The concept of love languages has taken the relationship wellness world by storm ever since the phrase was first introduced in Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling book published in 1992, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. But what are the 5 love languages and how do they work? The 5 love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch—and understanding them can lead to everlasting love. Read on for the full scoop.
What Are the 5 Love Languages (and How Can They Improve Your Relationship)?
Do words of affirmation or acts of service speak to you?
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Meet the Expert
Dr. Aldrich Chan is a licensed neuropsychologist, founder of the Miami-based Center for Neuropsychology and Consciousness (CNC) and author of the award-winning book, Reassembling Models of Reality. He received his doctorate from Pepperdine University and has experience as both a clinical researcher and practitioner, providing psychotherapy as well as individual coaching to individuals seeking to optimize life and relationship satisfaction.
What Are the 5 Love Languages?
So you know where the concept originated and what the 5 love languages are on paper, but if you’re interested in learning more on the subject, you can find a full breakdown of each language below.
1. Words of Affirmation
This love language involves using words to validate your partner. According to the expert, “verbal compliments, words of appreciation and kind and encouraging words” all fall into this category and serve to make a person feel loved and valued. Ever had a fight with your partner in which they told you they feel taken for granted? Well, words of affirmation might be their love language and a few more a day will keep conflict at bay.
2. Quality Time
We’re not talking about scrolling through your Insta feed while your partner reads a book next to you in bed. “Quality time is all about giving your partner your undivided attention. It means spending time together, engaging in meaningful conversations, and doing activities that you both enjoy,” explains Dr. Chan. Some folks need quality time more than others, but if it’s your partner’s primary love language, you should make an effort to put away your phone, turn off the TV and truly connect at least once a day if you can.
3. Receiving Gifts
Does receiving a gift make your partner feel uncomfortable or do they light up at the thoughtful and unexpected gesture? If it’s the latter, receiving gifts might be their love language. Don’t worry—you don’t have to break the bank to make your partner feel loved. “It's not about the material value of the gift but rather the thought and effort put into choosing and giving it. People who value receiving gifts feel loved when they receive meaningful and thoughtful presents [no matter how small],” says Dr. Chan. In other words, gift giving is a way of showing you pay attention to their wants and needs—so, for example, receiving a pepper grinder that actually works might really make their day. (Hint, hint.)
4. Acts of Service
This love language is all about lightening someone’s load. Per the expert, “acts of service involve doing things for your partner that you know they would appreciate. It can be as simple as cooking a meal, doing household chores, or running errands.” And if this is your partner’s love language there’s a good chance they are giving you not so subtle clues—you know, like by loudly detailing all the crap they had to do that day and complaining that they haven’t had a moment to sit down, while very aggressively loading the dishwasher. (Just us?)
5. Physical Touch
Little explanation needed here, but this love language “is about using physical contact to express love and affection,” says Dr. Chan, adding that “it includes holding hands, hugging, kissing, and other forms of appropriate physical touch.” (In other words, it’s not just about sex, baby.) Indeed, people who value being touched feel loved when they share affectionate and comforting physical contact with their partner.
How to Find Your Love Language
Dr. Chan tells us that there are considerable benefits to learning love languages and how to use them in a relationship including enhanced communication, deeper emotional connection, reduced misunderstanding and increased relationship satisfaction. “It's important to note that everyone has a primary love language, but they may also appreciate and respond to other love languages to varying degrees. Understanding and speaking your partner's love language can help strengthen your relationship and create a deeper emotional connection.” (Dr. Chan also points out that research done on the subject has shown mixed results, but that anecdotal evidence in favor of the 5 love languages is strong, nevertheless.)
So where do you begin? Identifying your own love language (i.e., what you need most from a romantic partner) probably comes pretty naturally, but figuring out someone else’s isn’t always so easy. Dr. Chan recommends achieving this goal through thoughtful observation and open communication. That said, we’d be remiss not to mention that there’s a handy quiz, courtesy of Dr. Gary Chapman himself, that can help you discover your own love language and/or the love language of a particularly inscrutable partner—provided they’re on board with taking it, that is.