Unless you’ve literally been living under a rock or are a social media ghost, then you’ve most likely heard of the 5 Love Languages. This framework looks at the way we love in a much more individualised way, identifying the specific acts that make us each feel loved and fulfilled in a relationship.
From physical touch to words of affirmation, we can all love better when we know our own, and our partner’s, love languages. So if you want to know yours and see if they can help you, then you’re in the right place.
Love Language meaning
A love language, put simply, is the way that someone wants to be loved. It speaks to the acts of love, or aspects of a relationship that make you feel the most loved, fulfilled and happy. They’ve been summed up into 5 main categories by author Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in his famous book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.
What are the Love Languages?
We have 5 Love Languages that, according to Chapman, give our partners a deeper and more accurate understanding of our needs in the relationship. They are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
Each of us can relate to all five, but the key is how important each of these acts of love is to us, which is what the love languages tell us. Let’s take a look at each Love Language and how they can affect someone’s wants and needs.
Words of Affirmation Love Language
People who speak the Words of Affirmation love language like to be told they’re loved. And it’s not just a matter of hearing “I love you” either (although it doesn’t hurt), but verbal expressions of their partner’s love. Be it what they love about them, how much they’re appreciated, or being praised or congratulated, words go a long way and make these people feel loved most.
Choose your words carefully
As much as words of affirmation make people with this love language feel happy and appreciated, it means that what you say to them has a big impact on them. This means that when conflicts inevitably arise, anything harsh said in the heat of the moment will stick with them long after you’ve patched things up. So choose your words carefully with your partner if they speak the words of affirmation love language – whether they’re good or bad.
Receiving Gifts Love Language
There seems to be a bit of a stigma attached to having the receiving gifts love language. This doesn’t mean you’re spoilt or materialistic, it just means that you appreciate being given gifts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s not even about the nail polish or takeaway, not really.
It’s not really about the gift
They always say “It’s the thought that counts” when it comes to getting gifts, right? That couldn’t ring truer when it comes to the receiving gifts love language. Sure we all like getting gifts, but it’s the thought behind them that means the most to people with this love language. It’s knowing that your partner took time out of their day to pick up your favourite flowers, or saw something that reminded them of you so they bought it for you. Gifts can act as proof that you’re important to your partner and that they care deeply about making you happy.
Acts of Service Love Language
“Actions speak louder than words” is the Acts of Service love language’s motto. These people feel truly loved and valued when their partners go out of their way to make their life easier. From doing the grocery shopping when they’re too busy to providing support on an important project, having tasks taken off their plate by a partner is what love really means to these people.
Having support makes them feel special
We all want to feel like the most special person in the world with our partners, and doing small things for your partner, even if it’s as simple as making them a cup of tea can make all the difference. It’s all about them feeling important enough to you that you want to go out of your way to help them out and make them feel special.
Quality Time Love Language
Quality time is the most famous of all the love languages, and probably the most universal one too. It’s generally accepted that spending time together is important to pretty much every couple on the planet (and kind of vital if the relationship is to survive.) But again, this love language, like the others, still boils down to making your partner feel important.
Quality time means quality time
Note the “quality” in quality time when it comes to people with this love language. Obviously, they like being around their partner, but often the important part of getting this love language right is giving your partner your undivided attention. That means no scrolling on Instagram while your partner is telling you about their day. Spending quality time with your partner means doing things together, from errands to a shared hobby or even a couple’s quiz, and being truly present in the moment with them.
Physical Touch Love Language
Physical touch is a hallmark of most intimate relationships, but for those with the physical touch love language, it goes deeper than just feeling wanted and loved. Physical touch serves as a tangible reminder that our partners are attracted to us, want to be around us and are connected to us, and have powerful emotional effects on us.
It doesn’t make you needy!
And no, you’re not super needy if you have the Physical Touch love language, you just feel love the most when it’s in a physical form, whether that’s a cuddle, kiss or sex. So to all the couples out there separated by quarantines over the last year, I truly feel your pain.
Can the Love Languages help us in our relationships?
It’s all good knowing what our love language is, but can they really help us create deeper connections with our partners? And can the framework itself be taken at face value, or is it more of a reflection of our needs at the time we take the quiz?
We thought we’d test it out for ourselves to see if the love languages are a useful analysis of our intimate relationships or just another gimmick. We all pretty much expected our results, which you’d expect from a bunch of self-proclaimed dating and relationship experts! But we did get some decent insights into how our results reflect us as people.
For some of us, it confirmed things we already knew about ourselves…
‘The love languages are very reflective of who I am as a person, particularly the ‘quality time’ aspect. Quality time is important to both me and my partner, something we prioritise and always make time for.’Nisna
‘I was pretty much expecting to be physical touch seeing as I’m a needy person when it comes to cuddles/kisses or any type of physical affirmation.’Harry
And others noticed how their results were reflected in their relationships already (get ready for some extremely wholesome content)…
‘My husband knows I need positive words of affirmation, so he will go into detail about what he loves about me. For example, if I’ve made the effort to dress up, he will never simply say ‘you look nice’ – it will be more like, ‘I love how you’ve done your eyeshadow, and the gems and your hair looks so cool today etc.’Kiri
For me, I can see how knowing my own love language enables me to communicate my needs better. After taking the quiz and talking to my partner about my results, we both agreed that things I thought were just my little quirks, like how happy it makes me when he leaves me little notes or messages me to let me know something reminded him of me, were examples of him speaking my love language of words of affirmation. And knowing this helps him to meet my needs better in the smaller moments.
The pandemic has shaped our priorities
Another reflection was the timing of taking this quiz. A few of us on the editorial team have been forced into long-distance relationships because of Covid, which has probably influenced our results. Even as I was completing the quiz, I noticed that when prioritising the different acts of love, I was more likely to think that spending time together was more important than receiving gifts for example, but mostly because I miss my partner a lot. Nisna added ‘especially with the pandemic, it has become more obvious how much we value quality time. Even though my partner and I were not able to physically see each other as much, we found other ways to spend quality time together.’
The love languages aren’t just for romantic relationships
Another big takeaway was that knowing how we want to be loved doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. It can provide useful insights to creating closer, reciprocal bonds in our familial and platonic relationships too. Harry noted that ‘physical touch means a lot to me even in my social life with friends and family too – I wouldn’t dare not give my nan a hug or kiss on the cheek when I greet her, nor would I be reluctant to give my mum a squeeze when she’s feeling down. I’ve always been brought up thinking it’s the way to say ‘hi’, or ‘how are you?’, or even ‘I love you’.
The Love Languages: relationship gimmick or useful framework?
Like all quiz-type frameworks, the most obvious drawback of the love language framework is how it categorises people. You’ve probably been thinking as you’ve read through each love language that we all can relate to each one, and probably need our partners to communicate with us in all five at some point or another. Just because your primary love language is quality time, it doesn’t mean you would pass up a thoughtful gift, right? So to take this framework at face value probably isn’t the best idea.
If you know yourself, you probably know your love language
If you’re a pretty self-aware person already, the chances are that you could probably identify your love languages if you sat down and gave it some thought. So the framework isn’t a revolutionary discovery by any means. It does, however, provide a useful place to start thinking about how you want to be loved a little more. As one of our writers, Nisna put it, ‘I’ll take it with a pinch of salt as a fun thing to provoke a conversation.’
It reminds us we should honour our individual needs
A lot of the ways that mainstream media presents relationships is pretty one-dimensional, but the reality is that no two relationships are the same, so there couldn’t possibly be a one size fits all approach to how we love each other either. Knowing your love language offers an opportunity more than anything else, to focus your attention on what you need and how to communicate that to your partner. And on the flip side, it’s a useful blueprint for staying mindful of your partner’s needs, and how your differences or compatibilities can find common ground, or even obstacles to work on and overcome.
So, overall, the love languages, whilst they do have their drawbacks, offer couples, as our resident poet Dean put it, a door ‘to open up deeper communication and connections.’ And I don’t think I could have said it better myself!