Since the 1990’s, The Five Love Languages have become one of the most popular theories used to help couples communicate more effectively. Gary Chapman, the creator, even wrote a whole book on the subject, referring to them as “the secret to love that lasts.” With a claim that powerful, I’m sure you want to know more about them! What are the five love languages, and how can you use them to help maintain your relationship?
The five love languages are the different ways people understand and express love. As with verbal languages, different people speak different ones. Imagine what it would be like trying to have a relationship with someone who only speaks Italian and you only speak English. Communication would be really frustrating! Similarly, imagine trying to communicate your love for your partner via touch, when they only understand love through receiving gifts. You’d both leave those interactions feeling pretty unheard!
The goal of this post is to help you learn all the five love languages. This way, you’ll know when your person is trying to show you love, and you’ll be able to offer love that your partner can comfortably receive. At the end, I’ll link to the official online quiz as a fun activity for the two of you to do together!
The Five Love Languages:
** The information in this post is not to be taken as therapy; it is purely informational. If you feel you and your partner could benefit from counseling, I urge you to check out the site I’ve partnered with called Regain. While I’m awaiting my associate license from the state to do therapy, they can offer you affordable online couples counseling from licensed professionals!
The first of the five love languages is physical touch. If this is your language, you feel most loved when you’re making (wanted) physical contact with your partner. This does not have to mean sexual touch. In fact, I’m talking more about meaningful hugs. Or when you’re talking in a group and your partner puts their hand on your lower back. Think of when your partner wants to kiss you goodbye even though you have a cold, or when they roll over in the middle of the night because they’re sweating but still maintain some contact. If any of those things gave you butterflies, you might be fluent in physical touch!
While some couples will value touch more than others, it’s important for everyone to get a healthy dose of it. Loving touch releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is responsible for feelings like calmness and affection. In fact, it’s often referred to as the cuddle hormone!
So, what happens if your partner speaks this language, and you don’t? Are you a worse couple? Of course not. You just have to get to know each other’s languages. Fortunately, learning touch is an easy one because it takes virtually no time out of your day, unlike acts of service or quality time. It also doesn’t have to involve PDA, which is a common misconception. Learning physical touch is as easy as remembering to stroke your partner’s back as you walk past them in the kitchen, or kissing them goodbye before work. It does not have to mean making out at your table in Chipotle, or trying to fall asleep completely attached to a space heater of a human.
Words of Affirmation
The second of the five love languages will be words of affirmation. If this is your language, you probably feel most loved when your partner says nice things to you! You probably also appreciate good morning and goodnight texts, and you like to hear how much your partner loves and appreciates you. Often, you want to be in contact throughout the day, whether that’s via texting, a phone call during lunch, etc. Speaking the words of affirmation love language means you really benefit from verbal validation. It also means you might have a strong reaction to criticism, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Like with physical touch, learning this love language doesn’t take much time, but it does take thought. Especially if you grew up in a family that didn’t share their feelings much. At first, it might not come naturally to tell your partner you’re thinking of them, or how much you care. Still, learning to do so has value on a few levels. On an individual level, it will make your partner feel understood, and will boost their self-esteem.
Then of course, as systems theory states, your relationship is a system with two parts that work together to make a greater whole. If one partner makes a change, the rest of the system has to adjust for it. If you begin validating your partner often, they will respond to you differently than they did before. Engaging in your partner’s love language will give your whole relationship a boost in safety and closeness.
Oh, quality time. If you speak this one of the five love languages, you feel most loved when your person gives you undivided attention. That might look like not checking phones when you’re together, or otherwise making time for just the two of you. I find a lot of my clients deeply crave quality time, but can’t seem to get it.
So, why is this love language so difficult to speak? For one thing, our society has become pretty afraid of vulnerability. Some of what could be quality time is stunted, because our fear of not being accepted is what really has our attention.
Society also pushes us to be constantly working and moving. So, at the end of a long day at work, we’re often too tired to engage with our partners fully. There’s also a flip side to that problem– we want to be constantly stimulated, and the idea of turning our phones off to be fully present provokes anxiety. That’s understandable. We often turn to screens to escape, or for protection. It’s easy and effective. And yet, it doesn’t serve us when we’re building relationships. Especially when our partner’s love language is quality time. So, whether we turn to screens because we’re anxious about not being productive, or we fear what we’ll engage with if we’re present, it is important to face it, not hide.
So, turn your phone off for an hour and engage together in something like Bandersnatch this week. Or Bird Box. Or some other Sandra Bullock stuff, of which there is plenty. If quality time isn’t your love language, again, this might not come easily at first. Still, what you have to gain is far more valuable than what you have to lose.
Acts of Service
If you score highest in the “acts of service” category on the five love languages quiz, you really feel like “actions speak louder than words.” You feel most loved when your partner shows you how much they value you. For example, you feel great when your partner offers to do something they know you don’t like, such as washing the dishes, or getting the car’s oil changed. Maybe taking over diaper duty for the night, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn. These actions show what words of affirmation state– your partner loves you, wants you to be happy, and is thinking of you.
If you’re having trouble understanding this love language, I find that stereotypes are often what hold people back. For example, I’ve had many a male client where it simply did not cross their mind to do dishes for their partner because to them, it’s just something their wife did. Obviously, women do not inherently love doing dishes because they’re women. When men realize this is something they can do to make their wives or girlfriends feel appreciated, it can open up a whole new world. Of course, the same goes for women! I wonder how appreciated a husband would feel if he came home and the lawn was mowed, or the car was serviced?
Finally if you score highest on the last of the five love languages, you feel most loved when your person gives you gifts. To you, gifts are tangible proof of how your partner feels about you. It doesn’t matter if the gift is expensive, or if it cost anything at all. As long as it’s thoughtful and shows that your partner was thinking of you!
If giving gifts is not something that comes naturally to you, that’s okay! Like with all the others, you can learn it. The most important thing to know is that your partner is not materialistic simply for speaking this language. They are not necessarily asking to be surprised with a diamond necklace after work every day. Again, they just want proof they can hold in their hands that you were thinking of them. If you know, for example, that your partner loves crafts, stop at the craft store and pick up a ball of yarn on the way home. Under $10 and shows understanding of not only their love language, but also what they like.
So, are you ready to learn which of the five love languages you speak?
If so, you can check out The Five Love Languages Quiz right here! Be sure to leave me a comment with your results, and maybe even tell me how you and your partner will make an effort to understand each other better.