Understanding how we express love and communicate our needs in a relationship is one of the most meaningful things we can do. Valuing receptive, nourishing connections that thrive requires a clear awareness of each other’s love language.
If we don’t know what expressions of love work best for us and how they help cultivate a healthy, durable partnership; they can’t be communicated effectively and may cause misunderstandings and create strain. Correspondingly, if we don’t take the time to find out how our loved ones reciprocate their feelings towards us, it means we’re missing out on both giving and receiving opportunities that connect us.
According to Gary Chapman, who first coined the phrase in his bestselling 1995 book, The Five Love Languages; there are five key ways in which people in romantic relationships demonstrate their attraction and devotion for each other. They include:
- Physical Touch – giving/receiving sexual intimacy, kissing, holding hands, hugging, anything tactile, etc
- Words of Affirmation – compliments, verbal encouragement and declarations of love
- Quality Time – putting distractions aside and ensuring some uninterrupted time is spent together
- Receiving Gifts – giving thoughtful, encouraging presents
- Acts of Service – doing things that support or make life easier (making dinner, washing dishes, collecting something to bring home, fixing something)
It’s theorized that while all five of these languages are utilized by us, we tend to focus on a couple of them; these are our dominant love languages and how love is most effectively received by us. These primary languages can also be how we most comfortably show love towards our partners.
It’s worth noting that we do not have to have love language alignment to maintain a healthy, rewarding relationship. Some couples may enjoy exactly the same dominant expressions of love, but it does not mean they are more suited to each other. What is key to any relationship is good, clear communication of our needs to a compassionate and responsive partner. Figuring out how we like to be loved and the ways we’re capable of showing it to others represents the most significant thing we can do for ourselves. It reveals what we’re looking for, what we’ll accept in return and what we can offer — if a potential or current partner can equally reflect this level of self-knowledge back, we’ve got a roadmap to success for love.
When I think about my own love language, I tend to prefer giving and receiving love through physical touch and words of affirmation. I like saying kind, encouraging and motivating things, hugging and generally being tactile. My husband prefers to give and receive love through acts of service and gift-giving. Clearly, our love language is completely different, but they never go misinterpreted because we communicate to each other how best we process love. Even though we would both like love to be returned to us in the same way as we demonstrate it; there’s an acceptance that this won’t always be the case. We know our love languages are different, so it’s on us to be cognizant of that fact. While we may express love in our own unique ways, we make certain we spend some time exhibiting it in each other’s love language too.
And that’s undoubtedly the overarching theme of improving our love languages within a relationship; speaking them in our partner’s language. It doesn’t mean forgoing our own — it means including theirs. This involves practice and effort, but that’s the point. We’re all worthy of love, and the most exceptional kind is the one that comes from someone who isn’t afraid to show up and ask, “What do you need?”
As one would expect, there can be setbacks when navigating love languages. They aren’t a quick fix and they won’t mend every issue within a relationship. They can, however, provide a solid foundation to work from. Love languages can also change over time especially if something happens that requires a reset. After my husband’s many surgeries to treat his cancer (he is doing well) I became his carer. My love language towards him adapted to the situation and switched to acts of service. This was what he needed most — he required love in his language. Being able to do this for him, under those circumstances, was the greatest comfort I could give him.
So if you’re looking to improve your love language, here is a summary of what you can do:
- Figure out what your dominant love languages are
- Communicate them clearly
- Spend time understanding your loved one’s dominant languages
- Find ways to incorporate your partner’s love languages with your own
- Accept it requires work and won’t always be perfect
- Be flexible over time as priorities shift and/or situations change
Love languages can be expressed in many different ways. Once we appreciate how our partner speaks to our heart, it reveals just how loved we truly are.
How do you show love? What are your primary love languages?
Talk It Out: Communication 101 For Couples – Healthline