Relationships and the Five Love Languages
As psychotherapist and relationship expert Esther Perel asserts,“there is no greater source of joy and meaning in our lives than our relationships with others.” But what is the key to maintaining a healthy, functional relationship? Some people believe communication is key. Others might think loyalty or commitment are the foundation of any strong partnership.
While it’s impossible to identify one sole factor that makes or breaks a relationship, it’s imperative to be aware of how both we and our partners give and receive love.
There are five core love languages, developed by Gary Chapman: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of services, and gift giving. The way you show your love to others may not necessarily be the way you feel most loved. For example, perhaps you give love by cooking dinner for your partner which could be considered an act of service but you feel most loved when playing a board game or engaging in another activity that requires spending quality time together just the two of you. But how do you communicate your needs depending on your love language? And how can you express love to your partner if their love language differs from yours?
If you feel most loved when receiving physical affection, touch may be your love language. Physical affection can include hugging, holding hands, kissing, or simply being physically close to one another. If your partner’s love language is physical touch, consider initiating physical contact while also respecting your partner’s boundaries and asking for consent. Think of ways to incorporate physical affection into your relationship, whether that be cuddling on the couch or putting your arm around your partner while on a walk.
If your primary way of receiving love is when spending time together one-on-one, your love language is quality time. Quality time can involve having meaningful conversations and partaking in recreational activities together, uninterrupted and without the distractions of technology or other people. If your loved one appreciates quality time, consider planning special dates or activities to engage in together frequently. During this quality time, focus on active listening skills, maintaining eye contact, and being fully present in the moment with them.
Words of Affirmation
People who desire words of affirmation often value verbal validation and affection, whether this is expressed through compliments, appreciation, encouragement, or other forms of communication. If your partner receives love primarily through the love language of words of affirmation, consider finding ways to share how you feel about your partner verbally during your conversations. You may also want to write them an unexpected letter or card so they can continue to refer back to the words of affirmation on their own time.
Acts of Service
If you feel most appreciated when your partner goes above and beyond to make your life easier, your love language may be acts of service. Acts of service can be cleaning up the dishes after dinner or running errands for your partner on a busy day. If this is your partner’s love language, reflect on ways you can show up for your loved one practically such as bringing them coffee in the morning when they first wake up or filling up their car with gas. Tailor these acts of service to your partner’s needs or tasks they feel they don’t have time for or don’t enjoy completing. Gift Giving Last but not least, the love language of gift giving involves “visual symbols of love.” Remember the monetary value of the gift is not important; rather, focus on the meaning behind the gesture. Those with this love language enjoy the thoughtfulness of the gift giving process that reflects how well you know them. When considering gifts from your loved one, focus on small details, your partner’s values, and what sorts of gifts might represent the relationship in a meaningful way.
Benefits of Identifying Love Languages in Relationships
While many of us may appreciate any of the love languages – whether giving or receiving – in our romantic relationships, it is common to have a primary love language that we naturally utilize to express our care and a love language that makes us feel particularly special and understood. There are a plethora of relationship benefits to utilizing love languages in not only romantic relationships but also other important relationships in our lives. Our love languages may also vary depending on the type of relationship; for example, we may value physical affection in our romantic relationships but prefer words of affirmation with our friends or families. Identifying and focusing on the love languages of those we care about allows us to develop selflessness and empathy while simultaneously increasing intimacy and understanding in our relationships.