Whether you are married or in a committed relationship, you probably want to show your partner how much you love them. But sometimes, we feel like our gestures of love or affection are unappreciated or misunderstood. You just might be speaking a different “love language” than your partner.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
This Love Language theory states that people feel most loved when their partner expresses love in their predominant “language.” Knowing your partner's love language can help you understand how they give and receive love.
The Five Love Languages
There are five types of love languages: Gift-Giving, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, and Quality Time. Keep reading to learn what your love language says about you, your partner, and your relationship.
Very often misinterpreted, the gift-giving language is as direct as it sounds. This love language means that you feel loved or show love with tangible things rather than words. It doesn’t matter if the item is a small key chain or a set of expensive pearls; they both send the same message: “I care and am thinking about you.”
Whether you receive pearls as a symbol of love on your 30th anniversary from your partner or flowers just because they thought of you, the true meaning of gift-giving isn’t extravagance, it’s sentiment. If gifts are the way you feel loved, you will cherish gifts no matter how small and regardless of the occasion.
If your partner also speaks the same language, make sure you never forget their birthday or your anniversary; special occasions are important to them, and they will likely be offended if you forget. Show your love with small gestures like buying chocolates on a random day or having their favorite lunch delivered to their workplace. Or, if your wife is an outdoorsy woman, pick out a gift for her adventures.
Acts of Service
Have you ever heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”? Well, this phrase is the basis of the Acts of Service love language.
If you value actions more than words, your love language is most likely Acts of Service. You probably love and appreciate all the little things your partner does for you, even if it’s as simple as making you coffee in the morning or bringing you your favorite pastry for breakfast—or a bigger loving gesture like serving you breakfast in bed!
Unlike someone with the Gift-Giving love language, love is felt through visible actions, not gifts. If this is you, you probably enjoy your significant other showing you they care through meaningful help and support, such as packing you lunch when you have a busy day or making a fresh bed and leaving your favorite scent on your pillow.
If you suspect your partner’s love language is Acts of Service, think about how you can improve their quality of life by looking for small things that will brighten their day. You might make their favorite meal, clean their car unexpectedly, or pick up cold drinks after a hot work day at a construction site.
If your love language is Physical Touch, you will value physical expressions of love, both intimate and nonintimate touch, more than verbal compliments or receiving gifts. A hug, a kiss, or a handhold are gestures that are very meaningful to you. You probably love to cuddle with your partner and value it as a great way to strengthen your bond. If your love language is physical touch, creating emotional intimacy with your partner through touch is vital. And you appreciate any slight touch you receive. A kiss from your spouse after a long day at work can instantly help you release the day’s tension and uplift you.
If your partner’s love language is also physical touch, try showing them how much you love them by giving them a big hug when they come home from work. A random shoulder massage, a long kiss, or snuggling up to watch a movie would also be great ways to show your love.
Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation are positive words that communicate your love for your partner. They're compliments and encouraging words used to uplift and help them feel loved and appreciated. If your love language is Words of Affirmation, you might be a sensitive person who pays close attention to words.
You would probably be the first person to notice your partner’s tone of voice or ask a coworker how his sick mother is doing. For you, words mean more than tangible things. A simple “you are the best” or “I couldn't have done this without you” can instantly transform your day. You have a way with words and a knack for saying just the right thing to boost others’ moods. Those with this love language are often great communicators, and people tend to come to them for advice.
If your partner's primary love language is Words of Affirmation, showing them that you recognize how they are feeling and empathizing will mean a lot. With this love language, your partner is fulfilled by positive words, so seize opportunities to commend, appreciate, and encourage them. And say “I love you” frequently.
Related reading: "Why Knowing Your Partner's Love Language Can Strengthen Your Bond."
The Quality Time love language focuses on being together without distractions. If this is your love language, you probably enjoy your partner’s company regardless of the activity. You feel most loved when your partner gives you their undivided attention and makes effort every day to set aside time just for you. You prefer spending time with your partner over compliments, gifts, or touch. You enjoy eating dinner together, sharing about your day (eye contact adds to connection), biking, boating, or hiking together—anything where you spend quality time together. These types of activities make you feel special, important and understood.
However, being fully present or actively listening may not come naturally for many people, especially in this high-tech world. If your love language is quality time, you might feel offended when your partner gets distracted and starts scrolling through their phone while you’re talking. This divided attention will likely irritate you; perhaps, you might even feel they don’t care about you.
If you think that your partner’s love language is quality time, learn how to express your affection by being fully present to them. Ask thoughtful questions and making eye contact while having a conversation are also essential factors. And don’t forget to set aside time only for the two of you; a romantic dinner, a mini-staycation, or working out at the gym together.
Paying attention to what makes you feel most loved will reveal your love language in short order. Do you love affection, or would you rather hear a few kind words? Is time with your partner or a good friend fulfilling? Or do you love receiving gifts, no matter how small? If you feel loved when your partner babysits the kids so you can exercise or a co-worker swings by Starbucks to bring you your favorite Latte, acts of service may be one of your primary love languages.
Learning the love languages will enhance love in your life not only for yourself but for your relationship with your partner and others in your life.
Take the love language quiz to zero in on your native language as well as your partner’s proclivity.
Related reading: "Keys to Healthy Love and a Happy Relationship."
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