Have you ever done something nice for someone to show how you felt about them, and it just didn’t land the way you had hoped? Has someone ever tried to do something nice for you, but they were hurt or angry when you didn’t react the way they wanted?
Some people think that these kinds of things mean that two people are incompatible. The good news is that missed signals like these are likely less about chemistry and more about communication. People communicate their feelings differently. If you care deeply about someone but feel like you aren’t connecting, don’t give up. Instead, try learning your “Love Languages.”
Here we’ll talk about the idea of Love Languages: what the Love Languages are and how you can use them to have more effective communication with your partner.
What Are Love Languages?
Dr. Gary Chapman first presented the idea of Love Languages in a series of healthy relationship books. The idea may sound strange, but it’s really pretty simple: people feel and express love in different ways. Dr. Chapman identified five of these ways, each of which constitutes its own “Love Language.”
Love Languages are like actual languages in that everyone has one or two that they grew up with or prefer more than others. If you meet someone who speaks a different Love Language, it’s possible to learn their language even if it’s not your favorite language. Further, the Love Language you like to “hear” is probably the one you will try to speak first, even if it’s not the other person’s Love Language. Relationships can often be deepened when both partners speak each other’s language.
Love Languages can be used to communicate love with anyone who is important to you including, love between romantic partners, love between siblings, love between parents and children, etc. In this article, we’re going to focus on Love Languages between romantic partners.
The Five Love Languages identified by Dr. Chapman are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. We’ll go into each of these a little deeper next. Chances are while reading them, you’ll identify pretty strongly with one or two and perhaps recognize the Love Language your partner speaks. If you don’t, visit the link above for more information, including a brief, free quiz that will rank your Love Languages.
Words Of Affirmation
“Words of Affirmation” refers to being verbally supported and encouraged by a partner and regularly reminded that you are loved. It’s one of the easiest Love Languages to speak because it doesn’t take a lot of time and doesn’t cost anything. Saying “I love you” is an example of words of affirmation.
If Words of Affirmation is your Love Language, it’s important for you to let your partner know. It may seem like the most obvious Love Language, but some people take it for granted. Many people who are more fluent in other Love Languages may not think of Words of Affirmation because they may feel like other Love Languages take the place of Words of Affirmation, or that affirmation is implied or goes without saying. However, that doesn’t mean that a partner will be against using Words of Affirmation when they know how important it is to you.
It is also important to make sure that your partner knows that this is your Love Language because some people aren’t used to Words of Affirmation. Love Languages in romantic relationships are partially determined by the Love Languages that a person sees or experiences growing up. If someone has a Love Language other than Words of Affirmation, hearing such words too frequently may make them think something is wrong.
Acts of Service
“Acts of Service” refers to experiencing love when other people do things for you. Extravagant gestures may be appreciated from time to time, but this Love Language is more about the other person showing that they are thinking and caring about you by going out of their way to do little things like helping around the house. Acts of service can also be free, but they do usually take time, effort, and consideration on the part of the other person.
Some people who speak this Love Language often believe that Acts of Service should simply be part of a relationship. Once this is identified as your Love Language, it can be important to communicate it to your partner. It will let them know that they can use this Love Language to communicate with you, but it will also let them know that when they do things for you, it’s more than just “doing things for you” – it’s showing how much they care.
Receiving gifts is a pretty straight-forward Love Language. Just like Acts of Service is about knowing that you are being thought about more than just being taken care of, receiving gifts is about knowing that you are being thought of rather than just being “bought off.” The gifts you receive don’t have to be expensive; they just have to have thought behind them. Examples of gifts that don’t cost anything but that may mean something to you may include flowers, crafts, sentimental items, or mementos from trips.
Communicating that this is your Love Language and why it is your Love Language is very important. There’s a big difference between “Receiving Gifts is my Love Language” and “I want you to give me things,” but they can sound very similar to your partner. So, take your time when explaining your Love Language.
Communicating that Receiving Gifts is your Love Language is also important because you will likely try to show your love to other people by giving them gifts too. This makes some people uncomfortable. If they don’t understand that this is your Love Language, they may feel that they now “owe you something” or may fear that they have forgotten an important event.
Quality Time is another straight-forward Love Language. You feel that you are loved when the person you love spends time with you. All that this Love Language requires is time. You don’t need to constantly go on cruises or expensive trips or doing much of anything. Rather, like a cat, you just like being near the person that you love.
It is important to communicate that Quality Time is your Love Language. If your partner doesn’t know, they may not give you the attention that you need. If your relationship is just starting out, you may have a hard time finding enough Quality Time. Trying to be around a person all the time early in the relationship can be impractical or can scare the other person away. It might be worthwhile to experiment with other Love Languages early in the relationship and then get your fill of Quality Time once the connection has matured and it becomes easier and more natural to spend more time together.
Physical Touch is another pretty clear Love Language, but it can take a lot of forms depending on the situation. It can mean sex—which is what many people jump to—but it can also mean cuddling on the couch, hugging when you see each other, or even just holding hands.
As is the case with Receiving Gifts, some people are a little uncomfortable with Physical Touch—especially at first. It is appropriate to let your partner know that this is your Love Language and to start out slow, even if it’s difficult. As your relationship matures, Physical Touch is likely to come easier. However, some people still never really warm up to Physical Touch. Be sure that they understand how important Physical Touch is to you to help encourage them to work with you. At the same time, be careful to respect their needs to avoid “smothering” them.
What if You Don’t Speak the Same Language?
If you and your partner don’t speak the same Love Language, that’s okay. You just need to learn each other’s Love Language and learn how to communicate with each other. In most cases, you will be able to find ways that combine elements of your two Love Languages. Examples include making gifts, which combines Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts. Physical Touch and Quality Time are also highly compatible. Receiving Gifts and Quality Time can also work together through purchasing memorabilia while on trips or “giving experiences” instead of physical objects. Acts of Service and Quality Time can also be combined by doing things together when one of you is passionate about it, and the other one is less so.
As mentioned above, Love Languages are less about starting out with the same language and more about learning each other’s language. Learning your partner’s language and vice versa will allow you to communicate your love for one another more effectively and more intimately. However, be sure to remember to enjoy the learning experience—learning each other’s languages together can be a fun and educational experience that can deepen your relationship.
If your relationship would benefit from other tools that improve communication, consider browsing through relationship articles, and look into couples therapy. Research shows that online counseling can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. When it comes to couples, one study found that video-based counseling allowed many couples to feel a greater sense of control and comfort through the use of technology. Participants went on to say that connecting with their therapist via video allowed them to focus more intently on the therapeutic process, and the environment allowed them to share their feelings in a way that left them feeling less judged.
A qualified and professional therapist at BetterHelp is a great place to start. BetterHelp is committed to pairing individuals—and couples—with counselors they can trust in a convenient phone, email, text, or video format that makes it easy to schedule a time to talk through relationship challenges. Counselors on BetterHelp are certified by their state’s professional board and highly experienced: every therapist has at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. Consider these recent reviews from people like you who are working with BetterHelp counselors to navigate similar issues.
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