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The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.

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