Based on my personal reading of Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages.
If you spend any time around couples, you might have heard the phrase “love language” come up. Yes ladies and gentlemen, there are five love languages; five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. Some partners may say their love language is acts of service, when they talk about their partners’ help around the house. It might sound like general couples talk, but it’s actually from a famous relationship book, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.
The idea is simple: Break down the different ways in which people communicate with their partners, so we can finally take the mystery out of what our significant other really wants and expects from us.
So, what exactly are these languages he speaks of?
According to Dr. Chapman, there are five universal ways that all people express and interpret love. Through his more than 30 years of couples counseling, Dr. Chapman has noticed specific patterns in the way partners communicate — and it turns out that most of the population express and interpret love in the same five ways, according to his observations. These expressions and interpretations are his famous five love languages:Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
Dr. Chapman firmly believes that each person has one primary and one secondary love language, and he theorizes people tend to give love in the way they prefer to receive love. Since we don’t all have the same preferences as our partners when it comes to giving and receiving love, this is how relationships can start to get sticky. But by understanding our partners’ inherent love language, we can start to tear down walls in our romantic lives.
Let’s finally learn what the love languages are.
- Words of Affirmation
The deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation will meet that need in many individuals. According to Dr. Chapman, this language uses words to affirm other people. For those who prefer the words of affirmation language, hearing “I love you” and other compliments are what they value the most. Words hold real value within this language. Furthermore, negative or insulting comments cut deep — and won’t be easily forgiven.
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Robin Sharma, one of world’s top leadership experts, wrote, “Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other.
Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
“You look handsome in that outfit.”
“Do you ever look gorgeous in that dress! Wow!”
“I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
“You can always make me laugh.”
- Quality Time
Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each of us has the exact same hours in a day. We can make the most of those hours by committing some of them to our spouse.
This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. Unlike the words of affirmation language, talk is cheap and being a loved one’s main focus leaves quality timers feeling satisfied and comforted. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful to these individuals. Being there for them is crucial.
By “quality time,” I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. What I mean is sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking.
If your mate’s primary love language is quality time, she simply wants you, being with her, spending time.
- Receiving Gifts
Dr. Chapman says for some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a tangible gift. This doesn’t necessarily mean the person is materialistic, but a meaningful or thoughtful present it was makes them feel appreciated.
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him or her. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.
You and your spouse speak different love languages. If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, you can become a proficient gift giver. In fact, it is one of the easiest love languages to learn. Now that you have made that discovery, get on with the business of learning your second language.
- Acts of Service
By acts of service, I mean doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. You seek to please them by serving them, to express your love for them by doing things for them.
For these people, actions speak louder than words. People who speak the language of service want their partner to recognize that their life is rough and help them out in any way possible. Lending a helping hand shows you really care. People who thrive on this language do not deal well with broken promises — or perceived laziness — and have very little tolerance for people who make more work for them. Basically, if you’re not willing to show your appreciation by doing them a favor, you’re saying you don’t value them.
Consider actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby’s diaper, picking up a prescription, keeping the car in operating condition — they are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.
If your spouse’s love language is acts of service, then “actions speak louder than words.”
- Physical Touch
Physical touch is also a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love to one’s spouse. For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouses.
To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Everyday physical connections, like hand-holding, embracing or any type of re-affirming physical contact is greatly appreciated. A person who speaks the language of physical touch isn’t necessarily an over-the-top PDA’er, but getting a little touchy-feely does make them feel safe and loved.
We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, stroked and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.
Once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your spouse, you are limited only by your imagination on ways to express love.
One more thing…
Just because you or your partner favor a particular love language, doesn’t mean you should stop expressing the other love languages. According to Chapman, even though we tend to favor one language more than the others we still enjoy traits of the others as well.
A willingness to examine and change stereotypes is necessary in order to express love more effectively. Remember, there are no rewards for maintaining stereotypes, but there are tremendous benefits to meeting the emotional needs of your partners.
Dr. Gary Chapman is a family counselor, radio host, associate pastor and author of several books, including The Five Love Languages and One More Try.
You can take a quiz on Dr. Chapman’s website to determine what your personal love languages are.