How Five Love Languages Can Improve Your Relationship
Getting to know someone in a romantic relationship is a gradual process. Over time, you will learn more and more about them, including their likes and dislikes, and how they think. Later in the relationship , you may want your partner to be able to read your mind and know what turns you off and what you respond well to.
This is the kind of idea behind the concept of love languages : they allow you to understand what drives your partner. The idea is that we all express and feel love in different ways, and understanding these differences can seriously help your relationship. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to improve it.
The term was coined by longtime relationship consultant Gary Chapman. His book , Five Love Languages , is admittedly full of silly truisms (“keep your tank of love full”), and it’s like a bad magazine quiz. All in all, this is a rather vague reading (and some concepts are somewhat outdated), but there is a reason why this whole love language has taken off: it has a lot of meaning and it works. In fact, you don’t have to read the book to understand the concept. It’s pretty simple, and by the end of this post, you should have understood most of what you need to know.
Briefly about five languages of love
In his own words, here’s how Chapman breaks down the five love languages in his book:
After thirty years of marriage counseling, I have come to the conclusion that there are five languages of emotional love – five ways people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics, a language can have many dialects or variations. Likewise, there are many dialects in the five major emotional love languages … It is important to speak your spouse’s love language.
The five languages are pretty simple, but here’s a quick rundown of what each means:
- Words of Appreciation: Expressing affection through verbal affection, praise, or appreciation.
- Service : Actions, not words, are used to show and receive love.
- Receiving Gifts : Giving symbolizes love and affection.
- Quality timing : Show affection with undivided, non-distracted attention.
- Physical touch : This can range from sex to holding hands. With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.
Chances are, you belong to some of them. Maybe you relate to all of them. But most of us have one or two that are much more important to us than others, and they are different for everyone. As Chapman told SheKnows :
I have found that each person understands and receives love in a specific language, to be precise, in one of five. The other four are just as important and offer [other] ways to express love for one another.
In fact, there is no scientific research behind Chapman’s theory; it just makes sense because it is related. Obviously, we all show affection in different ways. These “languages” simply denote these ways so that you can better understand people.
When you know what your partner is doing and what he doesn’t care about, it opens your eyes quite a bit. For example, over the years I have given small gifts to my loved ones to show that I care. I thought a lot about these gifts and loved to surprise him. It would have pissed me off when he received them and just said, “Oh, cool, thanks,” and then put it off. This was not the reaction I wanted. When I gave him a gift, I said, “I care about you,” and “oh cool, thank you” is not the best answer.
When I realized that “giving” is not his love language at all, everything suddenly made sense, and I learned to show that I care, so that I could talk to him. Conversely, when I give gifts, he now understands that this is my way of saying that I love you, and now it means more to him.
What is most important to you?
You can probably figure out your language just by thinking about it, but Chapman offers a 30-question quiz on his website . This is helpful because if you identify with multiple languages, the quiz will tell you which ones stand out the most. It might sound silly if you take it, but seriously, do it. The results will break down your score for each language, as you can see in the example below. (If you don’t feel like taking it online, you can also download the PDF version of the quiz here ).
As Chapman notes, there are also different “dialects” for each language. For example, my primary language is quality time, but I also express and feel affection through affirmation words and to some extent physical touch.
On the other hand, it is helpful to know how not to show affection. I got a low score on acts of ministry, which helps to understand that this is a blind spot. Let’s say a friend is doing me a favor: they give me a lift to the airport. It doesn’t really matter to me, so I can brush it off too quickly. Likewise, I can be bad at doing favors to friends because favors don’t matter much to me, so I guess they don’t matter to anyone else.
In short, knowing what drives you and what doesn’t can help you empathize with people a little better .
How this concept can change your relationship
When you understand what your partner does and doesn’t care, you can better empathize. Your reasons for the argument make a little more sense. When you understand why you are fighting, you are in a better position to come up with a solution.
Aside from less fighting (or at least more productive), the concept of love languages is also great for maintaining relationships. For example, I know that we both feel affection when we spend time together, so I know it’s important to schedule this time to keep our relationship strong. If we ever had a long distance relationship, we would probably be able to handle it a bit, and we would need to put in more effort than people who don’t speak the language of quality time. When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it’s easy to calm down and let things get old. When you know your partner’s love language, it’s incredibly easy to recharge. It’s like a cheat code for your relationship.
Of course, this concept also helps you simply express your love in the best possible way. On my fiance’s birthdays, I always thought a lot about his physical talent. Now that I know that quality time is more important to him, I prefer to do it. I put more energy into planning a birthday trip together than I do with any physical gift I’m going to buy him.
You can also use love languages for non-romantic relationships.
I have found that the concept of love languages helps in almost any relationship, not just romance. It is helpful to understand what is important to people.
For example, I was angry with my brother for not knowing how to keep in touch. He rarely calls, and it hurt me. But then we got together at family events, had a long and meaningful conversation, and everything was wonderful. He told me how much I meant to him, and it calmed me down. But then he again did not know how to keep in touch, and again I hurt my feelings.
It took a while to realize that his love language is 100 percent affirmative words and zero percent quality time or service. It seems strange to me, but this is him, and this is how he expresses (or does not express) affection. Once I got this, his lack of phone calls stopped hurting my senses. And vice versa. He recently complained that my dad and I always want to talk to him on the phone, but he doesn’t understand why.
“I hate talking on the phone,” he said. “So I don’t. I don’t know why it hurts people’s feelings. “
I joked, “Because when you don’t keep in touch, we think you don’t love us anymore.”
“Oh shit,” he laughed. And since then, he has become better at communicating.
It’s worth noting that your love language can also vary from person to person. My brother may speak a different language in a romantic relationship than in a family. And while I need quality time with my partner and family, I don’t necessarily need to spend time with friends to feel like they care, or vice versa.
It can also help in business. Business strategist Marie Forleo says the concept of love languages is her “secret weapon” in keeping her team happy . As a leader, she learns that each member of her team feels valuable and can then motivate them accordingly.
Chapman even wrote the following book specifically for the workplace: 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace . They are almost the same, but his explanations are translated for professional relationships rather than romantic ones. However, you can probably translate this pretty easily on your own just by looking at their behavior and how they react to things.
Overall, it all comes down to knowing what is important to people so that you can understand them, empathize and work with them a little better. We all have different life experiences and different backgrounds, so it makes sense that we communicate in different ways.
Of course, love languages cannot fix everything. They will not solve your money problems together, they will not make your relatives more tolerant, or they will force your partner to help more around the house. But this concept goes a long way in improving communication, and we all know how important it is.
This story was originally published in October 2015 and was updated on December 6, 2021 to follow the Lifehacker style guidelines.