The way we express love and receive it differs from person to person, because of a concept known as love languages.
Sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, we struggle to make our partners feel loved. Gestures that would touch us fall flat with them, and we end up feeling unappreciated while they feel misunderstood.
Meanwhile, the reverse also occurs – you might find yourself telling your partner that you don't feel cared for, and they might reveal that they've been trying really hard to show their love.
The two of you have simply been talking at cross purposes.
This is where the concept of love languages comes in. Originating in the work of therapist Gary Chapman, love languages help us understand what we need in order to be happy in a relationship.
They are the way that we express love and perceive love. But what exactly are the five love languages? And once you know your partner's, how can you use it to improve intimacy and communication? This article to love languages will help you get started.
Before you start thinking about love languages, it's important to note that people tend to give love the way in which they prefer to receive it.
So, once you know your own love language, you'll be better able to tell others what you need.
You might be wondering “Can a person have more than one love language? How many love languages can a person have?”.
The answer is that most people have a dominant love language.
However, some people tie between two love languages or get very similar scores for several.
A good idea is to reflect on a time where you truly felt loved by someone, what did they do?
Doing this might reveal and be a good indication of what your dominant love language is.
Now, let's take a closer look at the differences between the five love languages.
So, what are the 5 languages? They are as follows:
You might already have an intuitive sense about what these mean and which one applies to you, but it's worth carefully exploring all five before making a final call about your love language.
If your love language is words of affirmation, you feel most cared for when someone verbalizes their feelings and tells you what they appreciate about you.
You're sensitive to whether such compliments are genuine, and you feel good about yourself (and your partner) when affirming words seem heartfelt.
You need to hear your value stated outright, and without positive affirmations for love you will feel under-appreciated.
It's likely that you also tend to express your own love in words, but someone with a different love language may not give these words as much weight.
If you're confident that your partner's love language is words of affirmation but you're not sure how to speak to them in this language, one helpful exercise involves writing down 10-20 things you like and enjoy about them.
This can range from their innate traits to things they do for you, the way they make you feel, and special memories that you like you to reflect on.
Generally, a sentence that takes the form “I love it when you do ____ – that's so thoughtful” will land well with this person. However, it's hard to go wrong – just speak from the heart about what you love.
If your love language is acts of service, you're much more about “doing” than “saying”.
You feel like your partner really loves you when they do chores for you, help to organize events or fix broken things. In other words, you feel valued when the other person takes away some burden or stress from your life.
This might involve taking over more than their fair share of parenting duties, completing a task you've been dreading, or ensuring that everything in the house works well.
People with this love language often think that anyone can say complimentary or flattering things.
Showing that you're willing to work hard to help someone is what proves that there's a foundation of love.
If you don't value acts of service to this extent but think that this might be your partner's love language, pay close attention to the daily things that make them unhappy or anxious.
What could you take over? How could you help them relax and have more time for themselves?
The more acts of kindness you perform to make their life easier, the more loved they are likely to feel.
For those with a quality of time love language, the emphasis is on ensuring that loved ones schedule meaningful time together.
If this is your love language, you'll feel cared for when your partner makes time to go on dates with you, enjoys planning day trips and holidays, and gets excited about trying new things with you. In contrast, if you only see your partner briefly (for example, at the end of the workday), you'll begin to feel taken for granted and like something is lacking in your relationship.
If quality time is your partner's love language and yet it doesn't rank so highly for you, you might find it hard to see why it matters so much.
For example, you might compliment them every day, and feel perplexed by why they aren't happy.
Direct communication helps to meet the needs of someone with the quality time love language – in other words, simply ask your partner what they'd like to do with you, and devote your energy to brainstorming a list with them.
Often, just carving out specific time for the person also goes a long way toward making them feel loved – think of a weekly date night, for example.
As the name suggests, the love language of giving gifts places an emphasis on receiving things from your partner.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you value expensive items – you may be just as happy (or even happier) with small tokens of affection, or handmade things.
Someone who doesn't care much about wealth can still have a love language of gift gifting.
The point is just that you like to receive tokens of affection, and you view such gifts as a marker of the other person's care for you.
In your eyes, items are more representative of your partner's love than, for example, compliments, or time spent together.
If you're with someone whose love language is gift giving, one thing to keep in mind is these gifts are about showing love, not about buying it or buying forgiveness after a fight.
Think about your timing, your intention, and how to make the gift a surprise (if your partner likes surprises!). In addition, note that the gifts you give don’t have to be material objects.
They can also be trips, experiences, and classes.
Notice what your partner feels passionate about, and try to tailor your gifts to these passions.
The final love language is physical touch, which can manifest in a range of different ways. Some people with this love language like to sit close together most of the time, holding hands or snuggled into each other.
Meanwhile, others are more focused on communicating and experiencing love through sex, or focus on needing an embrace when saying hello or goodbye.
What unifies all people with this love language is feeling most cared for and most secure when in some kind of physical contact with their partner.
If you're not a person who values physical touch as much, you may need to remind yourself that your partner does need this.
Setting a goal of giving them a specific number or hugs or kisses through the day can help, as can developing a ritual where (say) you kiss them each time you come home.
And if you genuinely don't enjoy being that physically close, find ways to compromise – for example, if you can't get comfortable with someone wrapped around you in bed, holding hands or resting your feet against each other may play just the same comforting role for your partner.
Now, reading through the above love languages you'll have noticed some significant differences in how each type of person expresses and experiences love.
As a result, you might be worried about whether two people with different love languages can ever have a successful and happy relationship.
The good news is that many – if not most – people end up with a partner who doesn't speak the same love language. So how does this work?
The key is open, honest communication and a consistent willingness to make adjustments.
Firstly, it's important to discuss your love languages.
Explain to each other how you relate to the concept of love, and what kinds of things make you feel good. Be willing to give examples, rather than expecting your partner to read your mind.
Secondly, acknowledge that some compromise will always be needed.
The person who loves compliments but doesn't like spending money may need to work to accept that gifts are what keep their partner happy.
Meanwhile, the person who would prefer to cuddle on the sofa than to talk about their feelings may need to develop a more refined set of communication skills to promote a sense of security in their partner.
If you are currently having some problems in your existing relationship, understanding your partners’ love language is starting to make your partner feel loved.
There is no reason why you can't fall in love again and awaken the spark.
Now that you know more about love languages, why not use this illustrative chart to learn more about how to talk to your partner, how to make them feel cared for and what to avoid?
Everyone is subtly different, but love languages provide you with a helpful roadmap to understanding what makes your partner tick.