Lasting relationships, like anything worthwhile, take some focused effort over time. But when you feel even slightly disconnected from your partner, keeping your love alive can feel like you’re going nowhere!
In his #1 New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman presents a simple truth: relationships grow better when we understand each other. Everyone gives and receives love differently, but with a little insight into these differences, we can be confidently equipped to communicate love more effectively.
Based on more than 30 years worth of observing couples, Dr. Chapman has noticed that taking the time to learn and really understand your partner’s primary love language, which is often different from your own, can improve communication and strengthen your bond.
According to Dr. Chapman, the following are five universal “love languages” that most people use to express and interpret love:
Words of Affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use positive words. Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is to feel appreciated. Receiving words of affirmation will satisfy that need for many individuals.
For those who prefer hearing words of affirmation, phrases such as “I love you”, “You look beautiful”, “Thank you for your help this morning” and other compliments are what they value the most. Words are incredibly important for people who value this communication pattern as their primary love language. Furthermore, negative or insulting comments cut deep — and won’t be easily forgiven.
This language is not just about spending time doing something together, it’s about giving the other person your undivided attention. When you do something together, your focus is on your partner, not on what you’re doing.
Spending quality time together means looking at each other (not your cell phone or tv), talking and listening intently. Distractions, postponed dates, or not listening can be especially hurtful to individuals whose love language is quality time. Being there for them is crucial.
Love is never without giving. But for some, receiving gifts (tangible symbols of love) means the most.
A gift is something you can look at and hold and say, “He/She was thinking of me.” The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter if the gift was expensive or not, what’s important is that you thought of him/her. And it’s not only the thought that counts, but the effort in actually securing the gift and giving it as an expression of love.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the person with this love language is materialistic, but a meaningful or thoughtful present goes a long way to help them feel appreciated.
Acts of Service
These are the “actions speak louder than words” kind of people. Doing acts of service means doing things you know your partner would like you to do.
Consider actions such as cooking a meal, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, taking out the trash or picking up a prescription. These acts require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. And, if done with a positive spirit, they are interpreted as cherished expressions of love.
People who thrive in this language don’t deal well with broken promises or perceived laziness. If you’re not willing to show your appreciation by doing them a favor, they will take it to mean that you don’t value them.
We’ve long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Kissing, embracing, and having sex are all ways of communicating emotional love to your partner.
But touch, in this sense, includes everyday physical connections, like hand-holding, or any type of reaffirming physical contact. Once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your partner, you are limited only by your imagination in ways to express your love.
Sitting close to each other while watching Netflix may communicate your love loudly. Placing your hand on your partner’s shoulder as you walk through the room where he’s sitting takes only a moment. A brief kiss or hug when you leave the house and again when you return may speak volumes to your partner.
On the other hand, any instance of physical abuse is a total deal-breaker (as it should be with any love language). If physical touch is their primary love language, without it, they will feel unloved.
The bottom line? Not everyone expresses their love in the same way…
Because everyone expresses and interprets love differently, learning each other’s love languages can help couples express their emotions in a way that’s deeply meaningful to one another. You also can’t go wrong with doing a bunch of nice things for your partner or spouse.