by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 28th August, 2018
Have you ever been around a couple and heard one of them say "oh yeah that's because his love language is..." but had no idea what they are talking about? Anyone who's done any research on relationships or been to couple's therapy has probably heard about the five love languages, and if you haven't - it's time to learn. Whether your single or happily married, they can help you to learn more about yourself, your partner, and have better relationships with everyone in your life, including your children.
Essentially, the love languages are a list of the five main ways that people communicate and prefer to receive love. According to the man who invented the five love language theory, Dr Chapman, everyone had a primary and a secondary love language, and they express their love using these love languages. Rifts can form between couples when you have differing love languages, and don't understand how each of you give and receive love. The key here is not that your partner and you aren't a good fit, but that you don't understand what their love languages are, and therefore cannot show them love in the right way.
The five love languages are: quality time, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation and receiving gifts.
When your primary love language is quality time, you prioritize and appreciate having the undivided attention of your loved one. Many people mistake quality time to mean sitting in front of Netflix or going out to a movie, but in none of these scenarios are you actually being present and getting to know one another better. To spend quality time with a loved one you both need to be focused on the other person, talking, discussing and discovering. If you don't want to just sit on the couch every day and talk, that's fine - it can still be done in many ways, such as an activity like a cooking class or a vacation. For people who value quality time, distance and feelings of disinterest in the relationship can kill the relationship.
Physical touch is a common primary love language for many people. As the name suggests, people with the "physical touch" love language love having a physical connection to other people, even if it's just regular hugs, pats on the back, kisses or even just a fleeting kiss on the cheek, physical touch means a lot. Having the physical presence of a partner, that doesn't mind physical touch also is very important. For people who value physical touch, feeling neglected or abused will break down the relationship.
For those whose primary love language is acts of service, it's important to feel like their partner or loved one will help them with tasks or burdens they may have out of love instead of obligation. These people love it when their partner surprises them by cleaning something up or helping out with a project, making a meal or fixing something broken. Even just a simple "hey let me help you with that" can make all the difference, and leaves them feeling loved and appreciated. This is also a common way to express love too, as it's often easier for some people to do something for someone that express themselves verbally. For those who's primary love language is acts of service, broken commitments, laziness or piling on more burden for them will stir up resentment and cause a breakdown in the relationship.
In contrast to the acts of service love language, people who value words of affirmation want to hear the words "I love you" and don't place so much importance on physical actions or gifts. These people love spontaneous compliments and words of praise when they've completed something. Having a very negative partner or being insulted a lot leaves these people feeling heartbroken and tired, and will very quickly lead to resentment.
Receiving gifts is probably one of the most well-known love languages, and the one that is most portrayed in the media. How many times have you seen a rom-com lead turn up with flowers and a box of chocolates to show their love? Those who value receiving gifts aren't necessarily just looking for a box of chocolates, but something much deeper than that. They love the effort and thought that goes into picking out a good gift - even better if it's homemade. The perfect gift makes them feel loved and cared for. On the flip side, missing important occasions or the absence of simple everyday gestures to show appreciation can cause the relationship to crumble.
You may have read all the above love languages but still be confused as to what you love language is - which is totally normal. Most people don't have just one love language that they like to give and receive love in, but are a mix of all five, with some being more important than the others. There are plenty of quizzes online to help you discover what your love language is, but don't rely on them solely, quizzes can be very subjective. Try and notice throughout your everyday life what makes you feel loved the most, and ask your partner or family members what they've noticed about you. This can give you much greater insight than an online quiz can.
Getting your partner on board with the five love languages is key to keeping the relationship thriving. Even if they dismiss it as being ridiculous, you can still sneakily figure out what their love language is and use that information. Communicate well, and ask them how they like to give and receive love, and listen when they tell you. If you like to give gifts to show your love, but they like to hear words of affirmations, you may have to change your practices and try to praise them more often.
Finding out your love languages and the love languages of your loved ones is crucial to being able to properly express love, and receive it too. Having open conversations about what you like and dislike is important, and then make sure that both parties are listening and implementing these findings. The key is to make sure that you are not only communicating how you want to be loved, but changing your ways to make sure that you can express love in the right way to others.