Healthy Relationship Practices: Learning The 5 Love Languages

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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It must have been about 3 years ago now, that I first heard about the 5 love languages in an NVC-training weekend. The knowledge didn’t really stick however, until my partner brought these 5 Love Languages back to my attention about a year ago. I mentioned the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman in this previous post as well, but today I want to really dive into them and illustrate them further.

Before we go into the 5 different types, it would be good to explain what a ‘love language’ really is. A love language is a way in which we either express our love, or a way in which we feel love. The most common way of doing this we might think of is saying ‘I love you’ and hearing those words. But that is only one way of expressing love, and it’s definitely not the preferred way for everyone. Much of it has to do with how you were raised and what was acceptable when you were growing up.

Let’s look at the 5 different types, and then at how they could play out in your relationships, of all different kinds.

  1. Words of affirmation
    Compliments, saying ‘I love you’ and verbal encouragements are part of the first love languague: words of affirmation. If you need to hear these from your partner (or parents, friends), or find that you often express your love verbally to your loved ones, this may be your most important love language.
  2. Quality time
    Some of us feel most loved when we are spending time together with our loved ones, not necessarily touching or speaking, but having fun together, cooking a meal together or going on a hike. Having their attention focused on us is all we really need. Building in moments of quality time together is essential for those of us who favor this style of love language.
  3. Gifts
    Receiving a gift is fun for everyone, but for some of us it’s extra-special. But not every gift will have the same impact. A gift as an expression of love should be thoughtful. It should show that the other person has been listening to what you like. People who have ‘gifts’ as their love language are not easy to shop for. They don’t really care about the price, they care about the effort.
  4. Acts of service
    Doing the dishes, babysitting or painting a wall or all gifts of service. How does it make you feel when someone helps you out? Is it a feeling of gratitude or do you feel especially loved and cared for? Acts of service can be big or small, and what makes up a big act or a small one is very personal to each of us.
  5. Physical touch
    Physical touch can be anything from hugging to love-making. Holding your friend close, rubbing your partner’s back, combing your daughter’s hair,… these are all examples of physical touch that could be expressions of love.
    How important is that kiss to you when you meet? Or holding hands when you’re going for a walk? And what happens when you go a day without touching a loved one?

How can you figure out which love language is your favorite one? You could take this quiz on the website of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages.
But you could also do it as follows: Try to imagine your partner or best friend expressing their love for you in one of these ways, and see how the idea makes you feel.
Or you can look at the way in which you express your own love. Do you clean your mother’s windows or buy plenty of gifts for your kids (guilty!)?

Still not sure? Try to look at it from the negative side. When a loved one ‘speaks’ your love language badly, or not at all, you will often feel more hurt than when this happens with one of the other languages.
For example, say my love language is ‘acts of service’ and my partner doesn’t pick up any chores around the house. This will likely make me feel unloved (on top of stressed out). My partner’s main love language is ‘Words’, which means that no matter how many gifts I give him or how much we do together, if I don’t express my love through words he won’t feel it. And if I use words that are unloving, they will cut much deeper than they might for someone else.

Why is it important to know your own preferred love languages and those of your partner, children, family and friends? Because it can help you feel loved, and those around you as well.

My parents grew up in a time when feelings of love weren’t put in words. For a long time, I missed hearing those words from them, until I started recognizing that my mother’s way of telling me she loves me is through making soup, trimming the tree outside my window or mending socks. My father uses quality time, meaningful conversations and asking for my input as a way to show his affection.
Knowing that this is their preferred love language, also means I can make them feel extra cared for by speaking their love language.

My two main love languages are gifts and acts of service (love languages are often hereditary), though ‘words’ come in at a close third. My partner knows this and goes out of his way to think of wonderful, thoughtful and fun gifts. He also helps me by cooking, or cleaning for me.
For my partner, my words of love and devotion and plenty of kisses, cuddles and caressing are the surest way to his heart. Knowing this means I put a ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ kiss at the top of my priority list, and know to hold him close when he feels stressed.
This knowledge has given us a tool to make each other feel loved, cherished and safe in a whole knew way.

So what’s your favorite love language? What makes you feel cared for and adored? I’d love to hear!

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