What They Are And How To Use Them In Your Relationships
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, a lot of us are thinking about how to improve our relationships, especially with our romantic partners. With the craziness of the last few years, many of us might have found opportunities to help those relationships grow and thrive. On the other hand, the stress, anxiety, and general upheaval might have made it difficult to find time and energy to put towards the people in our lives who matter the most. Either way, knowing how you (and your romantic partner) prefer to give and receive love can help you make this Valentine’s Day a special one and help you both connect on a deeper level.
And there’s even more good news! Though the Five Love Languages are usually applied to romantic relationships, they can also be a valuable tool in parent-child relationships, friendships, and other close bonds. So whether you’re committed, single-and-ready-to-mingle, or single-and-loving-it, we hope there’s something in this article that you can take to improve any of your valued relationships going forward!
A Quick Background
The Five Love Languages were originally developed in the early 1990s by Gary Chapman. As a pastor and counselor, Chapman had the opportunity to speak with a wide variety of couples with varying degrees of harmony in their marriages. Over the years, he developed a theory that there were five basic ways that people communicate love and affection: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Since the publication of his book on the subject, the Five Love Languages have become a popular way for couples to learn about each other’s preferences and adapt accordingly.
While much of Chapman’s theory hasn’t been studied scientifically, it has helped lots of people throughout the world. We think that, when used as a tool and a guide, it can help you and your loved one develop more insight into what makes each other tick, and how to better express your love and affection for each other. (And who doesn’t want more insight into what makes their romantic partner tick?)
Note: while they can be a great tool, the Five Love Languages are not a replacement for marriage counseling and/or family counseling. If your relationship is going through a rough patch (and we all do!) don’t hesitate to reach out to us or another trusted counselor for the help you need.
What Are The Love Languages?
As we all know, everyone is different! We all have unique personalities, preferences, dislikes, and communication styles. While many relationships are founded on similarities, our differences are also valuable in helping us function well as a team, think about perspectives we otherwise wouldn’t have, and experience personal growth as we work to show our love to each other. (And remember, though we’re focusing on romantic relationships, this all can apply to familial relationships and friendships as well!) Below are Chapman’s Love Languages. See if any of them resonate with you!
- Words Of Affirmation: People who prefer this love language find genuine, sincere expressions of love and affection to be especially meaningful. Frequent “I love yous”, compliments, and words of encouragement are all ways to really make this person feel loved and appreciated. These can be delivered in person or digitally via text or messaging app.
- Physical Touch: This one is as straightforward as it sounds: people who prefer physical touch as their love language enjoy being held, kissing, cuddling, holding hands, and sex. Keep in mind that while sexual intimacy is a big part of this one in a romantic relationship, it isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all of this love language. People who have physical touch as their primary love language can feel loved and valued from a simple hug or a quick kiss as they’re heading out the door to work. If you’re watching TV together, it’s as simple as resting your head on their shoulder or holding hands.
- Acts Of Service: For some people, nothing says “I love you” more than a clean sink and kitchen, or a basket of folded laundry. People who have acts of service as their love language are overjoyed when their partner does something special to make their lives a little easier or more comfortable. These can be the small and simple things, from housework to bringing them their favorite takeout when they’ve had a rough day.
- Quality Time: Once again, this one is exactly what it sounds like: spending time with each other as your primary focus. In today’s busy world, we often spend time ‘parallel’ to each other: one person watches TV while the other scrolls on their phone, reads a book, plays a game, etc. Even though you might be in the same room, your focus isn’t on the other person. While this isn’t always a bad thing, if you are the type of person whose love language is quality time, then you’ll want to spend some of that winding-down time actively engaged with your partner. This will likely include actively listening to each other, laughing together, doing an activity together, and lots of eye contact.
- Gifts: If you’re a gifter, then you enjoy what Chapman calls “visual symbols of love.” For most people who prefer this love language, the monetary value of the gift doesn’t really matter; it’s more about the thought and care behind it. These gifts can be something as simple as a chocolate truffle brought home from a work party or a beautiful feather picked up on a walk. The key here is to know what your gifter values and takes an interest in.
You might find that several of these sound like they could fit your style. In fact, most of us have a primary love language, but we also dabble in others as well. And as we grow and change throughout life, our love languages may change, and potentially how we like to express them as well.
Curious to know more about your love language and your partner’s? Take the official quiz and compare notes!
What love language do you speak, and what experience have you had with them that have helped you come closer to your partner? Leave us a comment below; we’d love to hear your story.