photo by Jon Tyson
by Andrea M. Darcy
Sometimes feel like you and your partner or spouse speak different languages, or that it’s just that hard to connect these days? While you might be…. different love languages, that is.
What are ‘love languages’?
The concept was created by American marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman, when he began to notice that the advice he’d give to couples could work for one partner, but not the other.
The different love languages refer to the five key ways we give and receive love within relationships. And the idea is that if you figure out you and your partner’s language, and start to ‘talk’ in ways each other understand? Your relationship will improve.
The 5 different love languages
In his bestselling book The 5 Love Languages, Chapman explains that we ‘speak our love’ with:
- words of affirmation
- quality time
- receiving gifts
- acts of service
- physical touch.
1. Words of affirmation.
This means that you feel loved when your partner offers you positive, supportive feedback. This might be gratitude for what you do for them. Or it could be them noticing your efforts, both in the relationship and in your life, and offering encouragement. As Chapman explains:
‘With verbal encouragement we are trying to communicate, “I know, I care. I am with you. How can I help?” ‘
2. Quality time.
If quality time is your thing, then you need to spend time where you and your partner are focused on each other and connected. In his book, Chapman suggests that–
“The essential ingredients in a quality activity are 1) at least one of you wants to do it, 2) the other is willing to do it, 3) but your you know why you are doing it, to express love by being together.”
So no, quality time is not the same as spending time together. Going out to a restaurant then staring at your perspective phones and only talking about the kids schedules, for example, is not quality time.
3. Receiving gifts.
Thoughtful offerings make you feel loved. It doesn’t even need to be things of value. It could be a little love note slipped into your coat pocket, a bar of your favourite chocolate, or a poem written just for you.
It’s the person thinking of you that makes you feel good, not the actual object.
Any partner trying to convince the other that high ticket items is their ‘love language’ is confusing materialism and manipulation with love, and they are not related.
4. Acts of service.
Acts of service mean that you feel loved when your partner does thoughtful things to help you. For example, they clean the house when it’s your turn, make your favourite dinner when you have had a terrible day at work, take the rubbish out without asking, or put the kids to bed happily. These things make you feel safe and cared for.
Note that this is not about being a martyr or being at your partner’s beck and call, or forgoing all your own needs to make a partner happy. That is just straight up codependency.
5. Physical touch.
If physical touch is your love language, then you crave closeness with your partner. Hugs, holding hands, sitting watching TV curled up together, being in close proximity….. healthy connected sex can be part of it.
But this love language isn’t actually synonymous with sex. Most people like sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s their love language. Physical touch involves all of the above, not just sexual touch.
What if I don’t know what mine is? Or have several?
Some people have more than one language, but in most cases we have a ‘primary’ one.
If you aren’t sure what the different love languages is yours, or you are not sure which one is your primary language? Chapman suggests the following:
- Look at what your parter does or doesn’t do that upsets and hurts you most. The opposite of this is likely your love language.
- Listen to what you ask for the most from your partner. Your most common requests probably hides your primary language.
- Then take note of the way you show love. What is your favourite way to let your partner know you love them? That is probably your language, and also how you want to receive love.
photo by: Kyle Glenn
Do you hate when your partner ignores you or is too busy at work to care about your relationship? Your love language is probably quality time.
Always nagging your partner to take the rubbish out, or to take his turn chauffeuring the kids? You probably are an acts of service type.
Leave little notes in your partner’s lunchbox, like to buy new clothes for them, or hide their favourite box of chocolates under their pillow? You are probably a gifts type.
Maybe I don’t have a love language because I am unloveable
Sometimes we have had an empty ‘love tank’ for so long, we really have no idea what makes us feel loved.
In this case, Chapman suggests casting your mind back to the very beginning of your relationship. What was it that made you think you were in love then? What did the other person do or say that made you want to be with them?
Or ask yourself, who is my perfect mate? What do they do and say? How do they make me feel good, loved, and safe?
The main mixup is in the bedroom
Convinced you have two love languages, one of which is physical touch? Chapman points out that most of us crave sex. But that’s doesn’t mean it’s our love language.
The main distinction here can be found by asking yourself if your partner only gave you sex, but never again gave you the other love language, would you feel loved and happy?
For example, say you are sure your love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation. If your partner never again thanked you for what you did or gave you support for your career, never said ‘good job’ or ‘thank you’ again, but you did have an active sex life, would that be enough for you to feel loved? If not, then it’s more like the other language is yours, and you simply like sex.
When love languages WON’T work
1. If you are speaking your partner’s language as you feel you ‘have’ to.
If loving your partner is actually a chore, then it’s time to reassess what you are doing in the relationship. If you truly no longer want them to be happy, and you only do so begrudgingly, then perhaps it’s time to move on.
Of course if you are doing the love languages as your partner asked you to, and it’s not that you don’t care about their happiness, you just hate being told what to do? Then you need to discuss this with your partner. Find a compromise that works for you, such as having ‘off’ days where you don’t have to try or talk about it.
2. If you are using the different love languages to manipulate your partner.
If you think that manipulating your partner using love languages is wise, ask yourself, what is this about? Do I even know how to be loved and love without manipulation? Who taught me that this is what love should be like? Is it time to seek some support, like a talk therapist?
Need help with your relationship? We offer individual counselling as well as couples therapy in central London with highly rated expert talk therapists. Or use our booking platform to find UK wide registered therapists now.
Still have a question about the different love languages or want to share your story? Post below.
Andrea M. Darcy is a lifestyle and wellbeing writer as well as a coach who often writes about relationships. Find her @am_darcy