What are love languages?

Looking for new ways to understand and connect with your partner? Dr. Gary Chapman's Love Languages is a helpful framework to identify your and your partner's preferred ways to communicate, receive, and experience love.

How do the five types manifest?

The five categories of love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Below are some examples of each: 

  1. Words of Affirmation: "Honey, I really love the way you are with our kids. You are so gentle and present with them." "Babe, I admire the way you handled that difficult situation at work. You showed integrity and courage by advocating for what is right." 
  2. Quality Time: Play a sport, go for a walk, make breakfast together, sit side by side reading together, go on a date night, have meaningful conversations. 
  3. Gifts: Pick up your partner's favorite food at the grocery store, buy them something they would never buy for themselves, remember their work anniversary, celebrate a win with a small gift, find a keepsake for them on your trip.
  4. Acts of Service: Spend time researching date night ideas, wash the dishes, make the bed, tuck the kids in, walk the dog, fill up the gas in their car. 
  5. Physical Touch: Hold hands, give a long kiss, give a shoulder rub, place your hand on their arm, give hugs, have sex.  ​

Should you speak your language or your partner's? Can you do both?

It is important to understand both your and your partner's love languages. Understanding your love language helps you share with your partner what they can do to really light you up. Understanding your partner's love language helps you understand what to do for them that makes the greatest impact. Understanding their love language also helps you see and appreciate their good intentions even if they miss the mark. For example, if gift-giving is not your love language but it is your partner's, you can interpret them giving you a thoughtful gift as their way of saying "I love you." You can translate their behavior accurately and show appreciation for the gesture rather than dismissing the gift because it is not your main love language. 

If your partner is consistently missing the mark, you can provide gentle feedback and encouragement. For example, if you feel the most loved and cared for when your partner gives you compliments in front of others or when they send you sweet text messages throughout the day, tell them how much that means to you each time they do it. The positive feedback helps them understand you better and gives them a map into your heart. Acknowledging and thanking them when they speak your love language will increase the chance that they will do it again. 

Why is knowing your love language and your partner's useful?

As a couples therapist, I introduce love languages as a helpful framework for my couples to understand that we all express, receive and experience love differently. What is very meaningful for one partner may not be meaningful, or even distasteful, to another. I have also used love languages to help parents understand how to love and support their children better. 

Our love languages are shaped by our personalities, preferences, culture, intersecting identities, family history, upbringing, and life experiences. There is no right or wrong way to communicate and receive love. For example, as an Asian American woman who grew up in both China and the United States, I learned that acts of service were how my grandparents said "I love you" but my friends and romantic partners use physical touch or words of affirmation to express their love and affection. Understanding how others express their love helps me interpret their intentions accurately. Understanding how I prefer to receive love helps my loved ones care for me in the ways that matter the most to me. 

What is the ultimate goal of love languages?

I often share with my couples that there is a difference between feeling love toward someone and making them feel loved in the ways that they want and need. When you accurately tune into your partner's preferences and needs, you make them feel seen, heard, and special to you. Getting their love language "right" creates a foundation of trust and intimacy in the relationship. When there is a foundation of trust and intimacy, a history of accurate understanding of your partner's needs and wants, and a track record of clear communication, you and your partner can create a lens of positivity through which you see each other. Through the lens of positivity, moments of frustration and misunderstanding can be easily overcome because there is a pervasive sense of safety, care, and attunement in the relationship. You and your partner can feel like you are on the same wavelength and on the same team.

Deepen Your Relationship with the Help of a Ballard Couples Therapist

Are you struggling to understand your partner's love language? Are you having trouble connecting with each other and feeling deeply loved and cared for by each other? Are you no longer experiencing the spark of romance in your relationship? Disconnection and miscommunication is common in dating and marriage but you do not have to struggling through it alone. You can find greater trust and intimacy with your partner in couples counseling the help of one of our excellent couples therapists. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us today to see if we are a good fit for you.