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What are love languages?

Love Languages are five ways in which we give and/or receive love. They were observed and shared by Dr. Gary Chapman and include quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, and acts of service. Sometimes we receive love in more than one way, or we receive love differently than how we give it to others. Or perhaps our love language has changed over the years. The main goal of love languages is to better get to know ourselves, our partners, children, families, and friends. When we do, this opens an array of ways to connect with our loved ones more consciously.

Why do they matter?

Love languages can be extremely valuable in getting to know our partners because they provide another specific avenue to connect with them. The beauty of discovering what your love language is is that you now have more information to provide your partner about the ways in which you receive and/or give love. What a powerful piece of clarity not only for you to know about yourself but also for your loved ones! They can help us understand our needs and therefore communicate them to others. This sets our partners up for success within our relationship by clarifying what we like or need to feel that much more loved by them.

What do they mean?

Each love language is not only its own general category, but it is also unique to each individual in how they experience it. For instance, physical touch could look like holding hands in public, a hug upon getting home from work, a touch on the shoulder while making dinner, or perhaps something else entirely! Overall, a physical connection signals care and love.

An act of service might mean doing chores, picking the kids up from school, or coordinating a get-together with family or friends. In this case, actions speak louder than words.

Quality time might look like a weekly date night, a spontaneous jaunt to a park, or perhaps a relaxing Saturday morning curled up with your coffee watching a show. Precious time with one’s partner, in whatever capacity, is the way to their heart.

Words of affirmation might mean they need to hear “I love you” every night before bed, confirmation of plans, or a sweet text throughout the day letting them know they’re thought of. Words mean the world in this realm.

Gifts might range from big gestures to a trinket that made you think of your partner to a pebble from a beach you both visited before. No matter the gift, the item can be a physical representation of your love for someone with a gift love language.

How can they help?

If you have different love languages (and actually even if yours are the same), consider approaching your partner with curiosity about their love language. Though they may have their category, we all can still receive certain aspects of it differently. No matter the love language, turning toward our partner to get to know them better is an enormous strength in a relationship. Questions to ask your pattern regarding love languages might include:

  • What does this love language look like to you?  
  • What are some of your needs that relate to this love language? 
  • Where do you think this love language developed for you? 
  • Has it changed over time or generally stayed the same? 
  • What are ways in which I could express love that aligns with your love language? 
  • Are there things you’d prefer I didn’t do? 
  • Are there examples of when you felt most loved by something I did or said?

Our willingness to ask any or all of these questions narrows down to a few core messages to our partners. They symbolize: I care about you, I want to know you better, and you matter to me.

What if our love languages differ?

Relationships can absolutely survive if you have different love languages. In fact, it’s when partners don’t know or worst of all, don’t care about their partner’s love language that threatens the satisfaction and longevity of a relationship. The Gottmans discuss from their decades of research on couples relationships that we are constantly updating our “love maps.” Love languages help us update our knowledge of what our partners like, need, and want. And since we are constantly changing, it’s necessary for our partners to know that in order to help our relationships thrive in the long run. The better we know our partner, the more ways we can strengthen our relationship, and increase our joy and connection with them.

You can find the Love Languages Quiz, among a few others here.