It’s been thirty years since Gary Chapman, Ph.D., first published his book and theory about 5 love languages. Working as a counselor, he spent years talking to couples about problems in their communication. That precisely made him realize a pattern: many couples that truly loved each other often misunderstood one another and each other’s needs. So, Chapman developed the theory regarding the communication styles people recognize as acts of love.
He explained it all in his book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. But what are love languages? How can you use them to improve your relationship? Are there limits to this theory?
Read on to find out!
What Are The 5 Love Languages?
According to Chapman, there are five different love languages: words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch, acts of service, and quality time. Generally speaking, they are five unique styles of communicating love and affection. So, your love language is how you express and receive love in a relationship.
Usually, people can relate to most of these 5 love languages. However, everyone has the one love language that speaks to them the most. So, if you want to strengthen your relationship, you should discover your own and your partner’s main communication style.
Let’s take a closer look at each love language.
1. Words of Affirmation
If your love language is words of affirmation, you enjoy spoken expressions of affection. That means you feel loved when someone compliments you, often tells you that they love you, encourages, praises, and tells you words of appreciation. It includes digital communication and social networks as well. In essence, you want your partner to send you cute messages, uplifting quotes, and love notes.
2. Receiving Gifts
Chapman calls gifts the “visual symbols of love”. This love language is rather straightforward: you feel loved when you receive gifts. But it has nothing to do with the monetary value behind them. People with this love language recognize the time and effort it took to buy something for them.
Still, the gift has to be both physical and meaningful since it reflects how well your loved one knows you.
3. Physical Touch
People whose dominant language of love is physical touch express love through physical signs of affection. Simply put, they need plenty of kissing, hugging, cuddling, holding hands, sex, massages, etc. They just want to be close to their partner physically.
4. Acts of Service
With acts of service as your love language, you feel valued when your partner does nice things that make your life easier. Small acts of kindness like making you a coffee in the morning or washing the dishes help you realize how much they love you. So, unlike people who want to hear their “I love you’s”, you need the actions to back those words up.
5. Quality Time
You know your partner adores you when they want to spend time with you actively. All you need is their undivided attention and full presence with lots of eye contact and active listening. That means hanging out together without constantly checking your phones. For people whose love language is quality time, doing recreational stuff together, having meaningful conversations, or sharing hobbies are the pillars of a good relationship.
How to Strengthen a Relationship With the Help of The 5 Love Languages
After reading the five different types, you’ve probably recognized your love language, identified the love language of your loved ones, and realized how understanding the different types can affect communication and ultimately the relationship. This understanding can help dictate how you can communicate to your partner in a way that they can surely understand.
Why is this important? Because the key issue here is to avoid misunderstandings.
Imagine the following scenario. You honestly love your partner and go out of your way to show it. You often tell them how handsome they are and buy them gifts you know they will love. However, they still complain they don’t feel appreciated, and you often fight because of it.
But what you might not understand is that they recognize love only when it comes in the form of your undivided attention or through physical touch because they speak the quality time and physical touch love language. So, no matter how much effort you put into picking a perfect gift for them, they will not see it as a sign of love. They will nag that you don’t spend enough time together. On the other hand, since your love language is words of affirmation, you will feel like your partner doesn’t appreciate you because they don’t regularly compliment you.
The real problem here is miscommunication. Yet, if you know your partner’s love language, you can avoid such conflicts. So, here are a few tips on how to approach people based on their love language.
This love language doesn’t require plenty of planning, money, or time. You simply need to squeeze your loved one’s hand while you are watching a film, hug them often, and steal a few kisses during the day.
Make sure to mark all the important dates on your calendar and surprise your loved one with a well-thought-out gift. But don’t forget to add “just because” gifts from time to time. It doesn’t always have to be expensive — a flower you picked on your way home will do perfectly. It’s the thought and effort that counts.
Acts of Service
Try to find out what kind of acts of service your loved one appreciates. It’s not always about chores. Sometimes it could be preparing a relaxing bubble bath after a long work day or hot chocolate when they feel down.
Intentionally make availability in your schedule to spend some alone time with your partner. It can be half an hour walk to talk about their day or a full day together once a month without your phones. The more time you can dedicate to your partner, the more they will feel adored.
What Critics Say About 5 Love Languages
Over the years, experts have analyzed this theory numerous times and come to different conclusions. Where some saw advantages, others highlighted drawbacks. Let’s look at some of the benefits of practicing the five languages of love.
Promotes Empathy and Selflessness
You become more aware of your partner’s needs. Also, it is easier to understand their point of view in an argument.
You learn more about your loved one and how to connect with them on a deeper level.
Aids Personal Growth:
You stop thinking only about your needs and are encouraged to go out of your comfort zone, which promotes personal growth.
But what are the potential problems with 5 love languages?
The Potential Drawbacks of the 5 Love Languages:
They Are Not Set in Stone
People change as they grow personally, which means their primary love language can switch at some point. If you think of love languages as something permanent, it can prevent both your and your partner’s growth.
It Can Be Misused
One way the love languages can be misused is when they’re used for selfish desires. For example, if a person identifies his/her love language as quality time, they may demand that their partner drops everything in their schedule to focus only on them. This can give a person an excuse and a way to justify getting their needs without considering their partner’s ability or desire to give it.
The love languages can also promote a victim mentality. A person can say that their partner is not meeting their needs, and conclude that the partner is the problem, putting all the blame on the other without taking any responsibility themselves. Worse yet, they can retaliate – if you’re not going to fulfill my needs, why should I fulfill yours?
Another way the love languages can be misused is if it’s used to manipulate into getting what someone wants. This approach bypasses the actual desire to make your partner happy. Instead, actions are only done with the expectation of getting what you want back from your partner. This manipulation goes against the very purpose of the love languages, which is to genuinely show you love your partner in a way they can understand.
It Doesn’t Fix All Problems
While identifying your partner’s communication style can help avoid potential arguments or misunderstandings, it can’t fix everything. A relationship is an evolving, ever-changing dynamic that needs participation, attention, and work to last. The five love languages is a great starting place to help you and your partner understand each other, but it shouldn’t be relied on or used as the only thing to make a relationship better. You’ll still have to work on other aspects. That’s what makes relationships so valuable in aiding our own growth and understanding of ourselves.
The 5 love languages are a useful tool that can help you show your loved ones how you feel about them the way they understand. Similarly, this theory will teach you something about yourself and help you see the way your partner shows their appreciation. However, keep in mind that the whole point is to communicate better, not insist on a love language just to satisfy your needs. So, use this theory as a starting point of your journey to grow both personally and in your relationships.