About 25 years ago a marriage counselor named Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a now-iconic book called The 5 Love Languages (which, yes, you can buy on Amazon). Over two decades later, new generations of people continue to discover his concept of “the five love languages” and apply them to their lives and relationships.
What is now mainstream vernacular– e.g. “love language”– was, at the time, a very revolutionary concept. For those new to the idea, it still is. Understanding their individual love languages has helped millions of people across the globe better navigate relationships, particularly romantic and familial ones.
The idea here is simple: people with different personalities express love in different ways.
Introverts, for example, might make small, subtle gestures while extroverts go for more grand, public statements. (Think of all the different ways people like to propose to one another, for example).
Similarly, our individual “love language” is a unique take on how we like to receive love– which is sometimes different from how we like to express/give it to other people.
Either way, understanding how we give and receive love is important for our overall well-being. And it is essential for happiness in relationships.
Everyone, moreover, has at least one love language that they prefer above the others. Sometimes an individual can express a mix of love languages, but usually, one specific category will appeal to your personality more than the rest. (If only slightly.)
Ultimately, knowing your love language can help strengthen and improve virtually all relationships in your life– romantic, familial, and otherwise.
The “5 Love Languages” are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
Read on to get a simple, detailed understanding of what each of them means.
What Each Love Language Means
Below is a basic breakdown of what each of the five love languages entails. (For a more detailed analysis, you can also buy the book.)
1 – Words of Affirmation
“Words of Affirmation” is a love language that entails lots of verbal reciprocity. People for whom Words of Affirmation is a primary love language enjoy being told explicitly how much they are loved, valued, related to, and seen.
For example, you need to be thanked for spending your time and energy on a task in order to feel valued. It’s important to you that your partner constantly tells you how much they love, respect, and support you.
While you appreciate the small gestures a partner might do for you to demonstrate their affection, you need to hear them say it out loud. For Words of Affirmation folks, words matter. There is no reading between the lines.
In fact, you thrive when people speak their affection out loud, and you often feel neglected if they don’t.
Thus, Words of Affirmation include saying things like “I love you” often– but this love language also includes so much more than that.
Positive reinforcement; encouragement and verbal support; acknowledgment of your sacrifice, hardship, and accomplishments, etc, all mean a lot to those who identify most with this love language.
Words of Affirmation, moreover, affirm the relationship in the eyes of the recipient by validating it explicitly, in ways that even casual observers could understand. You thrive in relationships where all parties openly acknowledge feelings.
(Not that you need other people to hear how much you are loved or how much you love others. It’s more about those feelings being made explicit with language, in a universal manner that anyone could understand.)
2 – Acts of Service
For people who identify with the love language “Acts of Service”, small gestures speak louder than words.
You might not need to hear your partner say “I love you”, but when they bring you coffee in bed, for example, you know that you are loved.
Acts of Service, moreover, involve doing something for your partner that you know they would value, usually without being asked.
For people who identify with this love language, the initiative, and creativity that goes into demonstrating affection through gestures is the consummate sign of intimacy.
This is because Acts of Service often involve one person giving up their time in “service” of the other person. At face value, it appears the most selfless of all the love languages (not that it’s a competition) because it requires both attention and intention.
Not only do you give up your time to honor the people who mean the most to you, but you pay enough attention to know what they would like the most. (For example, you cook a meal for your partner that includes their favorite food, or you wash the car because you know they feel better when it’s clean.)
3 – Receiving Gifts
Small material gestures go a long way in the realm of this love language. “Receiving Gifts” isn’t about superficiality, though, as it includes recognition of the effort someone put into getting material things for you.
Rather, it’s all about the thoughtfulness behind the gift. And the gift doesn’t have to be big, either!
While it’s tempting to construe this love language as being more materialistic, that is not necessarily the case. People who value receiving gifts really value the quality of being known.
Once, for example, I took a winter coat out of the closet for the first time in the cold season, and I discovered that my husband had put a small piece of chocolate in one of the pockets because he “thought it would brighten my day.”
While I am actually a “Quality Time” person (more on that love language, below), this is a perfect example of the Receiving Gifts love language at play.
Those who identify with this love language value that their partner knows them enough to know what they like and why they would like it. This, in their minds, is its own form of intimacy.
As a result, people who enjoy the art of surprising others and giving them gifts often identify with this love language, as well.
4 – Quality Time
Ah, “Quality Time.” People who most identify with this love language enjoy having meaningful conversations and the undivided attention of their partner.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, moreover, your presence is a present.
For the people who identify with this love language, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. This personality type tends to feel slighted if their partner feels distracted or is found checking their phone in the middle of a conversation.
It doesn’t matter to this personality type if you are present at their work event or dinner, moreover, if you are physically present but mentally checked out. You need to be paying attention for them to feel valued and loved in the moment.
As a result, those who identify with this love language thoroughly enjoy trying new things and engaging in meaningful conversation with their partners. They love sharing new experiences with their loved ones, as well.
On the flip side, constantly postponing quality time, failure to listen, or distracted engagement can be particularly annoying for this category of people. This remains constant even if their partner says “I love you”, gives them a gift, or surprises them with a grand gesture.
For Quality Time stalwarts, moreover, there is no substitute for exactly what the name suggests: quality time spent together.
Fun fact: Michelle Obama identifies “Quality Time” as one of her primary love languages. Read more about that in our 5 Step Guide to Identifying Misplaced Emotions.
5 – Physical Touch
Physical Touch is perhaps the most literal of all the love languages. Not just physical intimacy, but warm embraces, hand squeezes, assuring reminders of your proximately, and doting attention are all conveyed through physical touch for those for whom it is a primary love language.
While people often associate sex and sensuality with those who identify physical touch as their primary love language, that is not necessarily the case. It can mean that these things are important to the person, but it doesn’t have to.
It’s also important to note that cuddling, backrubs, kissing, and touching your partner’s hair or the back of their neck are all equally intimate ways to convey your affection for them.
Basically, a person who identifies physical touch as their love language simply draws reassurance from the physical connection. It can be as simple as holding hands or a gentle squeeze on the forearm that lets this person know that you are thinking of them.
During arguments or moments of tension, touching this “type” of person’s arm can be an effective way to convey your warmth, care, and attention beyond using your words. This affords them the little extra assurance that they might need at the time.
You can also show love through non-intimate touching, such as sitting side by side the person (close enough that your bodies touch or slightly graze each other).
When physical touch is not remotely possible– as with long-distance relationships, for example– then sensory acts that remind the person of physical closeness might be helpful. These include (but are not limited to) blowing each other kisses over video chat or sending each other items of clothing that smell like the other person, like a scarf or T-shirt.
Ultimately, when physical touch is not possible, finding creative ways to remember the experience is the next best thing.
Take The Test To Determine Your Love Language
—> Click here to take the test and determine your individual love language preferences. <—-
^ This 5 Love Languages quiz is designed to show you how you prefer to give and receive love. Just be sure not to overthink your answers to the questions!
Like love itself, love languages are hard to fully articulate, and they look different for everyone, but you know it when you experience them.
Also, it’s worth noting that most test results yield different ratios of each love language.
For example, your love language can be “33% Acts of Service, 21% Quality Time, 10% Receiving Gifts, 18% Psychical Touch and 18% Words of Affirmation”– or you can be all-in on one love language attribute, though that’s rare. (For example, your love language may exclusively be: 100% Words of Affirmation.)
Most people, however, are a mix. We’re all multi-faceted human beings!
Ultimately, The 5 Love Languages is still a popular book in the realm of relationship therapy today– and even the self-help world, as well.
People love getting to know their love language as it helps them understand themselves, their boundaries, and what they need and often subconsciously expect from others. (Whether that’s a romantic partner or anyone who plays a meaningful role in their lives.)
Love languages, moreover, factor into not just relationships but your worldview as a whole.
Use them to your advantage and you will find yourself navigating life and your relationships with greater peace, understanding, fulfillment, and wholeness.
Buy Gary Chapman’s Book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts on Amazon or wherever books are sold.
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