We tend to think of ‘love’ and ‘affection’ as universal concepts that apply to everyone in the same way. Just because we value quality time with our loved ones, we assume that they ‘ought to know better’ than to be distracted by their phone when we are trying to have a conversation with them. Just because we need verbal assurances from our partner to feel appreciated, we may accuse them of not caring about us when they fail to compliment how we look in that new dress.
The truth is, we each have our own preference of how we identify, express, and receive love. According to Dr Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, each of us has a primary ‘love language’ that we favour.
The 5 love languages are: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts. By understanding you and your partner’s love language, you will develop a greater awareness of each others’ needs and grow to be more effective in your communication. Read on to find out how you can use the 5 languages to improve your relationships.
1. Quality Time
When someone’s love language is Quality Time, they expect you to be fully present when you’re with them. This means giving them your undivided attention instead of getting distracted by your phone or the TV.
They feel loved when you make an effort to put aside all your digital distractions for them, and may feel hurt or neglected if they feel that your mind is elsewhere even when you are spending time together. When upset, they may say things such as “Is your work more important than me?”
2. Acts of Service
People who prefer this love language believe in ‘Action over words’. They like it when you do things that help to make their life easier, neater, or better. This can be as simple as cooking a meal for them, bringing them coffee in the morning, or fixing things around the house.
Just as how they appreciate thoughtful actions, if they feel that you’re neglecting your chores or leaving them to do all the work around the house, they will feel taken for granted and may get upset as they don’t feel that you care enough for them. When upset, they may say things like “Why do I have to be the one doing everything around here?
3. Words of Affirmation
While we tend to assume that ‘actions speak louder than words’, that simply isn’t the case for those whose love language is Words of Affirmation. People with this love language need verbal assurances and compliments from their partners. Just a simple “Thank you for..”, “You did a great job with..”, or “You look beautiful in that dress” would go a long way to making them feel loved.
Often, people in long-term relationships may stop telling their partner how beautiful, intelligent, handsome, or capable they are – because they assume that, after all this time, their partners should know how they feel. This is a grave error to commit as the lack of verbal affirmation can be destabilising and hurtful for individuals who crave Words of Affirmation.
When upset, they may say things like “You don’t ever express appreciation for the things I do”.
4. Physical Touch
Those whose love language is Physical Touch crave physical closeness to their partner, and they would often be liberal in hugging, holding hands, kissing, or even resting a hand on your lap while you’re both sitting on the sofa watching TV.
Individuals who favour Physical Touch need physical intimacy in order to feel safe and loved. When they are under emotional distress, instead of trying to talk them through their issues or solving their problems for them, they need someone who would comfort them with a hug.
When upset, they may say things like “Why are you being so cold and distant?”
5. Receiving Gifts
The love language of ‘receiving gifts’ isn’t about getting expensive gifts but more about the thought and effort that goes into each gift. Special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries tend to matter to people who favour Receiving Gifts as their love language. To them, gifts are a visual representation of your love for them, so remember to surprise them with little gestures from time to time.
Knowing the Five Languages can help couples understand how they can better show their affection for each other. Ultimately, the key to relationship success requires communication and compromise, and awareness of the Five Languages can help couples to achieve that.