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Five Love Languages for those with DM

I found this article at my support group. It is written for those with dementia. But, I think that it speaks to those of us living with Myotonic Dystrophy. Where appropriate, every place that they talk about dementia, I have substituted the words Myotonic Dystrophy or DM.

There are 5 love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each one is important and expresses love in its own way. Learning your partner’s and your own primary love languages will help create a stronger bond in your relationship. The love languages are simple tools that can be used to facilitate emotional connection in relationships complicated by DM. Just because you don’t see a light in your loved one’s eyes when you massage their feet or hold their hand it doesn’t mean this isn’t connecting. It is important to remember that any positive feelings generated will persist longer than the memory of the kindness that was performed.”

In a University of Iowa research study, two groups of people watched a 20 minute series of short film clips. One group had dementia; the other group was cognitively normal. The first film clips made everyone sad and tearful. The second group of clips made them laugh and feel happy. After the movies ended, the participants were given a test to see what they recalled about what they had just seen. As expected, the group with dementia didn’t even remember watching the clips. But 30 minutes later, everyone in the dementia group still felt sad or happy. Most significantly, the people who remembered the least about the movies felt the strongest emotions.

This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer’s patient is alive and well.

Whether you are a care partner, a family member, or a friend, the impact of your intentional expressions of love to a person with DM cannot be overstated. Your loving gestures can infuse joy into this difficult and lonely journey.

We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day for those who have DM, but it is absolutely attainable to create perfectly wonderful moments—moments that put smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, or trigger memories. Five minutes later, they might not remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left with them will linger.

Five Love Languages:

1. Words of Affirmation – This love language expresses love with words that build up your partner. Verbal compliments don’t have to be complicated; the shortest and simplest praises can be the most effective. Words mean a lot if your partner has this love language. Compliments and an “I Love You” can go a long way. On the other hand, negative or insulting comments can hurt your partner and it could take them longer to forgive than others.

2. Acts of Service—Your partner might have this love language if their motto is “Actions speak louder than words.” This love language expresses itself by doing things that you know your spouse would like. Cooking a meal, doing the laundry, and picking up a prescription are all acts of service. They require some thought, time, and effort. All of these things should be done with positivity and with your partner’s ultimate happiness in mind to be considered an expression of love. Actions out of obligation or with a negative tone are something else entirely.

3. Receiving Gifts—This love language isn’t necessarily materialistic. It just means that a meaningful or thoughtful gift makes your partner feel loved and appreciated. Something as simple as picking up a pint of their favorite ice cream after a long work week can make a huge impact. This is different than Acts of Service, where you show affection by performing actions to help your partner. They might not be motivated to give, people with DM also might not have much they can actually give. One of the only things they can give is the food they ‘own’. They may give you some of their own food or other personal item.

4. Quality Time—This love language is all about undivided attention. No televisions, no smartphones, or any other distractions. If this is your partner’s primary language, they don’t just want to be included during this period of time, they want to be the center of your attention. They want their partners to look at them and them only. You can still curl up on the couch to watch Netflix or HBO; it just means that you need to make sure to dedicate time together without all of the distractions. That will help them feel comforted in the relationship. Every time you cancel a date, postpone time together or aren’t present during your time together, it can be extremely hurtful to your partner as it can make them feel like you care more about other things than them.

5. Physical Touch—To people with this love language, nothing is more impactful than the physical touch of their partner. They aren’t necessarily into over-the-top PDA, but they do feel more connected and safe in a relationship by holding hands, kissing, hugging, etc. If Physical Touch is your partner’s primary love language, they will feel unloved without physical contact. All of the words and gifts in the world won’t change that. They want to feel you close by, not just emotionally, but physically.

Love Languages

Each individual has at least one language that they prefer above the other…and this is where it gets interesting. The deep human need for love does not disappear with a diagnosis of DM. Love languages get through. Just because a person can no longer speak or take initiative does not mean that they no longer perceive love or know when they are being treated with kindness. People with DM feel deeply. You can take a quiz for yourself and guess on behalf of your loved one.

As the disease progresses you may need to find a new way to express love to them in a way they understand. The love languages can help.

How do I know what their love language is?

1. Before DM, how did your loved one most often express love to you and others? Did they perform acts of service, or compliment you? Did they bring you gifts or often hold your hand?

2. Before DM, what did your loved one complain about most often? If you went on a trip were they disappointed when you did not bring them something? Or did they say we aren’t spending quality time together?

3. Before DM, what requests did your loved one make most often? Can I get a back rub? Can you help me with a chore?

After taking the quiz for your loved one and answering these three questions you can make an educated guess about their love languages.

Taken from

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