The 5 Love Languages is a construct developed by marriage counselor and pastor Gary Chapman to explain how people give and receive love. According to Chapman, if you want to show love to someone you should show love in the same language that person shows love. Chapman says individuals show love in one of five ways: through words of affirmation, acts of service, spending quality time, giving gifts and physical touch.
Words of Affirmation
Saying "I love you," giving compliments and making positive statements about your loved one is one way of showing love. If words of affirmation are your husband's primary love language, you help fill his "emotional tank," says Chapman, when you praise him and let him know how much you appreciate him. When speaking this love language be specific in your compliments and words of praise. For instance, instead of saying, "You're a great driver," tell him, "I feel so safe when you're driving. You really know how to drive in the city."
Acts of Service
When your wife's primary love language is acts of service, you convey your affection for her by planning and performing thoughtful gestures that you know will please her. To use this language it is necessary to "speak her dialect," which requires knowing her well enough to know what she likes, says Chapman. For instance, if she appreciates a clean car you could surprise her by washing her car. And it's hard to go wrong when you make her favorite food or make certain her favorite shirt is clean for the weekend.
If your partner complains that you never spend time with him, his love language is quality time. More than just spending minutes, hours or days in proximity to each other, quality time means focusing on him and your relationship. One of the main dialects of quality time, says Chapman, is quality conversation. Practice active listening by giving him your undivided attention, not interrupting, making eye contact and asking questions for clarity. Take an interest in what interests him and he will feel your love.
Chapman studied various cultural practices in his anthropological work and he found one common factor related to marriage: gift giving. A visual symbol of affection, gift giving is fundamental to love. For the person whose love language is gift giving it is truly the thought that counts. Pay attention to the value your partner places on gifts and symbols to learn if his primary love language is gift giving.
Physical touch is a powerful communicator, Chapman explains. A relationship with an individual whose primary love language is physical touch is in trouble without tender touches. Not to be confused with sexual intimacy, physical touch includes kissing, embracing, holding hands, a pat on the knee or other gentle touch.
Learn Your Own Love Language
Understanding your own love language helps you understand the love languages of others. To begin, reflect on your own ways of expressing love. Once you have identified your own primary love language, you are better equipped to identify your partner's love language. Observe him and ask questions. Although Chapman's work is not based upon scientific research, anecdotal evidence indicates that when a person receives the same kind of expression of love that he gives, he recognizes the loving intention and his emotional tank is filled.
- West Virginia University Cooperative Extension: Connecting with Others Using the Five Love Languages
- University of Missouri Extension: The Five Love Languages
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts; Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate; Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages: Speaking the Love Language of Quality Time
- The 5 Love Languages: Speaking Love Through Physical Touch
- Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Getty Images