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In his bestselling relationship book The Five Love Languages, marriage counselor and pastor Dr. Gary Chapman highlights five primary ways in which individuals tend to express their feelings of affection towards one another. After years of counseling adults who felt misunderstood in their relationships, Chapman realized that the primary challenge faced by most couples was that many individuals were speaking different “love languages” than their partners.
By learning more about your primary love language and that of your current partner, you can radically transform the ways in which you communicate in your relationship.
Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
When most of us think of communication, we think of the written or spoken word. If you feel particularly good after receiving a compliment from your partner, words of affirmation may be one of your top love languages.
As human beings, all of us want to feel acknowledged and appreciated. Simple, direct compliments and praise are the best ways to communicate with a partner who responds strongly to words of affirmation. Statements like “You look wonderful today, sweetheart,” or “This meal you prepared is delicious, honey!” have the power to make your partner feel validated and loved. A few loving words conveyed via letter, email, or text can brighten your partner’s day, too.
Love Language #2: Acts of Service
If your partner is not a particularly strong verbal communicator, there’s a chance that he or she might be expressing their love for you via acts of service instead. Individuals who show love via acts of service strive to please their partners by completing tasks for them. If your partner regularly invests significant time and effort into preparing meals for you, completing chores, or helping you tackle tricky projects when you’re overwhelmed, you might be being “spoken to” without even realizing it! If, on the other hand, you feel most loved when you partner goes the extra mile to help you, acts of service may be the love language that best fulfills your own emotional needs.
Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts
Gifts are a concrete way of showing others that we care about them. For some individuals, being on the receiving end of an act of giving is particularly emotionally rewarding. Contrary to what one might believe, this love language is far from a greedy one! Rather, gifts are a powerful, symbolic means of expressing love. Those with this love language will often perceive the gifts they’ve received as expressions of their partners’ thoughtfulness. If you or your partner respond best to tangible expressions of love, the receiving of gifts may be your primary love language.
Love Language #4: Quality Time
All of us have busy lives. Our focus, understandably, is often on our work, our phones, and our television screens. If you or your partner place a particular emotional emphasis on “quality time,” however, your relationship may benefit most from your undivided attention. If you feel unfulfilled and disconnected from your partner when you’re sitting together and watching TV, you may be suffering from a lack of meaningful, communicative time spent with one another. To better speak the language of quality time, put the distractions away. Instead, focus on engaging with your partner directly. Talk to one another about meaningful things, make eye contact, and participate in activities you both truly enjoy.
Love Language #5: Physical Touch
Since the dawn of time, humans have communicated with one another via physical touch. Children develop secure attachments to their parents when they are held, snuggled, and shown physical affection. For many adults, touch remains one of the most powerful acts of love. Physical expressions of love may range from casually touching and hugging to kissing and engaging in acts of intercourse. If nothing warms your heart like your partner’s tender caress, this wordless language may be the form of communication that best speaks to you.
Benefits of Discovering Your Primary Love Language
Upon testing or reflection, most individuals will discover that they primarily express and receive affection in a love language different from that of their partner. Discovering the love languages that most speak to you and your partner, however, can radically transform the ways in which you communicate with one another. Perhaps you grew up in a household where physical affection was scant; your partner, however, was cuddled frequently, and deeply craves more instances of spontaneous touch in your relationship. Your partner, who speaks the language of touch, may be physically affectionate due to his upbringing, but may struggle to convey his love verbally, though you long to hear him compliment you. You may have grown up expressing your love via acts of service, too. You may view your daily efforts as an expression of love for your partner; he or she, however, might not have been perceiving your behavior in this way.
By coming to these realizations, you can work on learning to speak one another’s languages more effectively. With a little mindful effort, any love language can be learned and effectively put into practice. In doing so, you’ll be better able to fulfill the emotional needs of your partner.
Though Chapman’s categorizations have never been scientifically proven, many individuals have seen tremendous improvements in their relationships upon learning about the five love languages. Take the quick 30-question “5 Love Languages official assessment” to discover your own top love languages. If you’re in a relationship, have your partner complete the quiz, too! By doing so, you just might transform your romance for the better.
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