As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’ve found ourselves wondering about the best way to express love to those we care about, both in our families and romantically.
After some preliminary research, we’ve found that there are five principle love languages that we as humans use to communicate feelings of love. They are giving, quality time, affirmative language, devotion, and physical touch (haptics!).
The theory of the five love languages, developed by Gary Chapman, became popular in the late 1990s in the United States.
He theorizes that “people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love, and better communication between couples can be accomplished when one can demonstrate caring to the other person in the love language the recipient understands.”
An example could be when someone in a love relationship is constantly giving gifts to their partner but doesn’t feel like their partner appreciates them. The person giving may be doing so because they feel loved when they receive gifts. However, their partner may feel loved when they are touched, with a hand on the back or a hug, rather than an actual gift. This disconnect between how the two perceive love can lead to conflicts that could be easily avoided if each person’s love language was clear to the other.
Giving gifts can sometimes seem like a superficial way of expressing love, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Generosity is not about the value of the gift per se, but rather the idea that the person went out of their way to buy a gift for you. It shows that they were thinking of you and wanted to share sometime enjoyable with you. The important thing is the intention behind the gift. Sometimes gifts come from the wrong place – thinking of a parent who spoils their child because they are emotionally distant, or a partner who buys flowers to make up for mistreating their other half. Gifts should be given and appreciated just for what they are, with no expectation for reciprocation, and no guilt on the side of the receiver. If your partner is a giver, enjoy it, and be sure to express your true appreciation of the gesture, not just the gift! Don’t miss this article related to gifts: 5 gift ideas for the writer in your life.
2. Quality Time
Time is essential in any relationship, and especially romantic relationships. That’s why it is a love language: some people express their love by making their partner a priority when it comes to time commitments. We only have so much time in any given day, so it is a precious resource. According to Chapman, quality time is “giving someone your undivided attention,” meaning no tv, no movie, and actually talking with the person you’re devoting your time to. Put that cell phone away and truly spend time together. Sometimes those that need time can be seen as possessive or needy because they are constantly chasing the other person down. However, if you can communicate that you need time and focus on the quality of that time, then there should be no problem!
3. Affirmative Language
For some people, it can be incredibly important to hear they are loved, and to have that belief be affirmed proactively. It might not be enough to hear “I love you,” they need to hear “I love you because…”. Actively expressing humility, gratitude and appreciation, encouragement, empathy, respect, and admiration can go an extremely long way for the person who needs affirmative language to feel loved. These people can also come across as somewhat needy, since they require their partner to go out of their way to affirm their love for them. We all have things that we need from our partner, and this love language is an important way to share actual words of love!
The person who “speaks” love through devotion or service shows their love by performing acts for their partner. As opposed to giving gifts, this person is likely to make small efforts, perhaps around the house, or through actions outside the house like washing the car or running errands, and sometimes those efforts can appear to go unnoticed. This person is almost the opposite of the person who needs affirmative words: this person needs to see actions. They believe that actions speak louder than words, and although they may not realize it, they would be thrilled for you to thank them for all they do for you.
5. Physical Touch
Finally, the last love language we want to look at is the language of touch. This can be hard when one partner thrives on touch and the other is averse to a lot of touching. It is important to find a balance so that each partner is communicating effectively, and that the partner who needs to be touched, either by hand holding or hugging, or massage, as some examples, is getting all that they need out of their less-touchy partner!
There are so many ways to express love. The five love language theory is just that – a theory – but it can serve as a useful framework to start a discussion with your loved one about expressing love, and the best way to do so in your relationship. We wish you and your loved ones a happy Valentine’s day this Thursday!