The 5 Love Languages: An Overview

Have you ever given your partner a gift, but they just didn’t seem too excited about receiving it? Maybe you felt disappointed that they did not react more enthusiastically. Or have you ever gotten frustrated because you want to go out and do something together, while your partner doesn’t seem to make an effort to create quality time together? 

Well, these scenarios might be happening because you and your partner don’t fully understand each other’s love languages. A great resource for this topic is Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages

In his book, he describes each love language: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. These are five ways in which we prefer to receive love or give love to others. Each love language has its own set of characteristics, and each person is unique in how they interpret what “love” means, as well.  Dr. Chapman further explains that we all have an “‘emotional tank’ waiting to be filled with love” (p. 20). It is in our human nature to have that need for intimacy and love, and we are seeking that validation from other people.  In this article, we will explore the definition of each love language, so that you can better understand how a person receives and gives love based on the love language they line up with most. Let’s begin by breaking down each love language. 

How do we define each love language?

Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation

In Chapter four of Chapman’s book, he states this about Words of Affirmation: “Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love” (p. 39). Words of Affirmation can look like telling a person they are doing something well. It can also be as simple as expressing verbally that you are there for them. Verbal acknowledgments can be helpful and affirming for those who have this as their top love language. 

Love Language #2: Quality Time

The second love language that Chapman outlines is Quality Time. With this love language, the key aspect is what Chapman calls “togetherness.” He explains that the root of togetherness “means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person” (p. 64). He further notes that this is different from just being in the same room together or watching TV together. The main difference is, when we are truly spending quality time together, we are fully engaged with each other. Furthermore, Chapman gives the example of a father who is rolling a ball to his child during playtime. If the father is on the phone with someone, he is no longer giving his full attention to the child, even though they are doing an activity together. 

Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts 

Chapman continues by explaining the third love language: Receiving Gifts. He states that “[t]he gift itself is a symbol of that thought, It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of [that person]” (p. 82). When a person gives you a gift, it is often given with the intent that they thought of you. In addition, they may be trying to express that they appreciate you. It also can speak to how well they know you. There is a level of thoughtfulness, as well, in how much they pay attention to you in order to be able to get the right gifts. Chapman writes that “[g]ifts are visual symbols of love…If receiving gifts is my primary love language, I will place great value on the [gift] you have given me…I will see them as expressions of love. Without gifts as visual symbols, I may question your love” (p. 83). For a person whose love language is receiving gifts, having physical things that remind them of what you are thinking of them can be really important to them. 

Love Language #4: Acts of Service 

Another of the five love languages is Acts of Service. Chapman defines Acts of Service as “doing things you know your spouse would like you to do” (p. 97). By doing things that your spouse would like, you are sending the message to them that you value them and what they need. This can look like doing chores for your spouse, doing a task for your spouse, and more. It can be small tasks or big projects. In general, people whose primary love language is acts of service may find the intentionality behind the act itself to be a sign of love or affection. Chapman writes that acts of service “require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love” (p. 97). When a person has this as their primary love language, it can be important to them for their spouse to simply think of them when completing these tasks. 

Love Language #5: Physical Touch

For the final love language, Physical Touch, Chapman denotes that if a person has physical touch high on their list of love languages, then even small, reassuring touches can make the person feel loved. Chapman writes that “[t]o the person whose primary love language is physical touch, the message will be far louder than the words ‘I hate you’ or ‘I love you’” (p. 118). This is important to note because simply using words may not be as effective when communicating with your spouse. If their primary love language is physical touch, they will likely need that reassurance that you are physically still there with them. For instance, it may speak volumes to simply put a hand on their shoulder, as a gesture. 

Conclusion 

When it comes to the five love languages, knowing the primary love language of your partner will be key to understanding how to communicate with them more effectively. It is a way to prioritize their needs to provide meaning for them. Every love language gives and receives love in a different way; understanding how each primary love language operates can help you build stronger, more connected relationships. In upcoming articles, we will discuss tips on communication with each primary love language, and what that can look like in a practical sense. 

References 

Chapman, G. D. (2010). The five love languages. Walker Large Print.

A picture of Bethany Stanley, LAPC.

Author:

Bethany Stanley is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor. She provides couples counseling and individual counseling as a therapist at Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC based in Augusta, Georgia. Find out more about her in her Bio.

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