The 5 languages of love and how to use them
Do you speak the same love language as your partner? And does it matter? Take the love language test…
It’s a phrase that’s come to prominence now we’ve spent hours watching couple deliberate whether or not they’re going to pie someone on Love Island.
But what are the love languages?
Do we all only speak one? How do we know which it is? And, crucially, does it matter if we don’t speak the same love language as our partner?
We thought we’d start investigating…
THE 5 LANGUAGES OF LOVE
Ok, let’s start with the basics.
Love languages, as a concept, was coined by author and relationships counsellor, Gary Chapman.
In his New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, Gary argues that our desire for romantic love is deeply rooted in our psychological makeup.
Because of this, the way we all communicate affection can be broken down into five personality profiles.
This goes back to our early childhood, where we each developed unique emotional patterns based on the ways that love has or has not been expressed to us by our parents and peers.
The tricky thing about love languages, Gary points out, is that we often show love to our significant other in the way we, personally, like to receive it – even though our preference usually differs from theirs.
It is in understanding our individual profile and recognising that this may well differ to the emotional patterns of our partners that we can discover the secret (so Gary says, anyway), to “love that lasts”.
WHAT IS MY LOVE LANGUAGE?
As the title suggests, The 5 Love Languages categorises all of us into five main personality profiles.
While our ways of communicating our emotions are likely to be a combination of some, or even all of these, it’s usual for everyone to rely on one language more than any other to express their feelings.
Words of Affirmation
Ancient Hebrew academic Solomon once wrote: “The tongue has the power of life and death.”
And it’s this concept that has formed the basis for the first love language.
Words of Affirmation refers to the way verbal compliments or words of appreciation and encouragement can powerfully communicate our love.
If it really boosts your mood when your partner tells you that you look great in that outfit, they really appreciate you washing the dishes, or they think your cooking is out of this world, then your primary love language could be Words of Affirmation.
These words don’t have to be communicated verbally all the time, either. Uplifting quotes, love notes and cute text messages can also make someone’s day.
By using Words of Affirmation in your relationship, you’re showing your SO that you notice and appreciate them. This, in turn, can deepen their feelings of self-worth, confidence and motivation.
The trick in using Words of Affirmation effectively lies in their authenticity. People who give and receive love through words tend to be the same people who notice and care about the small details in the lives of others. They’ll comment on someone’s new haircut, for example, or remember to ask their neighbour how their poorly relative is.
Because of this, they also have a nose for false platitudes. So, make sure that anything you say to them comes from the heart.
For some people, nothing says “I love you” more than your full, undivided attention.
This means phones away, TV off, knife and fork down and household chores on standby.
For those of us who regard Quality Time as our primary love language, spending uninterrupted time talking with our partners or doing activities together can really deepen our feelings of connection.
The power of Quality Time really lies in how special it feels – those who speak this love language want their partner to really enter into the spirit of sharing valuable time together and open themselves up to effective communication.
Making eye contact, using active listening skills (like affirming what they’re saying and asking thoughtful questions), and making plans to try something new with your time together can all show your partner that you’re willing to enter into their need for Quality Time.
Receiving gifts is perhaps the most straightforward of love languages – and yet also the one most often misunderstood.
A person whose primary love language is Receiving Gifts feels most loved when their partner gives them tangible items as a symbol of their affection.
This has led to some making unfair assumptions about those of us who do communicate through the language of Receiving Gifts – drawing unsubstantiated conclusions that people with this primary love language are materialistic, frivolous and shallow.
However, as Gary explains in his book, when it comes to receiving gifts, the price tag isn’t what’s important. What does communicate affection in these cases is the thought, care or effort that went into choosing the gift.
Giving the right present to someone who speaks this language can make them feel seen, understood and appreciated.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service is perhaps the most “everyday” kind of love language, and another that can be easily misrepresented.
Essentially, this love language centres around the idea that actions speak louder than words.
The concept centres around doing activities that make life easier or more enjoyable for your SO, such as running errands, doing the food shop, or picking up some jobs around the house.
People whose primary love language is Acts of Service feel most loved when others do things for them, not just with them.
That’s not to say that if you’re one of these people, you’re high maintenance, lazy or overly dependent. In fact, you’re more likely to be self-sufficient and ambitious. That’s what makes you respond to this language; if your partner can recognise all that you do on your own and still wants to give their time to make your life a little easier, then that, to you, demonstrates real love.
It’s less about the job itself and more about your SO showing you that they’re on your team.
If you or your partner has a primary love language of Physical Touch, then rejoice – because it’s arguably one of the easiest ways to show affection.
This love language is all about using physical expressions of love over all others, like compliments or gifts.
This is, in part, due to the fact that physical touch releases oxytocin – the feel-good hormone – which makes us feel as though nothing can hurt us. As well as a way of bonding with our partners, regular physical contact can also go as far as to improve our physical health by boosting our immune system.
This love language isn’t all about sex, although this does play an important part in every romantic relationship. But non-intimate forms of touching – such as cuddling, holding hands or rubbing your partners back – can increase feelings of connectedness just as much as kissing or making love.
We’ve all heard of makeup sex, and the same concept is true when you’re fighting – you and your partner will tend to physically move further apart from one another. It’s not always easy to break the tension after an argument, but one of the most effective ways to reconnect is to close that physical distance and touch your SO.
Maybe the first thing your partner does when you come home from work is give you a hug; if you feel this immediately releases some of your tension and boosts feelings of happiness, then Physical Touch could be your primary love language.
DOES IT MATTER IF YOU AND YOUR PARTNER SPEAK DIFFERENT LOVE LANGUAGES?
In a nutshell? Yes and no.
If, as Gary suggests in his book, we all show love in the way we like to receive it, then it stands to reason that it would help communication more if we “spoke” the same love language as our partner.
However, he also points out that it’s seldom a couple share a primary love language.
What more often happens is that we each express our emotions via our own primary love language, then become confused when our SOs don’t understand what it is we’re communicating.
Misunderstandings and feelings of being underappreciated ensue, causing fundamental problems in our relationships.
But hope is not lost.
According to Gary, the trick to a happy, long-lasting and loving relationship is two-fold:
- Firstly, you need to identify the primary love languages of both yourself and your partner.
- Then, you each need to learn how to communicate in the other’s preferred love language.
Einstein pointed out that it’s a sign of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. The same goes for the way we express our feelings in relationships.
The rabbit hole to avoid with love languages is focussing on which one(s) we speak. That’s not what should be most important to us.
Looking too inwardly and focusing too heavily on the ways in which we want to receive love makes us become blind to the ways our partner would like love communicated to them.
If the key to a happy relationship is effective communication, then the onus is on each of us to work at how we can improve our ways of being understood by our partners.
Therefore, if we’re willing to put the time and effort into learning what our SO’s primary language is and how to use it, we can give ourselves the best chance of becoming effective communicators of love.