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The Five Love Languages and What They Can Do for You

Dr. Gary D. Chapman is a family counselor, and a well-established author having written more than forty books. He is the most known for his book “The Five Love Languages” (Chapman 1992). He has since expanded his “Five Love Languages” series with various editions that reach out specifically to singles, men, and parents of teens and young children. 

Before writing the book, Dr. Chapman spent years taking notes with couples he was counseling when he recognized a pattern. He realized that couples were showing patterns of misunderstanding one another and their needs. After going through his notes, he discovered that there are five “love languages” that people may respond to. Chapman’s original model focuses on heterosexual couples but the theory can apply to any partnership regardless of their sexual orientation. Chapman suggests that to determine another person’s love language, one must observe the way they express love to others, and analyze what they complain about most often and what they request from their significant other most often. He theorizes that people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love in one (or several) of five ways: (1) words of affirmation; (2) quality time; (3) physical touch; (4) acts of service or (5) receiving gifts.

People who express love through words of affirmation express and like to receive affection through spoken words, praise, or appreciation. When this is someone’s primary love language, they enjoy kind words and encouragement. They also enjoy uplifting quotes, letters, love notes, and cute text messages. You can make this person’s day by complimenting them or pointing out what they do well. On the flipside, they tend to be sensitive to non-constructive criticism and not having their accomplishments/work acknowledged.

For those who identify with quality time as their love language, love and affection are expressed through undivided attention. This means putting down the electronics, making eye contact, and actively listening when you’re one-on-one. When quality time is someone’s love language they enjoy doing things with you such as going on a walk, planning a trip, or spending time doing a hobby together. These individuals are more sensitive to long periods of time between meaningful interactions and when their partner spends more time with their friends than with them. 

A person with physical touch as their love language feels loved through physical affection. Aside from sex, those who have physical touch as their primary love language feel loved when their partner holds their hand, touches their arm, or gives them a massage at the end of the day, for example. They tend to be sensitive to long periods of time without intimacy, physical neglect and experiencing affection coldly. 

People who identify with acts of service as their love language feel the most loved and appreciated when someone does nice things for them, such as helping with chores, running errands, or helping finish tasks that need to be completed. They appreciate acts of kindness and action phrases like “I can…” or “I will…”. If your partner identifies with this love language you should avoid ignoring their requests for help, particularly if you are also using your time to help other people instead.

Gift-giving is the most intuitive of the love languages (at least in my opinion) as love for someone with this love language is shown through the giving and receiving of gifts. These individuals treasure not only the gift itself but also the time and effort the gift-giver put into it. They do not necessarily expect large or expensive gifts; it is more about the thought behind the gift that appeals to them. In other words, when you take the time to pick out a gift specifically for them regardless of whether it is a special occasion, it tells them you really know and appreciate them. Avoid missing or forgetting important dates as often they can feel this as a sort of rejection.

We all express and receive love differently based on a variety of factors. Consequently, understanding those differences and how they manifest in your relationships can make a serious impact on your understanding of each other. By learning about love languages you can also promote empathy and selflessness, promote self-growth and self-understanding, maintain intimacy, and perhaps open up more ways to share love every day. This doesn’t even need to relate solely to your partner – it can apply to your friendships and familial relationships too. It is likely that you and other people differ in your love languages, so speaking theirs can take some effort and practice on your end. The payoff, however, can be the reciprocal development of a deep and fulfilling relationship for both parties.

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