What Is A Love Language?
You might have heard of love languages, but never really understood what’s meant by the term. Simply put, a love language is a person’s unique way of communicating their affection for the people in their lives; and taking the time to understand someone else's love language can be a great way of getting closer to as well as understanding our loves ones.
The concept of love languages was developed by Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, in which he describes five unique styles of communicating love. His experience as a marriage counsellor and background in the field of linguistics informed his theory on the five love languages, and his research has ultimately helped people in relationships support and understand one another on a deeper level.
So, what are the five love languages, and how can we use them to show up for the people we love in a meaningful way?
This one needs little explanation. Very few people don’t like gifts, but for some people ‘visual symbols of love’ are more meaningful than any other form of affection. Whilst it can appear like a shallow love language, gift-giving and receiving is not about the monetary value, but the thoughtfulness and symbolism behind each present. There is a lot of care put into the gift-giving process of those whose prefer this love language, from reflecting on what would mean most to the receiver, to choosing a gift that both symbolises the relationship and makes the receiver happy.
The key to gift-giving when your partner’s love language is gifts, is to make sure that what you buy them is thoughtful, meaningful, and takes their emotional reaction into account.
People whose love language is quality time feel loved when their partner actively wants to spend time with them, giving them their undivided attention without the distraction of social media, television, or other external interference. There is a strong desire to actively spend time with their partner, have meaningful conversations, and enjoy activities and experiences together such as holidays, sports, or hobbies.
Words of Affirmation
If you value verbal acknowledgements of affection - saying I love you frequently, giving and receiving praise, words of encouragement, and spending time speaking with people on and offline - it's likely that words of affirmation is your love language. Written and spoken displays of affection make people whose love language is words of affirmation feel understood and appreciated. Likewise, if someone in your life is very vocal about their affection, it’s important to recognise and appreciate their own unique style of showing you they love you.
Acts of Service
If it makes you especially happy when your partner goes out of their way to make your life easier, or you tend to do the same for them, it’s likely that acts of service is your love language. For example, looking after each other when one of you is sick (cooking food, taking over their chores), daily acts of service such as making them a tea or coffee, their lunch for work each day, or stepping in to share their workload when they’ve had a busy week are all examples of the acts of service love language.
Acts of service is most closely aligned to the age-old saying ‘actions speak louder than words’. These people show and perceive affection in what they do for others as well as what others do for them, and find actions much more meaningful than words of affirmation.
Physical signs of affection are extremely important to those whose love language is physical touch; behaviours like kissing, holding hands, cuddling on the couch, and physical intimacy make them feel loved. Physical touch can be incredibly affirming and serve as a powerful emotional connector for people with this love language, valuing the feeling of warmth and comfort that comes with physical intimacy.
Understanding yours and your partner’s love language can help strengthen your bond and deepen understanding of one another, even if you’ve been together for years. That being said, understanding a love language isn’t a cure-all; relationships are continuous, hard, rewarding work, and love languages are only a tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to mutual understanding and respect. You can find the five love languages quiz online with a quick Google search, and learn more in Gary Chapman’s book of the same name.