This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years – how different people seem to show love in different ways.
Some people express their love through heaps of physical affection, whereas other people might show it by buying lots of presents.
The problem is, if you show love one way and your partner does it another way, then it can be easy to think that they don’t care about you. If they don’t make an effort to speak your love language, and if you don’t quite understand what their love language is, then you can both end up feeling unloved and misunderstood.
This is where knowing about these different love languages can really help your relationship.
If you can work out what languages you and your partner speak, then you can make the effort to express your love in the way that they need, and vice versa, making sure that you both really feel the love that you have for each other!
The idea that there are 5 distinct love languages came from marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, who has spent over 30 years working with couples in crisis. He believes that we all have a primary love language that we speak, and that we have to learn to understand and speak the language of our partners if we want them to feel loved.
The five languages that he came up with are:
1) Words of affirmation
2) Acts of service
3) Receiving gifts
4) Quality time
5) Physical touch
So, what do these languages entail and how can we learn to speak each one, if it’s not our own natural love language? I’ll work my way through the list and look a bit more closely at each one.
1) Words of affirmation.
If this is your primary love language then, in order for you to feel loved, you need your partner to verbally express their appreciation for you and the things that you do.
It may seem like a small thing but simply thanking your partner for doing the dishes can make them feel loved if words of affirmation is their love language.
Some other suggestions of things you can do if this is your partner’s language:
- Tell them how good you think they look in a certain outfit.
- Thank them for the routine jobs that they do around the house.
- If you stay home with the kids and your partner goes to work, then thank them for working hard to provide for the family.
- If you work and you partner is the one to stay at home, then thank them for working hard raising the children!
- Tell them how much you enjoyed the meal they cooked for you.
- Tell them how much they are loved!
When you’ve been together for quite a while, it can be easy to feel that you’re taken for granted. Just taking the time to express how much you appreciate everything your partner does can really make a difference in how you both feel.
2) Acts of service.
For some people, being told ‘I love you’ doesn’t make them feel that they’re loved. They don’t need their partner to tell them how loved and appreciated they are, they need them to show their love by doing things for them. They need to feel supported.
If this if your partner’s love language, here are some things you can do to make sure they know how much they’re loved:
- If you see them busy doing the dishes, having also cooked dinner, offer to help or take over.
- If you know there’s a household job that they don’t like doing, surprise them by doing it for them.
- Look for ways you can make their life easier.
- Make them a cup of tea in the morning.
- If they’ve got to drive somewhere, pop out the night before and fuel up the car for them.
3) Receiving gifts.
We all like to be given presents, but for some people this is the thing that makes them feel truly loved in a relationship.
Gary Chapman explains that “giving gifts is universal, because there is something inside the human psyche that says if you love someone, you will give to him or her”.
Some things to think about when dealing with a partner whose primary love language is receiving gifts:
- It’s not about the money! The gifts don’t have to be expensive; it really is the thought that counts here. The gift is a physical representation of the fact that you were thinking about your partner.
- Pay attention to the details of what your partner likes – if you notice that they really love a particular chocolate bar, then making sure you buy that one when you’re at the supermarket, rather than any other random bar, will really make them feel that you care about them. May sound a bit silly but it’s true!
Not sure what sort of presents to give your partner? Here are some ideas:
- Flowers. A classic gift that most women (and some men too!) will appreciate.
- Chocolate! Again, a classic! And it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive box of chocolates. A mars bar will do the trick most days.
- Is there a film your partner has mentioned that they loved and want to see again? Keep an eye out for it on dvd next time you’re out shopping.
- Same goes for an album by their favourite artist.
- Is your partner having a stressful time at work? A few cans of their favourite beer or a bottle of wine waiting for them at home might make them feel much better!
4) Quality time.
For a person who’s primary love language is quality time, having your complete, undivided attention is essential for them to feel loved.
This doesn’t mean spending time together watching tv – it means turning the tv off, making eye contact and having a proper conversation!
If this is your partner’s love language, then you can learn to speak it by making sure you regularly spend time together in a situation where you can focus solely on them. Maybe, if you normally eat your dinner in the lounge with the tv on, once a week you can make the effort to sit at the table together. No tv, no phones. Just good food and a chance to give all your attention to your partner.
Ask them about their day and really listen to what they have to say.
5) Physical touch.
If your partner is always asking for hugs, reaching to hold your hand or putting his arm around you when you watch tv together then, chances are, his primary love language is physical touch.
For them to feel loved they need you to make physical contact with them throughout the day. Hearing the words ‘I love you’ won’t make them feel it as much as if you give them a huge hug and kiss when you see them.
So if this is your partner’s love language, how can you go about making sure they feel how much you love them?
- Hold hands when you’re out and about together.
- Make sure you kiss goodnight!
- A big, bear hug out of the blue.
- Be the one to initiate sex.
- Give them a little squeeze when they’re doing the washing up.
- Don’t let a day go by without touching them in some way. Even if it is just a quick hug, or a kiss as you head out the door. Make sure you give them that physical touch to let them know you love them.
If you’re not sure what your primary love language is, then you can take the fun love language test on 365tests to find out, or you can get a slightly more in-depth analysis with this quiz on the 5 love languages website. Then get your partner to take the tests too, so that you know what language you need to be speaking to make them feel loved!
I think this whole idea is fascinating and really does seem to make sense. Depending on our innate personalities and the way we were brought up, we have different needs that have to be met for us to feel truly loved.
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on other ways to speak these love languages? I’d love to read your comments.
In the meantime, I’m off to take the quiz because I really can’t seem to decide what my primary love language is!