We all know how vital communication is for successful relationships, and expressing our love for one another is an important aspect of that communication.
But what if two people are speaking entirely different dialects? According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the the popular relationship book, The Five Love Languages, this happens more often than we might realize, and can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements that might otherwise have been avoided had we learned each others’ ‘love language’.
As a result of observations during his more than 30 years of couples counseling, Chapman came up with 5 distinct ways in which all people express and interpret love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts. He believes everyone has a primary category that resonates with us the most.
Chapman suggests that we feel and know we are loved when others relate to us in a way that matches our primary love language. Understanding and finding the ‘right’ language, both for ourselves and for those we love, can therefore be key to a happy relationship.
And of course, we are not limited to just one or two love languages. Playing with different ways to express your love and appreciation for those you care about from each of the 5 categories can make your relationships sparkle with new light and energy.
Let’s look at those 5 Love Languages in more detail.
1. Words of Affirmation
For people who resonate most with this category, words (written and spoken) are what hold real value as expressions of love. Compliments, soft and gentle voice tones, words of appreciation, and of course ‘I love you’ are all ways in which speakers of this language seek to know how others feel about them.
Conversely, negative or overly critical words and a harsh tone of voice can cut this person more deeply than it might others.
2. Quality Time
Speakers of this language need a person’s undivided attention to feel loved and valued. Giving this person your undivided attention is more important than any words you might say or gifts you might give. People in this category will feel comforted and loved when they have regular and uninterrupted quality time with their partner.
These individuals will feel hurt by interruptions and distractions, canceled dates, and poor listeners.
3. Physical Touch
Though we all need to be hugged and held for our physical and emotional well-being, people who list physical touch as their primary love language will often feel completely unloved without some form of physical connection with their partner. And not just in the bedroom; this person needs hand-holding, kissing, hugs and other forms of re-affirming touch to know they are loved.
Being in a relationship where touch is absent, or worse yet where touch is abusive, will be most distressing for those in this category.
4. Acts of Service
People who speak this love language look for actions over words or touch to feel loved and appreciated by their partner. Breakfast in bed, doing the laundry or dishes for them when they are overwhelmed, running a bath – anything that helps them out without them having to ask will be a sign of love to these individuals.
Broken promises, being lazy, or doing anything that makes more work for people in this category will make them feel unappreciated and unloved.
5. Receiving Gifts
For people in this love language category, it’s important to be able to ‘see’ the love you feel for them in the form of tokens and gifts, tangible symbols of love they can hold and touch. This doesn’t necessarily mean these individuals are materialistic, since the gift isn’t normally about monetary value, but rather about their loved one ‘thinking of them’. A meaningful, thoughtful gift, however small, will go a long way towards making this person feel loved and valued.
When we understand our own primary languages of love, and are able to identify those of the people we care about, we can quickly see where misunderstandings and hurt feelings might arise, and take steps to remedy them. This approach can be applied to romantic relationships, child-parent relationships, and even workplace interactions, with tremendously positive results.
Want to discover your love language? Take this online quiz!