The Five Love Languages: How To Show Love To Your Partner

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The concept of love languages was originally put forth by Gary Chapman in his 1992 book, The Five Love Languages. Chapman’s core love language theory is that each individual has a primary form in which they prefer to receive love, one that makes them feel most appreciated and cared for. Though love languages can apply to any type of relationship, they’re often spoken of in regard to romantic connections. If you’re looking for ways to get closer to your partner, show them how much you appreciate them, or otherwise strengthen your bond, learning more about love languages may be helpful.

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What are the five love languages?

The five main love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. While many of us appreciate being shown love in all of these forms, Chapman’s book is based on the idea that each person has their own love language that resonates with them more strongly than the others. 

Words of affirmation 

People who love words of affirmation prefer to receive affection in verbal or written forms. It means a lot to them when their partner puts their love and appreciation for them into words. This could take the form of handwritten notes, poems, meaningful conversations, or even simple, spoken words and “I love you's” that express how much they care.

Acts of service

People whose primary love language is acts of service prefer to receive affection in the form of tasks or thoughtful gestures. For them, actions speak louder than words. They feel the most loved when their partner does something for them without being asked, whether it’s big or small. For example, filling their car with gas, cooking them dinner, or simply setting their slippers by their side of the bed so they’re ready for the morning can all be acts of service.

Receiving gifts

People whose primary love language is receiving gifts prefer when their romantic partners show affection by gifting items that show they’re on their mind. These individuals feel the most loved when they have a tangible reminder of their significant other’s affection. While these could include a thoughtful gift they purchased, it could also include handmade gifts or cards, sentimental items like ticket stubs from a memorable date, or other non-monetary items. People with this primary love language may care about not only the gift but also the time and effort involved in choosing it.

Quality time

People whose primary love language is quality time prefer to receive affection in the form of personal attention and doing activities together. They feel the most loved when they get to spend uninterrupted time with their partner getting their undivided attention, whether it’s an arranged activity, a special date night, or snuggling up and watching TV together. Getting to regularly spend time where they can connect with their partner, make eye contact, and have their full attention is important to individuals with this love language.

Physical touch

People whose primary love language is physical affection prefer to receive affection in physical forms. For example, hugs, kisses, snuggling, sexual intimacy, and even a pat on the back or shoulder as their partner passes by are examples of touch that may be appreciated by this type of person. It can make a person feel significant and loved when their partner physically shows them in tangible, physical ways that they care.

How love languages can benefit relationships

When it comes to romantic relationships, partners knowing and showing affection in each other’s preferred love language can be beneficial. First, knowing your partner’s primary language is one way to get to know and understand them on a more intimate level, and it can help increase your level of empathy toward them. Second, it allows you to show them affection in this form more often so they can feel even more appreciated.

One study found that individuals who expressed affection in their partner’s preferred love language “experienced greater satisfaction with their relationship and were more sexually satisfied compared to those who met their partner’s needs to a lesser extent”.

Finally, simply making an effort to meet your partner’s needs in this specific way can be a demonstration of how much you care about their happiness and well-being.

How to know someone's primary love language

There are a few ways to determine someone else's love language. Your partner may already know their primary love language, so asking them can usually be your first course of action. Or, there’s an online love language quiz you and your partner can take on Gary Chapman’s website to find out what your primary love languages are and learn more about Chapman's theory. A third option is to think about what ways of expressing love your partner responds well to. If they save notes that you write them, they might enjoy words of affirmation or receiving gifts, for example. If they frequently reminisce about activities you’ve tried together, they might be more drawn to quality time.

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Getting guidance on strengthening your relationship

There are many different ways to build a deeper connection with your partner over time. Learning about the other's love language is one of them, and getting help from a qualified, impartial party is another. Some turn to a couples therapist when they’re experiencing a problem, such as a breach of trust, or when they’ve identified an area where they want to improve, like more calmly handling conflict or better respecting each other’s boundaries. Still, others choose to attend counseling as a preventative measure to safeguard the health of their relationship and keep it on track. If you’re looking to avoid problems that may have arisen for you in past relationships, qualified professionals are available both online and in person.

Those with busy schedules may find it difficult to regularly meet with a couple’s therapist in person. Online therapy can be another option for people in this situation to consider. One study reports that couples who participated found online therapy to be “beneficial and positive” and felt that the format allowed them to “feel a greater sense of control and comfort.”

If you’re interested in pursuing virtual therapy with your partner, you might consider a service like Regain. If you’d like to process your feelings with a therapist individually, you might try an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Both offer an easy way to get matched with a licensed therapist whom you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection. For client reviews of BetterHelp therapists, see below.

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“Paul helped me open up about issues that have been bothering me my entire life. It felt like I let go off all the baggage I carried around with me from my past because of his counseling. He also presented me with techniques to improve my communication and emotions within my relationship, which will be beneficial for me for my rest of my life. Thank you, Paul! I am truly grateful.”

Takeaway

There are many different ways in which you can express love to your partner; the five love languages theory is just one to consider applying. Learning each other's love languages can help, but if you’re looking for additional support and guidance on how to express affection in your relationship, meeting with a therapist may be helpful.

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