Are you familiar with the concept of love languages? Coined by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. in his book, The Five Love Languages, this premise focuses on a fact that may seem to be commonsensical: people give and receive love and affection in different ways. Chapman explains that there are five of these love languages, with an individual relating to each type to a different degree. These can apply to both men and women, adults and children, and single people and those in relationships. However, by learning your own love language and your partner’s love language, you can reconnect with your spouse and improve your marriage.
The Five Love Languages
Dr. Chapman’s categorized five love languages can be self-explanatory, or you can turn to the resources on his website to determine your love language with an interactive quiz. Either way, you’ll find that one of the five stands out as especially meaningful in your own relationships.
What is physical touch?
The first of the five love languages, physical touch, can easily be misconstrued as you or your romantic partner being sex-crazed, looking for expressions of love you’d find in the bedroom. On the contrary, though, physical affection can include expressing love in many different meaningful ways, including hand-holding, hugs, back rubs, and other ”innocent,” non-sexual contact.
What are acts of service?
If this is a person’s love language, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” couldn’t be more accurate. The best ways to their heart are through actions, doing something for them that either improves things for them directly or detracts from something that would negatively impact them.
What does receiving gifts entail?
The love language concept focused on gifts is another that’s often misunderstood. Those who consider this to be their primary love language are not materialistic or shallow. On the contrary, the greatest act of love, to them, is that of a thoughtful gift—not the material item given but the meaning and effort behind it.
What are words of affirmation?
Words of affirmation make up the love language that’s most like a “language” in a conventional sense. These lovers turn to words to show and, ideally, receive affection, whether it’s through compliments, declarations, or sweet nothings.
What is quality time?
The final love language, quality time, is another that you’ll see in many portrayals of love through pop culture. The best way to let this person feel love is through spending time with them one-on-one, offering them your undivided attention while you’re together.
You and Your Spouse
Knowing your partner’s love language and applying it to your relationship can have an incredibly positive impact on your marriage. However, the same is true of understanding your own primary love language. Not only can this information help you communicate your wants and needs to your partner in an effective way but it can help you practice self-love, as well, ensuring you’re in the best possible headspace when it comes to speaking your wife or husband’s love language.
How can you connect using physical touch?
This common love language doesn’t require you and your partner to spend more time between the sheets (though that can certainly enhance the intimacy between you, too). Public displays of affection are a big deal to those who speak the love language of physical touch—hold your partner’s hand or wrap your arm around them in public. Hug them for a stronger connection between kisses and rub their neck and shoulders after a stressful day.
When it comes to self-love, sexual touch has its place in this love language. However, it’s not the only practice of physical self-love, either. Take time to stretch when you wake up in the morning or slather on a luxurious lotion after showering. The conventional self-care ideas of face masks and spa treatments can have a huge impact, too.
How can you connect using acts of service?
The acts of service love language shouldn’t feel like a chore, though chores are one excellent way to show love and affection in this context. For instance, maybe your spouse is an autistic adult who struggles with the sensory overload of grocery shopping. You might take that task off their to-do list by heading to the supermarket yourself and letting them skip that stress. With acts of service, you do good things for your partner, either because you know they’ll like it or you know they’d rather someone else do it for them. Essentially, you’re giving away your time as a sign of love.
Self-love can benefit from acts of service as well. In most instances, this consists of performing acts of service for your future self. This might include preparing healthy meals so you have good food to eat, cleaning your home so that it’s functional and enjoyable, or practicing good hygiene for the sake of your own well-being.
How can you connect using gifts?
Receiving gifts, as a love language, is rather self-explanatory, but it has much greater intentionality than the unfamiliar may recognize. You don’t need to splurge on an extravagant present, though that may certainly be welcome. But an assortment of little things can speak your partner’s primary love language, too. You can help this person feel love and affection by offering a meaningful gift that shows you’ve thought of them. The right gift doesn’t have to be costly or luxurious—it only needs to show how much time and thought you’ve put into it.
Self-love interprets gift-giving in a similar way, only you’re the giver and recipient. Investments in yourself are an excellent form of this love language, whether you’re crossing a once-in-a-lifetime experience off your bucket list, making room in your budget to learn a new skill, or buying items that spark joy. Alternatively, giving gifts to the people you love can help support your love language, too.
How can you connect using words of affirmation?
Amidst the different love languages, the words of affirmation love language (and perhaps physical touch, as well) is the one that’s most expected in the average romantic relationship. How often do you tell your husband, wife, or partner how you feel about them? For many married couples, it’s been a long time since you told each other your feelings explicitly. You don’t need to renew your wedding vows, but you can take some time to tell your partner that you love and appreciate them.
Affirmations can certainly apply to self-love, too. Recite mantras, journal your deepest thoughts, and focus on feeling positive vibes in your everyday life. These words might not seem like much, but they’ll go a long way towards crafting a good relationship with yourself.
How can you connect using quality time?
Of course, you likely spend time with your spouse or romantic partner, but how often do they really get your undivided attention? With the seemingly endless distractions of modern life, it’s easy to find your attention drifting elsewhere in a variety of settings. If this tendency leads to marital problems—an all too common issue—consider whether marriage therapy may be a good fit. While meeting with a counselor, you can create positive change by giving you a distraction-free environment to connect one-on-one, with the added benefit of a marriage counselor to work through any disagreements that may arise.
As for self-love, the love language of quality time may include therapy sessions, too. Or, you may simply prioritize alone time, making room in your schedule for hobbies, mindfulness, and self-care practices like sleep and mindful movement.
It’s unsurprising that people experience love in their own ways. Dr. Gary Chapman has broken these down into five primary love languages—physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time. No matter how many years of marriage you have under your belt, you’ll find that an understanding of your partner’s love language as well as your own love language can strengthen your romantic relationship and the ways you practice self-love.
Like learning different languages in any context, understanding your partner’s love language can be a challenging endeavor. However, it’s an effort that truly expresses your heartfelt commitment to one another. So, take some time to take an online quiz or chat with your partner about one another’s love language. Then, send them words of love in a text message they’ll open at the office, or practice eye contact over a glass of wine and deep conversation when you both come home at night. Take that unwanted errand off their plate or discuss whether you might have a more meaningful conversation guided by a marriage and family therapist.
Whether you focus on offering more loving text messages and verbal compliments or you’re working to get to the root of your conflicts with a professional counselor, the good news is there’s no wrong way to show love, so long as you’re making the effort to understand your partner and the ways they show and feel love.