in body and mind. There is also dopamine, another reward hormone, which can be triggered by positive confirmation, something that can also come with physical touch. Then there are the endorphins, the body’s own morphine, which relieves pain, and which even can make some pain pleasurable. Everyone has experienced the feeling of ”good-pain”, when you maybe train hard, or get scratched on the back with sharp nails, or get a deep massage on a tense and hard muscle. It may hurt, but it’s the right kind of pain, a pain that can be very pleasurable. For some, this can be a type of touch that is almost a language of its own. Worth exploring.


Having sex as a primary way of expressing and receiving love can mean that you simply love having sex with your partner, and that sex is an important way to express love, devoting yourself to your partner, growing and developing sexually together. It can be completely regular ”vanilla sex”, not necessarily very advanced and experimental at all, but still a central and very important way to communicate love in your relationship. In this case, physical intimacy is the most important part of your sex life..

Or maybe you are more experimental, and have sex as a common interest wth your partner. Maybe you fancy exploring sex together, perhaps trying different sex toys, or watching porn movies together for inspiration, maybe take sexy pictures of each other, or have someone take pictures or film you and your partner together. It could be through different varieties of kinky sex, clubs, BDSM, courses and other things that can contribute to a deepening of the subject, maybe sex with more than the partner, maybe sex in odd places, in nature, with an audience, – or whatever you decide to try on together. One expression is not better than the other, just variations on a theme.

So what do you do if one partner has a significantly greater sex drive than the other? If sex is a primary expression of love for one partner, that might create an imbalance in which one of you feel unloved, and the other feel pressure to agree to more sex than they want, or say no. Either way, this can generate a serious disharmony in the relationship, and is unfortunately not a very favourable situation.

One thing that can create feelings of lack in a relationship is when you have incompatible preferences for ways of expressing love. You simply talk past each other and don’t understand what the other wants, or you want completely different things. This of course applies to all these expressions, not just sex, and is a problem that can arise in all kinds of relationships. You may function perfectly well in several areas, but in something it doesn’t work.

Being aware of this imbalance, you can compensate. If you are in a relationship, and one of you need more of confidential conversation to feel seen and loved, but the other does not have that disposition, or at least not to the same degree – this can be balanced out by having another friend you can confide in, alternatively a therapist. Or if you need more physical touch than your partner is willing to give – then it might be a good idea to visit a massage or tactile therapist. It could also just be about preferences. If one of you loves to play golf, or discuss politics, or something else, whatever, but the other doesn’t, you can always find someone else to do it with. And all of this can come rather easily.

However, sex is an area that can get a bit more complicated. In our culture we are generally strongly conditioned by a monogamous relationship ideal, combined with an expectation of sexual exclusivity. For that reason, it can be more difficult to compensate for incompatibility in the relationship, in this particular area – unless you are very good at negotiating alternative solutions. Therefore, sex can be a particularly critical factor in whether a relationship lasts or not, especially if you cannot find a common solution that both can be satisfied with.

So what do you do if one partner has a significantly greater sex drive than the other? If sex is a primary expression of love for one partner (but not the other), such an imbalance can lead to one feeling unloved, and the other may feel sexual pressure. This may create disharmony in the relationship – not a very favorable scenario for creating a strong sense of close partnership.

One solution can be that the person in the relationship with lesser sex drive sometimes gives their partner sexual satisfaction anyway, even if they may not be very sexually inclined – but as an act of love. If you can see it as similar to cooking for your partner, even though you may not be hungry yourself, then it can work. Sometimes it may also be as simple as by giving your partner sexual satisfaction, you become horny.

Another functional strategy may be to let your partner have the freedom to invite other sexual partners. Through my workshops, and other sexually progressive circles, I have learnt to know several persons who have had such an agreement with their partner, that they can have erotic connections with other people – with the partner’s blessing. As long as everyone involved are happy, all is well.

Giving and receiving presents, physical gifts, is for many a very practical way to show love. Interestingly, physical gifts seem to be the most charged expression of love for many. Receiving a gift can make you feel guilt, because you feel an obligation to give back. And there is a logic to this. A gift generally generates an expectation that a gift will be given in return – so it says in the Edda. And it is a natural driving force, which is also found in other animal species.

Money may be an issue (in itself a very charged topic), or it can be about performance anxiety. It may be about not knowing how to handle getting something you don’t like – or fear of giving something that the recipient doesn’t like. The trick then is to let go of the anxiety and dance with the flow. What you give doesn’t have to be amazing, not so expensive. It’s more about giving something that the recipient would really appreciate. It could be a cup of coffee, a piece of chocolate, or that old sweater that your friend thought was so nice. Then it will be fun, not forced. And if you are the recipient – don’t focus on the gift, but on the intention of showing appreciation, friendship or love.

We all have some friend or relative who likes to give gifts – they always bring something. Sometimes they are very good at understanding what you want, and give you gifts you may have forgotten you wanted – and some give you hideous things that are useless, ugly or just wrong in one way or another. The key then is to understand that this is a way of showing love. You don’t have to love that grotesque vase, or that bizarre rug, or that tasteless garment. You just accept the gift as an expression of love. Then the vase can always ”have an accident”, if it is too terrible. The important thing to remember is that it is not the object itself that is the main thing – the gift is a way to love. Saying no thanks to a gift can be perceived as saying no thanks to the love of the giver.

People who enjoy giving gifts often enjoy receiving them as well. So if you know someone close to you who love to give things, you can always reciprocate with that person by giving a gift. Again, it doesn’t have to be something expensive or sensational – the gift itself is what matters. The recipient will most probably feel seen and confirmed with this gift.

There beauty in giving. To be able to fullingly and flowing give to others, you must also give yourself what you need, and you must also let others give to you, in order for you to receive just as full and flowing. It is important to see giving as a mutual flow – not only to give with generosity and openness, but also to receive. The value of a gift is ultimately determined by the recipient.

And – you can always present yourself as a gift. Just remember to make a beautiful package!

Availability is about making yourself and your resources available – to those you want to feel loved, seen, respected, needed and affirmed. Maybe you lend things, or you have a guest room, always available to friends and acquaintances. It could be offering your services in different ways, or in other ways being present for those around you. You may work from home to be available for your children, you may always be reachable by phone. Perhaps you have a friend who is unwell, and who has an invitation to call you, any time of the day, if necessary.

Giving time and availability to your loved ones may be very important. When it comes to being available, quantity is also quality. Being there for those you love is the foundation of every secure relationship. To give of your time is to give of yourself. If you take the time to sit with someone and listen to what they have to say, or just be available nearby, this is a valuable acknowledgement of that person. Taking the time to prepare a meal, or to satisfy other needs that those around you may have, are also expressions of love – as long as it is balanced with your own needs, and does not develop into a martyrdom, a sacrifice that is likely to induce guilt, rather than gratitude and happiness.

Another aspect of availability that clearly signals intimacy is being available with your body. Always open to a hug, or other physical contact with the person you are available for. A person you have an intimate sexual relationship with has likely also made themselves available for very intimate touch, without necessarily having to ask every time – having that mutual availability is a very clear sign of a deeper, long-term intimacy and trust.

Freedom is giving yourself and your partner freedom. Freedom as an expression of love is about not only letting your partner do what he or she wants, but also giving support and encouragement, without resisting or blaming, just because it feels scary or unknown to yourself. It’s not always that easy – but it can be incredibly rewarding. 

This attitude can of course be applied on sex, which is a central aspect of most love relationships. Not everyone wants monogamy. Polyamory, open marriage swinging and other non-monogamous practices have become popular, and many are attracted by it, as a joint game, an experiment, a turn-on. Alternatively it could be a compensation/gift of love if you have very different levels of sex drive – or it can be that you simply enjoy giving each other that freedom. However, it’s not for everyone. You should always have open and honest communication, and remember who is your primary partner. And I would also recommend having a very open communication about it, so that i never becomes infidelity, doing stuff secretly. If you do that, it can work just fine.

It can also be about completely different things. It can be about career choices, travel, finances, studies, diet, politics – everything. For example, if your partner wants to quit a secure job to start a business, or study, or write a book – how can you support and encourage your partner to make the best decisions, even if your partner’s idea worries you? How can you become each other’s resources, on the way to new goals and adventures in life, for development and expansion? And how, with trust and truth as guiding stars, can you let each other become the supportive resources you need along the way?

As you may understand, this expression requires a high level of personal maturity, integrity, a lot of trust and truthfulness – and of course, very good communication skills. It requires that you recognize each other as adults with discernment and a well-developed sense of responsibility. It may not suit everyone, but then again, none of these 10 expressions do.

Sources of inspiration:
The inspiration to creating these Ten Expressions of Love comes from several sources, during a long period of time. My main sources are writers like Rupa Goswami, Keith Johnstone, John Gottman, Gary Chapman, Deborah Tannen – and many more.

Rupa Goswami (1489–1564) was a highly respected teacher in the gaudiya-vaishnava tradition, which is a love-centered, ecstatic spiritual tradition; bhakti. His incredibly concentrated, short writing Shri Upadeshamrita (only 11 verses), which I read for the first time sometime in the early 1980s, gave me my first really strong understanding that we give and receive love in different ways . In this book he describes various phenomena which are on the one hand favorable for developing this devoted love, and on the other hand phenomena which are unfavorable. One of the verses describes in all simplicity six different forms of loving communication.

Upadesamrita vers 4
by Rupa Goswami (1489–1564)

dadati pratigrinati
guhyam akhyati pricchati
bhunkte bhojayate caiva
sad-vidha priti-laksanam

”Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting food and offering food are the six symptoms of love shared by one God-loving person and another.”

What particulary inspired me in this short verse by Rupa Goswami is on one hand the very phenomenon of dividing loving communication into different forms, and on the other hand the fact that communication goes both ways, in such a way that receiving a gift is its own form of loving communication, equally valuable as the giving. How I receive love is then just as important as how I give, and receiving a gift can be just as much a gift to the giver, depending on how I react to the gift. The value of the gift lies above all in how it is received. This was a great and important insight for me, and I still carry it with me today.

Keith Johnstone is a true guru to me, as a theater man, and godfather to all who work with improvisational theatre. Theater is entirely about communication, and a great deal of everything I’ve learned about relationships and love has come through my work in theater and acting. When my wife Jennie and I started running our love workshops for couples back in 2004, I used several theater exercises with our participants—some invented by Keith, some by myself.

John Gottman is an American psychologist, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington. He researches relationships, and has written several books on the subject – some of which we have, which have inspired us a lot. Gottman has done a lot of research into what creates divorces, and what creates long and happy relationships.

Gary Chapman is an American radio host and author, who is best known for the books he has written about his explanatory model The Five Love Languages, a concept that we have been inspired by, but which we have developed very much further. We simply think a lot is missing in Chapman’s model. This development work has led us to having ten languages, rather than only five. However, he deserves credit for creating this concept of different love languages, something that has helped many communicate their needs in relationships.

Deborah Tannen is an American professor of sociolinguistics, and author of many books, including about communication in relationships, such as You Just Don’t Understand (1990), and That’s Not What I Meant (1991), books I read back in the 1990’s. Tannen’s ideas have inspired us to understand different ways of communicating, and how we can reach each other, even though it sometimes feels like we speak completely different languages.


Love is a dance, work, play, serious business, a meeting and a joint project. The more serious you are about your relationships, the more fun and glorious it will be, and the more evolving and dynamic your life will be.

Give love a chance!

Calle & Jennie Rehbinder

Carl Johan Rehbinder 2018 (revised and translated into English 2023)

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