There’s a reason why the book The 5 Love Languages is a New York Times bestseller with over 20 million copies sold worldwide and counting. The author, Dr. Gary Chapman, proclaims that this book is the secret to love that lasts. As it turns out, millions of couples across the globe can confirm that understanding the 5 Love Languages helped them build a solid relationship foundation, and a healthy, lasting relationship with mutual respect.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “We just speak different languages” when a friend has complained about relationship conflict. Similarly, couples in unhealthy relationships often lament that they don’t “get their needs met”, they “don’t see eye to eye”, or “can’t get on the same page”.
Perhaps the key to getting your needs met, getting on the same page and speaking each other’s language is to read The 5 Love Languages and communicate your primary love language to each other. In this renowned relationship advice book, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that the secret to real love that lasts is not only understanding what your love language is, but also understanding and accommodating your partner’s love language.
Since February is Love Month and The 5 Love Languages has helped so many couples love each other better, we thought we’d provide a thorough and detailed overview of the 5 Love Languages in this article.
What Are the 5 Love Languages?
Take a moment to review the different love languages, and let your intuition guide you on which are the most important to you. Below are the 5 Love Languages as outlined by Dr. Gary Chapman:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Let’s discuss each of these 5 love languages in more detail. With this thorough overview below, you can discover what your primary love language is, as well as your partner’s. This way, you can know and love each other better, and build a healthy relationship where you meet each other’s emotional needs on a deeper level than you ever thought was possible.
Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
Healthy communication is key in relationships, and a fundamental component of healthy communication is words of affirmation. This includes verbal compliments, words of encouragement, kind words, and words of appreciation.
Many couples have yet to fully recognize the power of verbally affirming each other. For example, there are men who think to themselves, She already knows she’s beautiful and she gets compliments on her looks all the time, I don’t need to tell her. Or, She already knows she’s mega successful, I don’t need to compliment her on her achievements. However, even if a beautiful, smart and accomplished woman gets compliments all the time, there’s only one person she truly wants those words of affirmation from the most, and that’s her partner. For many women, compliments on her physical appearance mean absolutely nothing unless those affirmations are coming from the man she loves.
Women make the same mistake all the time: failing to provide their partner with words of affirmation. She might think, He acts so confident, the last thing he needs is an ego rub from me. Confidence, however, is oftentimes a mask or illusion. He may need verbal affirmations just as much as she does.
How much or little you require words of affirmation to feel loved depends on if this love language is one of your primary love languages. Later in this article, we’ll help you discover how to go about deciphering what your love language is, but in your heart of hearts, you likely already know. Below are some examples of words of affirmation that could be continuous in relationships where couples are accommodating this need:
- “You’re so talented, I’m blown away by your skills.”
- “You’re so beautiful.”
- “You look so handsome.”
- “I love how much you encourage me and support me.”
- “Your drive is so admirable.”
- “Thank you for making dinner tonight. I was so exhausted, and I really appreciate it.”
- “Thanks for organizing that trip. I had a great time, and I really appreciate the research you did.”
- “I don’t take for granted how well you treat me.”
- “I feel very lucky to have you.”
Words of affirmation should be consistent, not sporadic or only following an argument or misstep. If you discover your partner’s primary love language is words of affirmation, Dr. Chapman suggests, “Set a goal to give your spouse a different compliment each day for a month.” He also advises on trying to give different verbal affirmations as much as possible, rather than always repeating the same ones. You want to show your partner that you appreciate all aspects of their wonderful and dynamic selves.
Love Language #2: Quality Time
Dr. Chapman explains, “By ‘quality time’, I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together.” Spending quality time together is important in relationships, especially since you’re perpetually getting to know each other, and that should never stop.
Quality time could be something along the lines of:
- Going for a walk just the two of you.
- Going out for dinner (without having your phones out at the table).
- Hiking a beautiful trail together.
- Going to the park with a picnic basket.
- Driving to a cabin in the mountains for a romantic weekend together.
- Taking them to a scenic waterfall you know they’d love.
It’s about finding time for each other, carving out that time, and ensuring you make the effort to enjoy each other’s company without distractions.
Quality time involves quality conversations. You should be asking each other questions about their passions, hopes, and dreams. Quality conversations also involve asking each other if there’s any problems they’d like to vent about or get off their chest. Perhaps they could use an attentive ear to talk about a work problem, something bothering them in their friend group, or something else. Active listening involves truly listening to what they’re saying, asking follow-up questions, and validating their feelings.
If you find out that one of your partner’s primary love languages is quality time, Dr. Chapman suggests, “Ask your partner for a list of five activities that he or she would enjoy doing with you. Make plans to do one of them each month.” You could also rarely go wrong with suggesting a weekend getaway. This is an adventurous, romantic and meaningful way to spend quality time together.
Love Language #3: Gifts
Receiving gifts is a love language that is more meaningful to some people compared to others. Some people who discover that receiving gifts is one of their primary love languages have realized they feel loved when their partner thinks of them in this way.
Dr. Chapman explains, “A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, ‘Look, he was thinking of me,’ or ‘She remembered me.’ You must be thinking of someone to get them a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of them.”
Gifts are an expression of love, and many people express their thought, care and love by giving their partner gifts. For example, imagine your partner had to go to the mall to pick up their watch that was being repaired. While they’re at the mall, they see a hummingbird necklace in a store window, and they remember how much you love hummingbirds. Your partner surprises you with this gift, showing you they were not only thinking of you when you were apart, but they also remembered something you hold dear. Gifts can include:
- Something you purchased that reminded you of your partner.
- Something handmade (perhaps something beautiful made of wood during a woodworking class).
- An item you found for your partner (perhaps something they’ve been wanting for quite some time).
- A book you bought for your partner that could help solve some sort of problem they expressed to you.
In his book, Dr. Chapman explains that you’re in luck if you find out that receiving gifts is one of your partner’s top love languages. This is because giving gifts is one of the easiest love languages to learn. You can become a fantastic gift-giver quite easily, and gifts only need to be thoughtful. They don’t need to be expensive. Dr. Chapman suggests, “Keep a ‘Gift Idea Notebook.’ Every time you hear your spouse say, ‘I really like ___’, write it down in your notebook. Listen carefully and you will get quite a list. This will serve as a guide when you are ready to give a gift.”
Love Language #4: Acts of Service
In his book The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Chapman explains, “By acts of service, I mean doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. You seek to please them by serving them, to express your love for them by doing things for them.” Acts of service could include:
- Installing motion-detector lights in the kitchen after hearing your partner complain about having trouble finding the light switch in the dark.
- Cooking a meal for your partner.
- Planning and organizing a trip such as booking a walking tour or finding the right hotel.
- Cleaning, vacuuming or taking the garbage out.
- Installing air conditioning in the house because your partner is always too hot.
- Changing the baby’s diaper.
- Doing the grocery shopping.
- Helping your partner set up a website for their side hustle.
- Offering to help them with a passion project they’re working on.
- Hiring and organizing the landscaper to revamp the garden.
- Driving them somewhere they need to go.
If you discover your partner’s primary or secondary love language is acts of service, Dr. Chapman suggests, “Ask them to make a list of ten things he or she would like you to do during the next month. Then ask them to prioritize those by numbering them 1-10, with 1 being the most important and 10 being the least important.” You can use this list of acts of service you know your partner would like and appreciate to plan your next act of service for your partner. This helps ensure you’re meeting their needs and that you’re speaking their love language.
Your partner might be thrilled when you go grocery shopping for them, yet not quite as enthused when you bring home a gift. This could definitely indicate that they prioritize the love language of acts of service.
Be cognizant of acts of service being one-sided. Even if their primary love language is acts of service and yours is something else, this doesn’t mean acts of service should only be done by one person. It’s called a ‘partnership’ for a reason.
Love Language #5: Physical Touch
You’re probably aware of the fact that in relationships, there is verbal and non-verbal communication, both of which are extremely important. We covered verbal communication in the first love language, words of affirmation.
Physical touch is a crucial form of non-verbal communication in relationships. Your loving touch is a way to express your love and desire for your partner. For some people, physical touch is their primary love language, even ahead of words of affirmation. If this is the case for your partner, you can accommodate their need for physical touch by being more physically affectionate. Examples of physical touch include:
- Random, sweet kisses on their lips, cheek or forehead.
- Rubbing their back or giving them a massage.
- Holding their hand in public.
- Giving them a tight and tender hug.
- Rubbing their knee under the table at dinner.
- Running your hands through their hair.
- Caressing their cheek with your hand.
- Pulling them in closer to you by their waist.
- Making love.
- Cuddling them.
Humans need physical contact because we’re wired for connection. Some people need physical touch more than others. For example, if a woman whose primary love language is physical touch meets a man who is always putting his arms around her in public or kissing her cheek, she might tell her friends, “He really speaks my language.” She feels that her needs are being met, and it feels incredible when someone speaks her language in that way.
Dr. Chapman explains, “Tiny tactile receptors are located throughout the body. When those receptors are touched or pressed, nerves carry impulses to the brain.” He goes on to explain that some parts of the body are more sensitive than others, and when your partner knows where to touch you and the right way to touch you, it can feel amazing and help you form a very strong bond with them.
As Dr. Chapman says, “Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. To the person whose primary love language is physical touch, the message will be far louder than the words.”
Remember to learn which gestures of physical touch communicate love to your partner, and you can easily find this out simply by asking them this question.
Discovering Your Primary Love Language
Many people will state that all 5 love languages are important to them. While this may be true, it’s crucial to narrow down which two are the most important to you.
It’s as simple as reading The 5 Love Languages and being honest with yourself about which one you desire the most, above all else, and which one comes in as a close second. Which one makes you feel good the most effectively? Which one makes you feel loved? Which one makes you feel reassured or secure? Is there something you find you’re requesting of your partner the most? (For example, to be more physically affectionate or to express more words of affirmation?)
There are many ways to self-reflect and figure out your primary love language. For example, perhaps you’re okay with spending time apart from your partner. It’s possible you were an only child, quite accustomed to spending time alone, and you don’t mind it. What you do mind, however, is when you don’t hear from your partner. You need to hear words of affirmation from them. This would indicate that ‘quality time’ is likely not one of the love languages you prioritize, but ‘words of affirmation’ certainly is.
Now, imagine that you are a person who suffers from anxiety. Does a loving gesture of affection (a loving touch) make you feel calmer and help regulate your nervous system? Do you instantly feel the warm fuzzies, and just feel better when your partner caresses you? If so, it’s likely that physical touch is high up for you – perhaps even your primary love language.
Discovering your partner’s primary love language as well as discovering your own can transform your relationship. You’ll quickly figure out how to accommodate their love language, and you’ll give them tips on how to accommodate yours. The key is consistency. This way, both of your needs are consistently being met, and you’ll end up with a solid foundation for a healthy relationship.
It’s unfair to make your partner guess your love language, or get upset when they aren’t meeting your needs if you haven’t communicated your primary love language to them. This conversation of, “Which love languages matter most to you?” is a conversation that will change your relationship and change your life.
While all 5 love languages should be acted out on some level in a healthy relationship, the primary focus will be on the 2 love languages they’ve communicated are most important. By understanding and accommodating each other’s primary love languages, you’re going to have no problem filling up each other’s ‘love tank’ and making each other feel loved.