A couple on a date smiling and laughing together, surrounded by flowers in a tree

How to Love Better by Understanding The Five Love Languages

Originally published in 1992, The Five Love Languages written by Dr. Gary Chapman, was created to enhance the quality of relationships. After years of counseling a plethora of couples, Dr. Chapman found that many partners oftentimes complained of similar things: not feeling loved and cared for by their partner. Through his experience as a therapist and research he conducted on these similarities, he realized that these couples were in fact trying to love and care for one another despite these complaints. The issue at hand was not a lack of love but rather a mismatch in how it was presented to one partner and the other person’s perception.

In the first chapter of the book, the analogy of how to love someone is compared to spoken language. We learn from a very young age how to communicate. Some folks learn Spanish, some learn English, some learn Chinese, and so on. We learn the inflections of this language, the meaning behind our words, even the meaning behind our actions, facial expressions, and body language. Of course, we can learn another language within our experiences throughout life, but our primary language tends to stick with us. What Dr. Chapman argues is that our love language has similar tendencies.

If someone walked up to you and started speaking a different language, it might be hard to understand the message they are trying to convey. Obviously, there are other ways the message could sneak through: if they are yelling it might convey anger, if they are pointing at an object it may convey their wants or needs, or maybe they are crying, trying to convey they are in need of help. So, when a person loves you outside of your love language, it may be difficult to understand and see it in the way it is intended.

Dr. Chapman’s book walks folks through the different types of love languages (spoiler alert: there are five!), how to find your love language, all while giving perspectives on how to cultivate and nurture the love in a relationship. Today, we will focus on defining these love languages, what it means for different kinds of relationships, and where to find more information about this topic.

I Want to Know What Love Is

You may be asking yourself: what are the five love languages? Well, here is an explanation of each and some examples of what they could look like:

Quality Time

Quality time as a love language means receiving someone’s undivided attention. It means spending time with someone with no distractions. Some examples could be: a weekend getaway, going for walks together without your phones, camp out by the fireplace and pretend the TV is broken. This love language is all about connecting with your partner on a deeper level through attentive dialogue and intentional time together.

Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation as a love language means getting confirmation of love through words. Expressing love through compliments or statements may be something that is needed here. Other examples could be: writing a letter to a loved one to express how much they mean, complimenting a loved one’s strengths, maybe even giving those compliments in front of others as well. This love language is all about validating and confirming love for one another through verbalization of that love.

Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts as a love language means feeling loved through thoughtful reminders and presents. A person with this primary love language often gets labeled as someone who is materialistic. Reality is that receiving gifts is a way to show someone they are being thought of when they are not present with their partner. Receiving a gift can show that the person was on your mind while you were away from them, which can be validating for some. Examples of this include: gifting a handmade item, sending someone flowers, buying an item the person mentioned they needed in a previous conversation.  

Physical Touch

Physical Touch as a love language can mean that appropriate touch truly feels like love for folks. Being consensually, physically close to the person is desired when someone has this love language. Some examples include: giving massages, taking a bath or shower together, holding hands. Remember, with any kind of love or love language, consent is needed, especially for physical touch.

Acts of Service

Acts of Service as a love language means that actions speak louder than words. Seeing completed tasks or chores done can mean so much to someone. Some specific examples could be: taking the car in to get the oil changed, doing the dishes after dinner, making a return for them. Oftentimes, this is about making the task/to-do list smaller, showing you appreciate how much work the person typically does in a day.

How To Love Yourself

Throughout this reading, we have been focusing much on the love languages in regard to a relationship, but it is also important to touch on the fact that learning the five love languages can be about the individual alone as well. Knowing your own love language(s) can be beneficial for implementing a self-care regimen that is specific to you in order to give yourself some self-love. Loving ourselves is something that many folks do not do often enough. By giving ourselves love in our own love language we can:

  • Feel more connected to ourselves
  • Give ourselves the love we all deserve but may not receive often
  • Encourage healthy coping mechanisms (i.e., positive self-talk, setting aside time for self, allowing self to recognize wants and needs, etc…)
  • Better our communication of how we want to receive love from others

Setting time aside for self-care is important – as well as something encouraged by all therapists. When engaging in that self-care, why not try and apply your love language to it and see what magic can arise? If your love language is Physical Touch, pamper yourself with a self-made spa day, spending time rubbing in some lotion to tense spots on your body. If your love language is Words of Affirmation, write post-it notes to yourself with “I am…” statements that encourage expressions of self-love. If it is Acts of Service, reorganize your desk drawers or closet to feel less cluttered. Quality Time? Try putting on a movie you have been meaning to watch for a while, or a new TV show that just came out, and let yourself lounge. Is your love language Receiving Gifts? Buy yourself a treat, maybe it is a brand-new coffee maker, or solely a cup of fancy coffee from your favorite coffee shop. See what changes begin for yourself when you begin to set aside specific self-care time dedicated to providing love to yourself.

Love Languages in Relationships

Applying the five love languages to relationships is a bit different. This goes back to what was mentioned in the beginning of this article: everyone does not speak the same language. There is an opportunity that your love language might match your partner’s, but that may not be the case. What is your partner’s love language? Do they know yours as well? No? No problem, here is a link to some great love language quizzes.

Feel free to grab a cup of your favorite drink, sit down with your partner, try out the quiz, and have a conversation together. Recognize that each of you may be different in the ways you want to receive love and that is okay! People are different and that is what makes the human connection so fun. Love is hard enough, having to translate that love is even harder. Test out loving your partner in their own love language, and you might begin to notice your connection improve.