Each person communicates and receives love in a unique way. Some are marveled by over-the-top gifts. Others prefer consistent verbal compliments. These variations in communication have been simplified into five love languages, as defined by Dr. Gary Chapman. Are love languages real, or are they a myth? Could knowing your partner’s love language improve your relationship?
What Are the 5 Love Languages?
The five love languages are defined as…
- Words of affirmation: Compliments, sweet statements, expressions of pride and appreciation – these are verbal statements that display affection.
- Receiving gifts: This involves tangible items with thoughtful meaning. Gifts do not have to cost a lot of money. They simply show, “Hey, he was thinking of me today.”
- Acts of service: These are actions, not physical gifts. Examples include having dinner ready when your spouse gets home from work, washing your partner’s car, giving your spouse a foot rub at the end of the day, etc.
- Quality time: This involves spending time with your partner, either doing an activity or hanging out at home. Acts of service and quality time are similar in that they are both gifts of time. However, quality time involves moments together. Acts of service are thoughtful efforts.
- Physical touch: This is physical affection, such as hugging, kissing, holding hands, being intimate, etc.
Primary and Secondary Love Languages
According to Dr. Chapman, each person has a primary and secondary love language. The primary love language is the one that resonates “love” to that person the most. For example, some people feel disconnected from their spouse if they do not spend enough quality time with one another. Others may go for weeks without seeing each other, but they feel love through words of affirmation.
A person’s secondary love language has less value than the primary love language, but it still communicates love to them. Your primary love language may be acts of service, while your secondary love language may be receiving gifts. You appreciate thoughtful acts the most, but you also feel loved when you receive an unexpected item.
Love Languages Have Two Sides – Giving and Receiving
There is an extra layer of complexity that must be taken into consideration. How you instinctively give love may not be the same as how you receive love. These factors usually align, but not always. For instance, you may enjoy giving gifts to others, but you do not enjoy receiving them. You may enjoy surprising your loved ones with acts of service, but you dislike surprises in return. If you can alter the way you give love to match how your partner receives love, you may see an improvement in your relationship.
So…Are Love Languages Real?
Love is a complicated matter. Most people cannot neatly define their vision of love into one or two categories. With that in mind, the five love languages do provide a helpful guideline for communication building, conflict resolution, and other strategies we focus on in couples counseling. Understanding your love languages and your partner’s love languages can ensure that you showcase your love clearly and effectively.
Think about when you have felt most loved. What were the circumstances surrounding that? It may have been a thoughtful gift you received, a getaway weekend with your spouse, a long night of snuggling on the couch…the possibilities are endless. Ask your partner to do the same, and talk about the elements that you most associate with “I love you.”
If you would like guidance through this process and other communication building strategies, contact MHR Memphis at (901) 682-6136. We will match you with a licensed couples counselor near you.