The Five Love Languages were developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a marriage and family therapist who has been in practice for over 30 years. His wiki page says he has a radio show that’s syndicated on over 100 stations and his counseling background is in the Christian church.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, Dr. Chapman knows his stuff. I was introduced to the Five Love Languages at the beginning of my first semester of graduate school and I have since used his ideas to formulate my own conclusions about my needs in a relationship. His book about the different love languages is a New York Times bestseller, so you might be familiar with his theory.
Before I explain the Five Love Languages, I want to share that this approach is about truly understanding your partner. The goal of the Love Languages is to find out what your partner needs in a relationship and modify your behavior to accommodate those needs. Relationships are about changing. The goal is to become a better person and partner as you grow with someone. You’ll see what I’m talking about when I blow your mind in 3… 2… 1…
Okay, go. (and take the Five Love Languages quiz here to find out your love language)
Words of Affirmation – “Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.”
Quality Time – “In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.”
Receiving Gifts – “Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.”
Acts of Service - “Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.”
Physical Touch – “This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.”
*I pasted the definitions from the Five Love Languages site. It’s just easier and that way and I think Dr. Chapman would prefer it if I didn’t misquote him.
So, based on my last post, I bet you can guess what my love language is…
If you guessed that correctly, congrats! It was a Daily Double. I hope you made sure to make a wager hearty enough to beat that damn machine WATSON.
Don’t get me wrong, now. I’m a big fan of all of them. Right now, I’m a big fan of receiving gifts.
Alright, heyheyhey now. It’s not that shameless if a child gets a pair of them, too. Stop looking at me with your judgmental eyes.
Seriously though, the Five Love Languages are NOT (notnotnotnot) an excuse to discount the other languages that are not dominant for yourself or your partner. All need to be present in a relationship for it to thrive. However, the primary love language is the one that should be considered strongly when hoping to convey your love to your partner.
The Five Love Languages are a great step in understanding how to make your partner happy. They aren’t a method to reinforce the need to stay resolutely where you are at. If you are an Acts of Services person, you likely show your love that way because that is what you would want.
This is misguided. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to do those things, too.
The goal is to convey love and make your partner feel loved. The goal is not to take this quiz and turn to your partner and say “SEE! YOU JUST DON’T SEE THE THINGS I DO FOR YOU!” and then try to force them to see all the times you do show them love. While it’s eye-opening to know what your partner’s love language is so you can understand their attempts to communicate with you better, it is not permission to continue what you’re doing and expect to just be understood.
The Love Languages are an opportunity to deepen your bond with your partner and grow yourself as a person by finding new ways to show how much you care about them.
Speaking honestly (and with a tinge of my personal opinion), appealing to your partner’s love languages just makes your life easier. When you show your love in a way that is understood, your partner is nicer to you and things are just smoother. We want to feel like our partners “get us”. This is the way we do that. It sounds kind of hard and if you’re operating from two different love languages, it can be. It just gets so much easier though. I promise. So, get out there and do the dishes, buy someone that thing they’ve wanted forever but won’t spend their own money on, turn off the TV and listen, grab a hand, and say “I love you because ________ (insert cheesy but true line about your partner’s wonderful personality). On your mark, get set… go!
If you take the quiz, leave your love language in the comments!
If you’re feeling really adventurous, tell me about the best time your partner (or someone else) appealed to your love language.
If you’re feeling really, really open, tell me about the best time you appealed to your partner’s love language.
Post Edit: For Orlando or Florida Residents: My counseling colleagues are offering a free workshop on the Love Languages on January 27th at the University of Central Florida’s Marriage and Family Research Institute. More information can be found on the MFRI events page here.