Do you feel most loved when you receive a special gift? Or does a hug mean more to you than anything wrapped in paper?
Answers to these and similar questions can be the first steps toward more fulfilling relationships or a happier marriage.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,” everyone has a primary love language. These languages may be so different from each other that Chapman describes them as being “as different as Chinese from English.” (1)
Calling upon over 30 years of experience as a marriage counselor, Chapman identified five ways that people experience and understand emotional love. His five love languages are:
1) Words of affirmation
This includes compliments and verbal acknowledgements of personal characteristics like kindness and thanks for things done, such as taking out the trash.
2) Acts of service
Actions speak louder than words for some people. This may include washing dishes, painting a wall, or spending time with the kids.
3) Receiving gifts
For some people, receiving a gift is the surest sign that they are loved.
4) Quality time
This means focused, one-on-one time without distractions like the TV blaring in the background, or pauses to check Facebook posts. Quality time can happen at home after dinner when you unwind together, or on a date or vacation, away from children and responsibilities.
If this brought to mind the most intimate physical touch — sex — you’re on the right track. But just sex is not enough. Physical touch as a love language also means more casual contact including hugs, holding hands, and a gentle pat or kiss on the forehead.
Chapman describes every person’s need for love as an emotional “love tank.” When that tank is full, we feel loved and content. When the tank is empty, life may seem emotionally barren.
Knowing your own love language can help you explain to your partner what you need to feel loved. Knowing your partner’s love language gives you the tools you need to keep his or her love tank full.
Chapman’s website includes a 30-question love language quiz that you and your partner can complete to figure out your primary love languages.
Another way to identify your love language is to keep track of how you interact with other people. Consider these three different approaches:
How do you express love to others?
Are you more likely to give words of affirmation, or do you give gifts to show your love? The method you use most often may be your love language, as you try to bring fulfillment to others by doing what you most want to receive in return.
What do you complain about?
Think about what things bother you the most. Is it the way your spouse never takes out the trash, or the way your partner never spends quality time with you? The thing you complain about most may also point to your primary love language.
If you can’t figure out what you complain about most, Chapman suggests asking your partner. He or she will probably have no trouble reminding you.
What do you ask for most?
Are you big on back rubs or cuddling on the couch? Or do you really wish you could get more help around the house? The thing you most request, or that you miss the most, can also clue you in to your love language.
Once you figure out your own love language, it is equally important to figure out that of your partner. Chapman says many couples do not share the same love language. So if you are trying to make your partner feel loved through words of affirmation because that’s what you most desire, you may be leaving his love tank empty if his love language is different from you own.
Chapman also warns against assuming that all men have physical touch as their love languages, just because sex is typically high on their lists. Consider how important other kinds of touch are, like hand-holding or a pat on the shoulder, compared to the other love language types.
Once you and your partner know your respective love languages, you have a significant tool to help make each other feel more loved every day.
But just knowing their love language won’t be enough, if you don’t choose to act on this new understanding.
A simple word or touch or thoughtful gesture, such as picking a flower from the garden on the way into the house, may be the emotional reward your partner has been longing for, but didn’t know how to request.
Reviewed February 11, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
2) The 5 Love Languages. Gary Chapman. Web. February 10, 2016.
3) Focus on the Family. Understanding the Five Love Languages. Gary Chapman. Web. February 10, 2016.
4) Focus on the Family. Learn to Speak Your Spouse’s Love Language. Gary Chapman. Web. February 10, 2016.