The concept of Love Languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages, in which he suggests that there are five primary ways in which people express and experience love. Understanding our own love language and the love language of our partner (or family members / friends) can improve communication and strengthen our relationships. Here are the five Love Languages briefly explained:
Words of Affirmation: People with this love language feel loved when they receive words of appreciation, encouragement, and affection. Compliments, positive feedback, verbal expressions of love, appreciation, gratitude, and positive affirmations make them feel valued and cherished. One feels that their perspective is respected when they are asked about their thoughts, actively listened to, and engaged in meaningful conversations.
In conflicts or misunderstandings, sincere apologies and forgiveness through words are essential to healing and maintaining the relationship. Empty compliments or insincere expressions of affection may have the opposite effect and could be perceived as inauthentic so only genuine and heartfelt words should be used.
Acts of Service: For individuals with this love language, actions speak louder than words and one feels loved when they are the recipient of an act of service or thoughtful gesture. Taking the time and putting in effort is a clear sign of love for someone with this love language. Understanding and respecting one’s preferences regarding which tasks or actions would be most meaningful to the other is important, so communication is essential.
Helpful actions carry more weight than verbal expressions of love in this love language. Practical demonstrations of affection mean more than hearing "I love you." If one is the recipient of an act of service, even if it isn’t their love language, it is important to acknowledge efforts so the other feels appreciated. Expressing gratitude for help, gestures or service is important.
Gifts: Some people feel most loved when they receive thoughtful gifts. These gifts don't need to be extravagant or expensive, as it's the sentiment and effort behind the gift that matters. For this love language, gifts symbolize love, care, and thoughtfulness and shows that one has been paying attention to their partner's likes, needs and desires. The sentimental value of a gift can far outweigh its monetary worth as this love language is not about materialism but about the emotional significance attached to the act of giving and receiving gifts. Reciprocity in gift giving is important to people with this love language as they also appreciate receiving gifts. Unexpected or spontaneous gifts can be especially touching. The more the gift reflects the personality and desires of the receiver, the more it will resonate with them. On the flip side, even is this love language doesn’t resonate with the receiver of the gift, appreciation of the thoughtfulness, intention and effort of the giver is important.
Quality Time: People with this love language feel most loved when they have another’s undivided attention engaging in activities or conversations that foster meaningful emotional connection. Spending quality time together, having deep conversations, and being fully present with each other is essential to them. Sharing experiences like travel, cooking, hobbies and trying new things, routines and rituals (like date nights or daily check-ins) can all create a sense of intimacy and connection. Being physically present with their partner, even without necessarily talking, can still convey love and closeness. With the focus being on quality rather than quantity of time, one should all be aware of distractions like cell phones, tablets or TV as they can detract from the quality of time together. People with this love language really appreciate when an effort is made to prioritize spending time with them so being fully present, engaged, and emotionally connected during their time together is key to feeling loved and valued. Genuine active listening to thoughts and feelings, sharing vulnerabilities, dreams, and fears while responding with empathy and understanding is crucial to emotional intimacy and can strengthen the emotional connection.
Physical Touch: Physical touch is the love language for people who feel most loved through physical affection, which can include hugs, kisses, cuddling, holding hands, and other forms of physical contact. While sexual intimacy is important in a romantic relationship, physical touch in this context also encompasses non-sexual touch. There is a sense of security than comes from physical closeness and affection. Holding each other during vulnerable moments or massage when there is stress can encourage relaxation and strengthen the emotional bond. Understanding our partner's preferences for the type and frequency of physical touch is crucial as it's important to note that physical touch should always be consensual and respectful of the other’s boundaries.
In all love languages, understanding and practicing the love language of those with whom we are in relationship can lead to a deeper bond and loving connection. It's helpful to communicate openly about how each prefers to give and receive love to ensure that all parties feel valued and loved. Paying attention to the other’s desires, preferences, tastes, and interests is important even if one doesn’t know what their love language is. Whenever we notice love language from the other directed towards us, it is important to appreciate the words, gestures, gifts, touch, time and attention as coming from an intention to express love.
Even after studying love languages, I am still not certain of my own love language, as I do all of the above depending on the occasion. I am not sure in which love language received I feel the most loved either. I have learned a lot in researching and writing this article, and this is an area I will be paying more attention to in my own life and relationships.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor, health-care provider or mental health practitioner if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.