Have you ever gone out of your way to do something nice for your partner, only to be greeted with a ho-hum response that baffled you?  You might be speaking different Love Languages.  What the heck is a “love language” you ask?  We’re about to tell you!

In his New York Times best selling book, The 5 Love Languages longtime relationship counselor Dr. Gary Chapman uses the phrase “love language” to describe they way in which people express and interpret love. And while yes, the book can get a little cheesy at times, the core concept is solid and can really change the way you view your relationships. Unhappiness in a relationship often has a simple root cause, believes Dr. Chapman, we are speaking different love languages.  

While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, Chapman identified five emotional love languages. These are the ways that people speak and understand emotional love. He firmly believes each person has a primary and secondary love language, (you can take the quiz on his website to find out yours).  Chapman suggests that people tend to give love to others in the way they want to receive love.  

Trouble is, since we don’t always share the same primary love language preference as our partner, we may be communicating our love in French, while he wants to hear it in Spanish. This can cause a disconnect between partners that leaves people feeling unappreciated, misunderstood, and ultimately unloved. But if we know and understand our partner’s inherent love language, then we can empathize with them more and start speaking in a way we both people can understand.

What exactly are the five love languages? It breaks down like this:

The Five Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation– Expressing affection through spoken words of praise, appreciation, or affection.  For people who prefer words of affirmation, hearing “I love you”, or “I’m proud of you” and other compliments are what they value most. The reverse it also true, for these people cutting remarks, criticisms, and negative comments hurt deeply and are difficult to forget.

  2. Receiving Gifts- For some people, gifting is symbolic of love and affection.  This doesn’t mean the person is materialistic, it means selecting a meaningful and thoughtful present is what makes them feel loved.

  1. Acts Of Service- For these people, actions speak louder than words. They do favors for people as a way to express love, and to them, lending a helping hand is the ultimate sign of affection. It makes sense then that these people are also very hurt by broken commitments and laziness on the part of their partners. If you don’t return the favor, you’re saying you don’t value them.

  1. Quality Time- For time people the ultimate way to express your love is by giving your undivided attention. They want you to carve out time, free from distractions, just for them. Postponed dates, not actively listening, and tardiness are all hurtful to these type of people.

  1. Physical Touch- For these people, appropriate touch is what makes their heart sing. It can be sexual (but it doesn’t have to be), cuddling, holding hands, kissing, a hand on the shoulder, any kind of reaffirming physical touch is what makes these people feel loved.

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Putting The 5 Love Languages Into Practice

Understanding these languages and where you and your partner fall in terms of preference gives you some new tools to help you understand each other better. If you know what your partner cares about, it can help you see the “why” behind some of their behaviors and you can relate to them in more constructive ways.

Deepen Understanding

For example, if you are a words person, you may be constantly complimenting a partner and telling them you love them and feel hurt when they don’t reciprocate. But if you come to realize that your partner is actually an acts of service person, you might start to see that they are reciprocating… by doing the dishes, changing your oil, and fixing the broken window. This is their love language! You just hadn’t heard it because you were speaking a different dialect.  

Once you know your partner’s service preference, you might compliment them less, and help them out around the house more (because action is more meaningful to them). The reverse is also true, your service guy, once he knows how important words are to you, might start saying “I love you” a little more often.

That’s the beauty of knowing each other’s love language. It give you an opportunity to express your affections in the manner most meaningful to your partner. It can also help cut out a lot of misunderstandings and reduce feelings of ungratefulness.

Use All Five Languages In Your Relationship

Just because your partner favors one language doesn’t mean you have to abandon all the others. According to Dr. Chapman, even though we have a preference for one language, we still enjoy receiving the others once in awhile. So don’t go cutting out the other four!

Overall, the love languages are just a guide to help us understand our partners a little bit better. Understanding helps build intimacy and that is where real connection begins.

What’s your love language? Have you read Dr. Chapman’s book? Share your thoughts and comments in our Relationships Community.