The Five Love Languages & How To Use Them
We've all had relationships where we felt we just didn't "speak the same language" as our partners. Somehow, despite all the best intentions, our messages crossed or never seemed to land. Misunderstandings, miscommunication, and hurt feelings built up until the relationship was forced to end, not because of a lack of love, but because we and/or our partners were not feeling loved.
Understanding the five "love languages" put forward in a series of books by Dr. Gary Chapman can help you save such a relationship, if you are in one, or avoid the pain and frustration of all those mixed messages, if you're starting a new one. Not only applicable to romantic relationships, the five love languages are also relevant to platonic relationships, whether with family, friends, or coworkers. If you can identify your own love language, as well as that of the other person, you can communicate your affection and appreciation much more effectively, leading to a happier, more fulfilling relationship for the both of you.
The five love languages, as set forth by Dr. Chapman, are as follows:
Words of Affirmation
Positive verbal reinforcement. If this is your love language, you feel wonderful when someone gives you a genuine compliment. You may feel insecure without encouragement or regular expressions of approval. You feel loved when your partner expresses appreciation for the small things you do.
Periods where you have complete attention. If quality time is your primary love language, you feel neglected without time spent specifically focused on each other, or doing something together that you love to do. You enjoy sharing things you love with others, and feel special when someone else includes you in something they are passionate about.
Physical or visual symbols of affection. If receiving gifts makes you feel loved, that does not mean you are superficial. Some people simply respond to tangible illustrations of the love in a relationship. Different from being a "gold digger," someone who speaks this love language appreciates thoughtful, personal gifts, not necessarily dependent on price. A home-made card or tiny trinket can speak volumes, if well-chosen and suited to the recipient.
Acts of Service
Doing things for a loved one. If this is your dominant love language, you feel loved when someone goes out of their way to make things more pleasant or smooth for you. Examples include: doing chores, cooking dinner, taking care of something that would normally be your responsibility, chipping in without being asked. Most people can relate to this love language, though in very different ways, and it is extremely important to practice this love language out of genuine feeling, rather than duty, to avoid resentment.
Bodily contact between people. Not restricted to sexual intercourse or intimacy, this love language encompasses all kinds of touch, from hugs to kisses to cuddling. Physical contact can be its own form of communication. If this is your love language, you need your partner to recognize what kinds of touch are pleasant and which are irritating, and focus on increasing the former and reducing the latter.
With all the love languages, it is vital to remember that we each speak our own dialect. All of us can identify with more than one of these expressions of love or affection, though most of us do primarily respond best to one or another of them. We also tend to express love the way we would like to receive it, and if our partners do not communicate in the same love language as we do, this can create a lot of tension and dissatisfaction. Instead, concentrate on identifying your partner's love language, and practice showing affection in ways they will better receive the message. After all, what we all really want is to feel seen and loved.
For more information on the Five Love Languages, visit Dr. Chapman's website, or get your hands on a copy of one of his books.