Give Your Relationship the Gift of the 5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages can help transform your relationship
Dr. Gary Chapman developed the idea of the 5 Love Languages and wrote about them in his 1995 book of the same name. Since then, the idea has been adapted for children, teens and even the workplace. There’s a reason Chapman’s work on this topic has endured for more than 20 years: the love languages focus on understanding how to best honor your partner, how to show each other love in meaningful ways and how to foster deeper communication.
Let’s take a closer look at the 5 Love Languages. Keep in mind that each person may fall into more than one category, sometimes with a strong preference for one over the others. Do you recognize yourself in the following? How about your partner?
Words of Affirmation
In a romantic relationship, especially a long-term one, we often assume that our partner knows how we feel: “She knows I love her”; “He knows I think he’s smart and capable.”
Even if your partner knows these things, think about how amazing it can feel to hear them out loud. I think all people need to hear positive words from their partners, but that applies tenfold to people whose love language is words of affirmation. These words remind your partner that you are in his/her corner. You are a fan. Not only can that help someone feel more secure and loved in a relationship, but it can help give him or her more confidence to take on the rest of the world.
If compliments or romantic words don’t come to you easily, try writing them down. Leave positive notes for your partner to find in the car or on the bathroom mirror. A few simple words can make your partner’s day and bring you closer together.
Acts of Service
You might have read recently about how women carry out the bulk of “emotional labor.” In a nutshell, that means thinking about and managing all the little things that keep a household running and that maintain family bonds: remembering to send birthday cards, knowing when to buy more toilet paper, keeping tabs on the school calendar, etc.
Regardless of being male or female, if your partner happens to favor the Acts of Service love language, taking care of something on their list can go a long way. Even better if you do it before they ask you.
In your relationship, how often has an argument been diffused through a simple hug? Have you felt your partner noticeably relax when you take his or her hand? If so, your partner’s love language is likely Physical Touch.
Numerous studies have shown the effect of physical touch on humans. It turns out that human touch receptors can actually distinguish the emotion associated with each touch. Affectionate touch also releases oxytocin, a hormone in the brain that promotes emotional attachment. It can also have a calming effect.
Look for moments to touch your partner in a non-sexual way. While sexual and sensual touch is also important in a relationship, everyday physical interactions can help you cement your intimate bond. Just a few ideas: lean into each other while watching TV; hold hands while shopping; squeeze your partner’s shoulder when offering a compliment.
This love language is all about time to connect and focus on each other. If your partner’s love language is quality time, mute your smartphone and choose a restaurant without sports playing on 12 screens. (If your partner is a sports lover, go to a live game together!)
If you have kids, it can be difficult to find uninterrupted moments together, but look for even small windows of time that you can devote to couple time. Wake up early together and enjoy some coffee and conversation before the kids get up. Listen to an audiobook together after the kids go to bed. Book a babysitter when you can and enjoy a great night out.
What qualifies as quality time varies from person to person – and from couple to couple. Ask your partner what he/she considers quality time. Maybe it is watching the game or a favorite TV show together, but be sure what you choose actually fills your partner’s need for connection.
I chose to end the list with this love language because it is the season of giving, after all. However, if your partner’s love language is Gifts, keep in mind that quality matters more than quantity. Quality also does not have to mean expensive.
What’s more important is the amount of thought and care you put into the gift. When you choose (or make) something that reflects your intimate knowledge of your partner, it sends the message that you are paying attention and that you care.
For people who favor this love language, think about little gifts and surprises to give throughout the year: flowers for no reason; stopping for his or her favorite coffee drink; picking up a book you think he/she might love. You don’t have to wait for a holiday or your partner’s birthday.
Discovering Your Primary Love Languages
It may be clear to you what you and your partner’s love languages are, but if not, Chapman has a few recommendations from his book:
- What does your partner do or not do that hurts you the most? The opposite of what hurts you could be your primary love language.
- What have you most often requested of your partner? The thing that you request most could be the thing that helps you feel the most loved.
- In what ways do you express love to your partner? Your ways of expressing love may indicate how you feel most loved.
- What does your partner criticize you the most about? People tend to criticize their partner most in the area where they have the deepest emotional need.
It’s important to note that Chapman has a Christian background, and his 5 Love Languages book reflects that, but these insights apply regardless of sexual orientation, background, or belief system.
We are all inclined to express love to people in the ways we want to be loved, but if those are not the same ways they want to be loved than this may lead to frustration for both parties. Keep in mind the adage, “work smarter, not harder.”
It is not a problem if your partner has different love languages than you. If they happen to be the same, great. If not, know that by investing in your relationship in the ways that are most valued by your partner, you are well on your way to connecting in meaningful ways and deepening your level of emotional intimacy with one another.
If you would like to learn more about couples therapy and creating a deeper, more connected relationship, please contact me for a 50 minute in person consultation at no cost. I am a Denver therapist located near the Cherry Creek, Glendale, Washington Park, Virginia Village, Lowry, Montclair, Hilltop and Congress Park neighborhoods.