The Five Love Languages
As I’ve said before, I work a lot with people who want to bring their best possible selves into a relationship. (Good for you!) We unpack baggage, chat about communication skills, and I teach them a new language.
Love languages were created by Gary Chapman back in the early 90’s and have been popular since then. It offered some insight into how we feel connection, importance, and caring from our loved ones. Language is all about symbols and making meaning. This provides a framework for which symbols we should use for ultimate bonding with our partner.
Love languages can certainly shed insight on how we need to be loved. I encourage people, however, that it’s about the language your partner speaks. When you go to another country you learn phrases you might need to know. You speak their language. This is out of respect. Love languages are no different.
There are 5 love languages. We often have a mix of two, although one is typically primary. They also may change over time because of life. New parents often find more weight from “acts of service”, for example. For me during the pandemic, words of affirmation became more important- because quality time and physical touch became more difficult to attain while social distancing. Once you (and your partner) figure out your love languages, make sure you continue to talk about your needs. They evolve, as does your love.
The Five Love Languages
Acts of service
This love language is about those “little things” that go above and beyond. I mentioned new parents gravitating towards this language. Unloading the dishwasher without being asked, for example. A homecooked meal. Getting into the car and you notice the gas tank has been filled. Your partner may know that you hate a certain chore, so they try to take it over for you as much as possible. They also may notice the little things- like how you take your coffee. It’s that feeling that your loved one wants your life to be a little easier- so much so that they give up their time and energy to do something kind for your. Pro-tip: If you are the giver of acts of service, play to your strengths. If you’re a great cook, make them breakfast. If you’re handy, re-hang that towel bar in the bathroom. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, just sincere.
For those who speak the love language of gifts, it’s not about the price tag. These folks aren’t about the things- it’s about the idea that your loved one thought of you when they saw something and went out of their way to get it for you. Do you hear the parallel to acts of service? There’s also sentimentality. Whereas another person may greatly appreciate a random latte delivered to their desk (*hint*), a gifts love language person will cherish this, perhaps even saving the cup so they could get warm fuzzies when they look at it in the future.
Words of Affirmation
“I love you.” A phrase that we likely say often to people in our lives, but one that carries so much weight for someone who speaks the love language of words of affirmation. Words of affirmation can also be encouragement, praise, or empathy. “I’m so proud of you.” “I couldn’t have done ______ without you.” “Thank you for being such an amazing partner.” Little notes, even social media attention, translate well (this is great if verbalizing is going to take practice for you). Words of affirmation carry a lot of power and meaning for some people. Be genuine- they already love you, you don’t have to be Shakespeare. And finally, it’s important also to consider the opposite- if a kind word can make your partner feel loved, harsh words can carry similar weight.
We are a culture of constant multitasking. We don’t just eat meals, we eat and watch TV. We don’t watch a movie without also scrolling on Facebook. If your partner has this love language, I encourage you to leave your phone in the other room. Quality time can be as simple as a hike, a family outing, or just Netflix at the end of a long day, but the meaning and importance and feelings of love comes from undivided attention. To start, try setting a goal to make your partner the focus for the last hour of your day and watch the shift in your relationship. If this is your love language, talk to your partner about what quality time feels good to you: “Hey, I really loved it when we went for a drive last weekend. It felt good to just spend time together, just the two of us.” Parents, this is your semi-regular reminder to plan date nights.
May not need to be said (but I work with enough people that I know it needs to be)- but this isn’t about sex. Feeling desired and intimate touch are one piece of this love language. The other parts are just closeness. Holding hands, massage, spooning before bed, or a passing touch on the waist while making dinner. It’s very much connecting, even if doing separate activities. Physical proximity releases feel good chemicals, heart rates sync, magic happens. This is a great conversation to have with your partner that leaves a lot of room for playfulness. Some people love tickling, others don’t. What kinds of touch make them feel loved? Do you like light touch or pressure? If you’re arguing, will coming together and hugging (or having make-up sex) be welcome?
So Now What?
If you don’t have an idea of your love language yet, there’s many quizzes out there on the interweb. This is a great heart-to-heart conversation with loved ones in your life. “Hey, I discovered this new thing about myself, can I share it with you?” Knowing your love language means that you can know more clearly what to ask for when you feel a need to connect with your partners. It also means you an reach out to your loved ones in a way that really speaks to them.
As with any language, learning a new mode of communication can take time. Have patience with each other. And try to have fun.