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There's a pretty good chance you've already heard about the concept of love languages. For the uninitiated, the idea comes from Dr. Gary Chapman, a counselor, speaker, and author who penned the wildly popular book The Five Love Languages back in 1992.
Chapman writes about the importance of being able to express love to your partner in a way that they can understand best. According to him, each person prefers a different type of communication, whether it's words of affirmation or receiving gifts. His book outlines five specific love languages which he argues are "the secret to love that lasts."
Note that, while it doesn't matter what the specific action is, it does need to be done graciously in order to be perceived as an act of love. If you do one of these things begrudgingly or with complaint, then it will not be effective at showing love.
Keep reading to learn about each of the five love languages that Chapman outlines in his book and for tips on how to determine your own love language.
Words of Affirmation
This love language is all about verbal communication. If your S.O. identifies with this language, you might want to directly tell them how nice they look or how great a meal they cooked for you tasted. It involves showing love through the use of verbally affirming statements toward your partner. These words will also build your mate's self-image and confidence.
Some people believe that being together, doing things together, and focusing in on one another is the best way to show and receive love. This includes being emotionally engaged with each other no matter what you're doing, even if it's just hanging out. If this is your partner's love language, turn off the TV, ignore your cell phone, and give one another some undivided attention.
The act of giving gifts is quite universal and for good reason. People who respond to this love language aren't materialistic, rather, they enjoy knowing that they were on their partner's mind even when they weren't together.
Acts of Service
This love language is about doing things for your partner that require time and creativity. These acts of service could be anything from vacuuming the house or shoveling the snow outside to hanging a painting in the living room or planting a garden in the backyard. While it doesn't matter what the specific action is, it does need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love. For people who value acts of service, "actions speak louder than words" is the mantra.
People who relate to the love language of physical touch place a lot of importance on physical affection. This touch doesn't necessarily have to be sexual. You can show love through hugs, holding hands, an impromptu massage, and so on. Physical contact can be very reassuring and meaningful to someone who identifies with this love language.
Determining Your Own Love Language
An easy way to learn your love language is to ask yourself a few simple questions: How do I express love to others? What do I complain about the most? What do I request the most?
After you've pondered your responses to these three questions, you should be able to determine which love language you prefer, and it will be much easier to ask for what you need in your romantic relationships.
It's important to keep in mind that speaking in your partner's love language might not be natural for you. "We're not talking comfort. We're talking love," Chapman cautions in his book. "Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren't connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn't enough," he continues. With this in mind, you might recognize that expressing someone else's love language might require you to step outside of your comfort zone in order to meet their emotional needs.
Bland AM, McQueen KS. The Distribution of Chapman’s Love Languages in Couples: An Exploratory Cluster Analysis. Couple Fam Psychol Res Pract. 2018;7(2):103–126. doi:10.1037/cfp0000102