The 5 Love Languages
The Ethnologue catalogue of world languages currently lists almost 7000 living languages in the world. It’s not surprising that we might struggle to communicate with others that speak a different language to us. A similar form of miscommunication can occur in our relationships, whether that relationship is with a partner, within our families, or in our friendships. Everyone expresses their love for another in a different way and in turn has their own way of feeling and receiving love from another. Unfortunately, this can create barriers in our relationships as our “love language” might not be the same as our loved ones’. In all of our relationships, decoding the love language of our significant other and identifying their emotional needs and expectations can help remove these barriers to communication.
You might have heard the term “love language” thrown around quite a bit, after the release of Gary Chapman’s best-selling book “The 5 Love Languages”. While everyone has different needs, Chapman identified 5 main languages. Everyone has one main love language that is most important to them, but other “secondary” love languages can also be developed.
According to Chapman’s theory, the 5 love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation: A person with this love language needs to hear loving words – sometimes actions don’t speak very loudly. Compliments, reassurance, and even just hearing the words “I love you” can bring out life in a person – truly kind, encouraging and positive words of affirmation are the best way to show your love for this person. This also means that insulting, demeaning words can be deeply and seriously painful.
- Acts of Service: To this person, love is shown through service and help. Lifting the burden of their responsibilities by helping with chores, cooking dinner, picking up the dry cleaning – by simply helping – means the world to them! True commitment and kindness that is shown without asking or force speaks volumes to this person.
- Receiving Gifts: The way to this person’s heart is through gifts. Don’t mistake this for materialism – this love language is based around a clear show of thoughtfulness and effort. Gifts and gestures offer visual representations of love, and makes this person believe they are prized beyond what was sacrificed to bring the gift to them. The absence of gestures or forgetfulness could be misconstrued and make this person feel as though they are not treasured or loved.
- Quality Time: A person with this love language feels most loved with undivided attention. Putting everything on hold for some quality time means everything to this person – set aside chores or TV time for a while, put your phone away and hold off any extra work tasks until afterwards. Feeling forgotten or as though they are at the bottom of your list of priorities can be especially hurtful.
- Physical Touch: This person feels love through physical affection. This is not always sexual, and can be simply a hug, holding hands or a thoughtful touch on the arm to show care and concern. To this person, physical presence and the accessibility of touch is important, as neglect or isolation can be destructive. Frequent displays of physical affection help create a sense of safety and security.
This is not to say you need to somehow change your love language to fit your partner. It is completely normal to have different needs and languages. However, being aware of your partner’s love language can be critical to effective communication. Whilst you might think doing the dishes or cleaning up after them shows your love well enough, they might be wondering why you don’t tell them you love them very often. Decoding their love language can help you find the best way to fulfil their emotional needs by speaking it to them when they need it. Opening up the floor to discussion about your needs can help the both of you show your love most effectively. It also helps you both to reap the benefits of emotional fulfillment in your relationship!
Don’t forget that these love languages are present in all of our relationships though, even with our parents, friends or children. Tailoring our actions and words to these special people in our lives to fit their love language can be important to the communication and wellbeing of all of our connections.
A quick test can help you uncover your own love language and give you some more understanding about what you might need in your relationships. Asking your partner or a loved one to do the love language quiz can help kick off the discussion about how to best support each other and improve communication. If your loved one does not want to take the quiz, consider how they show their love to you, and what they ask for most often.
Find out your love language here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
To get the ball rolling, here are some suggestions and examples of how to speak your partner’s or loved one’s language to show them love most effectively.
- If their love language is Words of Affirmation, perhaps set a goal to give your spouse regular but different compliments, send them a text or email during the day with a note of affirmation, or consider your partner’s strengths and tell them why you appreciate them.
- If they resonate more with Acts of Service, you could try to ask your partner to form a list of things they would like you to do, consider doing an act of service for someone your partner loves, or maybe run interference during your partner’s favourite show or alone time by taking calls or looking after the kids, etc.
- If they love Receiving Gifts, keep a gift idea notebook for the future and keep track of things they mention that they like, personally make something to give them (e.g., a painting or craft project), or simply give the gift of your presence and time.
- If Quality Time is all they desire, try not to multitask your time together with another task or obligation, actively listen without interrupting, plan a weekend getaway, or create a list of activities you would both like to do.
- Finally, if they respond best to Physical Touch, try to challenge yourself to initiate contact more by holding hands when shopping for example, or spontaneously hugging them. When purchasing items, consider tactile features (e.g., soft sweater or blanket). If you are separated by distance, handwritten and personal notes or items of your clothing can be helpful to connect you.
Remember, the easiest way to learn more about your partner or loved one’s love language and emotional needs is to talk about them. For more information and details into the 5 Love Languages, check out Gary Chapman’s book on the website: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.
– George Sand