My husband doesn’t really care that I report dutifully to my daily cleaning apps to keep a tidy home. It matters not to him that I meal plan at the beginning of the week to take the guesswork out of dinner. But when we sit down to discuss our schedules, our kids, how we’re feeling in our relationship, and so many more things in our weekly marriage meeting, he is totally invested. Just last night, I caught him batting eyes at me as we sat on the couch, discussing our future plans.
If you’re at all familiar with the five love languages, chances are you just guessed ours.
But knowing your primary love language is just the first step. Yes, mine is acts of service and his is quality time. And yes, I did over-embellished a teeny bit above for the sake of example (he does care actually about the little things I do to help our home run smoothly). But these are simply not the actions that make him feel loved the most.
And that’s where the second step comes in. For this whole concept to really work, you must learn to speak your partner’s love language—aka, your secondary language.
Image by Belathée Photography
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What are the five love languages?
The five languages are the different ways you can receive and communicate love: namely through quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. In the book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to a Love That Lasts author Gary Chapman, Ph.D. unpacks the concept he’s developed thanks to years of marriage counseling and studying linguistics.
What is the benefit of knowing your love language?
On the surface, we all hope our partners feel loved by us. But it truly clicked for me when Chapman notes the potential we can unlock in our partners when they are fully loved. When your “love tank” is full, you can take on the world. Or at least take that next small step toward your greater purpose.
Chapman suggests that when we give love in a way that speaks the loudest to our partner and vice versa, we’ve unlocked the key to a long and healthy relationship. This is especially true if your “true love” period is or has passed (according to Chapman’s observations, this expires on average within two years). When you first fall in love with someone, you’re more likely to speak your love loudly. Staying up all night on the phone, holding hands in public, dropping by surprise gifts, booking weekends away, and more. It’s hard to decipher what truly makes you feel loved when you’re on the receiving end of all of it!
But when true love passes, never fear. That’s when the good stuff happens and everlasting love takes over. This is a rich well of deep love that goes beyond the butterflies—it’s a love that sees and consistently sacrifices.
Love languages can be a valuable tool to get you there.
Image by Michelle Nash
How do you find your love language?
If you’ve yet to discover your own love language, give yourself ten minutes to take the love language online quiz. It’s best to take your time with the answers and really think about the things that make you feel loved. Now, I will say that a quiz is never as telling as your intuition. I’m a big fan of understanding all the options before choosing which resonates with me the most—it’s a similar approach to truly determining your Enneagram number.
You might find yourself torn between two languages and that’s okay—each person has a primary love language and a secondary love language. You can technically be “bi-lingual” but most people do have a clear “native tongue” regarding how they receive and express love.
Let’s review all the different love languages—which one resonates for you or your partner most?
Image by Anastasiya Pudova Photography
Your love language might be quality time if:
- You appreciate it when your partner looks you in the eye while you talk about your day.
- You dream about weekends away with only the people you love and no distractions.
- You feel frustrated when you’re talking to someone you love and they keep glancing at their phone.
- Your heart explodes when you witness your partner playing or giving undivided attention to your children.
- A meaningful conversation means more to you than a bouquet of flowers.
- You just want to be heard and understood, especially on a bad day. You don’t necessarily need your partner to fix anything.
- It means a lot to you when your partner engages in something you’re interested in.
If your partner’s love language is quality time:
Start small by giving them your full attention when they’re talking. If you can’t give them your attention, let them know you want to be fully present and you just need __ minutes to wrap up what you’re doing.
Take it a step further and schedule a date night or put a weekend getaway on the calendar. Even better if it features an activity (walking, painting, watching football, etc.) that you know your partner enjoys.
Image by Sara Prince
Your love language might be gifts if:
- You love it when your partner comes home from a trip with a little something for you.
- You appreciate it when your child draws you a picture or leaves a note.
- You look forward to birthdays and holidays to see what meaningful gifts you’ll receive.
- You appreciate it when your partner grabs your favorite drink or snack on the way home for no other reason.
- An unexpected flower delivery is like Christmas morning.
- You keep a running list on your phone of gift ideas for others.
If your partner’s love language is gifts:
First, it’s important to debunk the idea that a gift-lover is selfish or vain. For the person whose love language is gifts, the driving force is the idea that you thought of them or considered them. And that’s exactly where to start small: think of the person you love the next time you’re at the grocery store or on a walk. Grab their favorite chocolate bar at the checkout or pick a flower for them on the way home. Gift-giving doesn’t always need to be a grand gesture.
Take it a step further by showing your appreciation more regularly, not just for special occasions. Challenge yourself to give your partner a gift every day for a week and just see what happens.
Image by Michelle Nash
Words of Affirmation
Your love language might be words of affirmation if:
- For you, a kind word goes a long way.
- You LOVE a compliment—a simple, “You’re so good at that,” fills up for a whole day.
- Your anecdote for an anxious day is an assuring conversation with someone you love.
- You especially appreciate a compliment given in public or in front of family members.
- It means a lot when your partner expresses gratefulness for all the things you do.
- You love to encourage others and view it as one of your superpowers.
If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation:
Start small by acknowledging to yourself that words matter more than you realize. Keep these thoughts at the forefront of your mind and pay attention to how you use them. Begin by giving praise and compliments—and then keep them coming.
Even though it might not come naturally to you, words of affirmation is a language you can learn. By offering encouragement and kind words regularly, it will begin to feel more natural and your partner will feel the love.
Image by Michelle Nash
Acts of Service
Your love language might be acts of service if:
- When your partner does even a small task to help you out, you feel noticed and cared for.
- You love to host and make others feel welcomed.
- It’s important to you to manage household jobs so that things run smoothly for your family.
- You appreciate it when your partner makes a phone call or runs an errand you’ve been putting off.
- It means a lot if your partner helps you out right away when you ask.
- The best gift for you would be a quarterly professional deep cleaning of your house.
- You appreciate when all your daily tasks are acknowledged and even more when there’s an offer to help.
If your partner’s love language is acts of service:
Start small by pinpointing the thing your partner complains about the most—is it doing the laundry? Keeping a clean car? Paying bills? Offer to help or better yet, just do it.
Take it a step further by removing one ongoing task from your partner’s plate. Maybe it’s helping with the chores by owning all lawn maintenance or unloading the dishwasher every morning. Bonus points if you can take something they really dislike doing. You’ll make them feel cared for by creating more space and room in their daily routine for doing things they love.
Image by Michelle Nash
Your love language might be physical touch if:
- You absolutely love it when your partner puts their arm around you in public.
- You’re always down to snuggle.
- Holding hands is a sweet and loving gesture, even at the grocery store.
- You die for a “hand on the small of your back” moment.
- To you, a 10-second hug is a major anxiety killer.
- It’s important that you kiss or embrace your partner before you go or when you get home.
- Yes, you love sex. But it’s more than just pleasure—it’s also the physical intimacy.
If your partner’s love language is physical touch:
Start small by giving hugs just because. Grab your partner’s hand when you’re out in public. Steal kisses. Smack their butt.
Take it a step further by being the one to initiate sex. Learn what your partner likes (and what you like!) and don’t be afraid to show your love through physical affection.
Should I read the five love languages book?
Personally, I was familiar with the concept of love languages but had yet to read the book. For the sake of research, I decided to dive in to see if there was any nuance I’d missed or unrevealed revolutionary ideas.
And perhaps it’s the age showing (my copy was a 23-year-old re-print), but this quick read is more of a simple guide than anything else. While the concepts were certainly helpful, I found many of the anecdotes to be quite archaic and unrelatable in our current cultural climate. I didn’t learn much of what I didn’t already know. In my opinion, I think you’re safe to skip the read and instead invest that time in exploring the primary and secondary love languages most valuable to your relationship.