What Are the Five Love Languages?

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The love languages describe the five different ways that people receive and express love in a relationship. Knowing your partner’s love language and letting them know yours can help you ensure you both truly feel loved in your relationship.

Nearly everyone wants to show their partner that they care. Yet, many people struggle to do it in a way that speaks to their hearts.

What Are the Five Love Languages?

Although Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, was originally written in 1992, it continues to help couples today, selling more than 12 million copies since it was first published.

Before writing the book, Dr. Chapman spent years taking notes with couples he was counseling when he recognized a pattern. He realized that couples were misunderstanding one another and their needs. After going through his notes, he discovered that there are five “love languages” that people may respond to.

The Five Love Languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are about expressing affection through spoken words, praise, or appreciation. When this is someone’s primary love language, they enjoy kind words and encouragement. They also enjoy uplifting quotes, love notes, and cute text messages. You can make this person’s day by complimenting them or pointing out what they do well.

Quality Time

Love and affection are expressed for the quality time love language through giving your undivided attention to someone. This means putting down the cell phone, turning off the tablet, making eye contact, and actively listening. Make sure that you make eye contact, affirm what they’re saying, and refrain from offering advice.

Physical Touch

A person with this love language feels loved through physical affection. Aside from sex, those who have physical touch as their primary love language feel loved when their partner holds their hand touches their arm or gives them a massage at the end of the day.

Acts of Service

For acts of service, a person feels loved and appreciated when someone does nice things for them, such as helping with the dishes, running errands, vacuuming, or putting gas in the car. They love when people do little things for them and often can be found doing these acts of service for others.

Receiving Gifts

Gift-giving is symbolic of love and affection for someone with this love language. They treasure not only the gift itself but also the time and effort the gift-giver put into it.

They also do not necessarily expect large or expensive gifts; it’s more what is behind the gift that appeals to them. In other words, when you take the time to pick out a gift specifically for them, it tells them you really know them.

Identify Your Love Language

If or when you’re in a relationship, do you feel more loved when your partner:

  • Tells you “I love you” or praises something you did?
  • Surprises you with a meaningful gift?
  • Goes on a weekend trip with just the two of you?
  • Runs the errands or does the laundry?
  • Holds your hand while you’re walking?

Answering these questions could give you a hint as to what your love language might be. According to Chapman’s book, you could also try to recall what sorts of things you ask for in your relationship or consider how you express love to your partner.

It’s unlikely your partner’s love language is the same as yours. When couples have different primary languages, there are bound to be misunderstandings. However, if your partner learns to speak your love language, they often feel loved and appreciated and ultimately happier in the relationship.

How Love Languages Benefit Relationships

We all express and feel love differently. Consequently, understanding those differences can make a serious impact on your relationship. In fact, according to Dr. Chapman, it is one of the simplest ways to improve your relationships. Here are some ways that the five love languages can improve your relationship.

Creates Empathy

As someone learns more and more about how their partner experiences love, they learn to empathize with them. It helps them step outside of themselves for a moment and take a look at what makes another person feel significant and loved. Instead of speaking their own love language to their partner, they learn how to speak in a language that their partner understands.

Promotes Selflessness

When you are committed to learning someone else’s love language, you are focused on their needs rather than your own. Couples should work to learn their partner’s love language rather than trying to convince their partner to learn theirs.

Maintains Intimacy

If couples regularly talk about what keeps their love tanks full, this creates more understanding—and ultimately intimacy—in their relationship. They not only learn more about one another, but they also connect with one another in deeper and more meaningful ways. When this happens, their relationship begins to feel more intimate.

Aids Personal Growth

Anytime someone is focused on something or someone outside of themselves, this leads to personal growth. Too many times society encourages people to become self-absorbed and unaware of anyone or anything outside of themselves. But because Dr. Chapman’s five love languages require people to love others in ways that are outside their comfort zone, they are forced to grow and change.

Shares Love in Meaningful Ways

When couples start speaking one another’s love language, the things they do for their partners not only become more intentional but also become more meaningful. Part of this has to do with the fact that they are saying “I love you” in ways that make sense to their partner, and when they do that, their partners feel content and happy.

Love Languages In Everyday Life

According to Chapman, the love languages also apply to your relationships with your kids, your co-workers, and even your friends. For example, your child may have words of affirmation as their primary love language, and so they’d like to hear verbal praise or “I love you.” A co-worker may feel more appreciated in a specific way than another.

Criticisms of the Love Language Theory

Though love languages help many people realize how to communicate better with their partners, there are limitations to the theory and how people apply it to their relationships.

Many People Misuse the Languages

Some people get a bit competitive about using love languages, which can actually add strain to a relationship. For instance, partners might start keeping track of all the times they use their partner’s love language and compare it to how many times their partner used theirs.

While love languages can be a way to open up communication and compassion, they shouldn’t be used as a game or a weapon against your partner.

Some partners may continue to use their own language (instead of their partner’s) to show that they care—and that’s OK.

The idea isn’t that you can’t be in a relationship with anyone who doesn’t share your love language. Try to be understanding and open—you can appreciate your partner’s actions even if they don’t perfectly match with your own language.

They Don’t Fix Other Relationship Problems

The five love languages won’t fix all of your relationship issues; they are simply one tool of many you can use to help communication in your relationship.

Research has shown that couples who used each other’s love languages felt the happiest within their relationships when they also used self-regulation tools to handle their own emotions.2

So, while the love languages were a tool, the couples’ accountability for their emotions and behavioral changes contributed the most to their overall happiness. You need more than just one tool for a successful relationship.

Your love language can change as well—it’s important you accept that you and your partner’s love languages may change over time, especially during life stressors or major changes like having children.

May Lead to Pressure on Partners

Many people talk about love languages as they’re used within committed relationships or marriage. It’s important to remember that learning and understanding your own love language is an important tool for you to practice self-love.

One study found that the biggest obstacle for couples who were using each other’s love languages was that, oftentimes, the recipient didn’t even recognize that their partner was trying to use their love language.

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