The 5 Love Languages:
What Are They?
When you first see this question, you might start think about the romantic languages of the world like French, Spanish, Italian…but that’s not the kind of language we’re talking about in today’s blog.
The so-called “5 Love Languages” are not conventional words and phrases as we understand language to be, but rather a concept created by author, radio host and family relationships expert, Gary Chapman PhD. In his 1992 book, aptly named “The 5 Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” Chapman identified five distinct ways to express and receive love from your significant other.
In today’s blog, we’ll be looking at what these 5 love languages are and how we can both understand and see them in our own love lives.
What Are the 5 Love Languages?
As we mentioned above, these so-called “languages” are modes of expression that two people can use to communicate their affection for each other. It may sound like a rather far-fetched or bizarre terminology from the outside, but Chapman identifies the languages using very familiar words. They are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
Below, we’ll explore each of these concepts in more detail.
1. Words of Affirmation
Users of the “Words of Affirmation” language are masters of all things verbal. They like to say “I love you,” as well as offer compliments, words of encouragement, positive reinforcement and the like. They don’t limit themselves to just the spoken word, either, a “Words of Affirmation” user will also express their words through written communication like texting and social media, or perhaps something a little more old-school like hand-written love letters.
2. Quality Time
This is a language of love that you speak by spending time with your significant other. The speaker lets the other know of their affection by actively carving out time to spend with their partner. By making themselves available and their physical and emotional presence felt, a strong sense of love and connection is expressed between two people. Another part of this language is the desire to both do and have these things in your love life.
3. Acts of Service
As the name suggests, this language of love is where one communicates their affection through actions. When words betray or abandon them, a speaker of the “Acts of Service” language can say everything they want to say simply by making their partner a tea or coffee, helping them with an errand, bringing them chicken soup when they’re sick, and so on. It doesn’t have to be any kind of grand gesture. Even the simplest acts of kindness are the subtle words of the “Acts of Service” language.
This is a simple language. The act of gift giving becomes the creation of “visual symbols of love,” according to Chapman. It’s not really about the gift itself. The gift might be something of very little monetary value. The key element of “language” here is the message that comes behind the gift and what it says to the receiver. The strongest “word”” are those gifts that prompt an immediate positive emotional reaction in the speaker but might be utterly meaningless to people on the outside.
This is the language of physical affection. Speakers of “Touch” show their linguistic prowess through things like kissing, cuddling, holding hands and also through sex. This is certainly the most primal of the languages, and those who both speak and understand this language do so with feelings rooted deep in their past, likely going all the way back to childhood.
What is the Most Common of the Love Languages?
The fact is that virtually no-one either speaks or appreciates just one of these languages. We are complex creatures and so most of us will make use of more than one language during a relationship.
Having said that, Chapman’s own analysis found that out of 10,000 or so people who took an online quiz he set up in 2010, most favoured “Words of Affirmation.” It was only by a very thin margin, though, proving that in reality people are a pretty balanced mix when it comes to using and receiving these languages.
Some of these things will depend on culture and geographical location, too. A good example can be seen when you compare Western Europeans and Chinese when it comes to how their communicate affection. Your typical French or Italian might be very comfortable simply saying “I love you,” but the average Chinese person shows their love through a kind of active concern. They’ll ask, “have you eaten?” and if you haven’t, they’ll make you something. The message is the same for both the European and the Chinese – they care. The only difference is “language.”
What Kind of Love Language Do I Value Most?
1: You value “Words of Affirmation” if…
…you feel warmth and happiness every time you hear your partner say, “I love you.”
…you enjoy when your partner verbally acknowledges your achievements, or when you make changes like getting a new item of clothing or a haircut.
…you feel a sense of genuine recognition and appreciation whenever your partner thanks you for something.
…it fills your heart when you receive unexpected messages of love and support from your significant other.
…you feel inspired and empowered to do more in life whenever you hear words of encouragement from your other half.
…you feel understood and appreciated all the time; a feeling that is often confirmed by your other half always saying back to you what you feel is the exact thing you need to hear.
2: You value “Quality Time” if…
…your favourite times are those in which your partner has made time especially to be with you.
…the idea of a weekend getaway with your other half is the most exciting thing you can imagine and you look forward to it every moment before it comes.
…when you’re communicating with your partner, they make eye contact and are actively listening and acknowledging you. This is their real presence that you can feel.
…you are moved when your partner puts down whatever they are doing to either pay closer attention or focus their time onto you.
…your partner prioritizes spending time with you over anyone else and anything else, and that makes you feel loved beyond anything.
3: You value “Acts of Services” if…
…even doing a dull chore like sweeping the floor or doing the dishes together with your other half feels like something fun that you don’t really want to end.
…you appreciate most when your partner goes out of the way to do something especially for you and to no benefit of their own (other than seeing you happy).
…your partner will “swoop in” to help you with things that you are struggling with, no matter how mundane or troublesome it is for them to do so.
…you feel taken care of when they notice you are stressed and actively find ways to lighten your burden either with direct help or other support like making you a snack or drink to feel a bit better.
4: You value “Gifts” if…
…you can sense the sheer amount of love behind even the most seemingly mundane present from your significant other.
…you can understand and appreciate the amount of effort that went into acquiring or making the gift on the part of your partner.
…you are reminded of your partner and their love for you every time you look at or pick up the gift that they gave you.
…you value the gifts you receive from your other half more than others, and/or find a special place for them in your home to ensure they are either always on display or never lost.
…the value of the gift is in its sentimental or memento value more than its monetary value.
5: You value “Touch” if…
…there’s nothing you look forward to more than just being in the arms of your partner.
…every time after sex you feel even closer and more attached to that person.
…public displays of affection don’t cause an iota of hesitation in you.
…you can’t just sit on the same sofa as your partner, but you feel you have to be as close as possible, possibly cuddling or at least touching.
…you enjoy every mode of touch from your other half, including playing with your hair, giving a foot or back rub or something else.
…you notice when there has been a long gap between now and the last time you had physical contact with your partner.
Love Languages Transcending Words
In the end, Chapman has helped us to see that all of us are speakers of the love languages on some level. No matter which mode of communication seems to dominate the “convention” of love, for example Touch of Words of Affection, the truth is that there are always other ways in which we can both express and receive love. That’s something to celebrate and a great thing on which to reflect.