The 5 Love Languages Explained

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You don't need relationship experience to know that everybody loves differently. How we love has everything to do with who we are as individuals and the experiences we've had. Realizing this difference could result in communication problems — or successes! Marriage counselor Gary Chapman, Ph.D. created the concept of the five love languages, and relationships have been better for it ever since.

According to Chapman's 1992 book, "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts," everyone has a love language, and knowing our own as well as the languages of those around us can make for greater relationship satisfaction through better communication. "After many years of counseling couples in crisis and taking notes during each session, I sat down one day and began thinking about what it takes for a person to feel loved," Chapman told HuffPost. "It became apparent to me that what makes one person feel loved isn't always the same for their spouse or partner. I discovered every person understands and receives love in a specific language, one of five to be precise."

It's important to understand that, although everyone has a primary love language that they tend to "speak," many of us have bits and pieces of the other love languages in us as well. Also, while Chapman's original concept had only five love languages, three new love languages have been added to account for changing needs in relationships and communication. Not sure what yours is? No worries, we got you. 

Words of affirmation

If someone's love language is words of affirmation, it doesn't mean that they need to be told that they're loved all day long. It goes beyond that — although for these people, "I love you" will never get old — and should convey appreciation, encouragement, and a whole slew of other positive feelings too. 

"One way to define [words of affirmation] would be words of appreciation or words of praise," licensed professional psychologist Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D. told Prevention. "Think about how to give somebody words of affirmation that are about their being ... that have to do with the personal qualities that this person brings: how generous they are, how kind they are, how smart they are, how flexible they are, how gentle, kind, or compassionate they are." Then say those words out loud to them or, if you want to put in more effort, write it down.

In practice, words of affirmation can look like sending a thoughtful, supportive text message to your partner just because, or reminding them on a cute post-it how much they matter and how you value everything they do. It's about making them feel revered and doing so honestly and authentically.

Quality time

For people whose love language is quality time, they feel most loved when they're getting 100% of their partner's attention. What this means is that spending time together while watching Netflix or while you both doom-scroll on Instagram doesn't count. The only way to successfully speak the language of quality time is to be completely engaged, focused, and free from any and all distractions. You want to actively listen to your partner when they talk and thoughtfully respond. It's about being present, open, and vulnerable. The best way to do this for them is to actually make time for it, as opposed to just leaving it up to chance.

According to a March 2023 YouGov poll, the most common love language, at 30%, is quality time. In other words, even if it's not your love language or that of your partner, there's a very good chance that you're going to meet someone who has it. So you might want to start mastering those skills now. 

Acts of service

Acts of service are all about giving a helping hand and, ideally, doing it for your partner before they ask. "This love language is for people who believe that actions speak louder than words," couples' psychotherapist Fariha Mahmud-Syed, MFT, CFLE told Mind Body Green. "Unlike those who prefer to hear how much they're cared for, people on this list like to be shown how they're appreciated."

If your partner's love language is acts of service, then it's up to you to really pay attention so you can do what it takes to make things smoother in their life. It's about listening to them and staying ahead of their concerns so they know they're not just loved, but their needs are recognized. If they have a deadline at work that they're stressed about, or not enough hours in the day to do everything they need to do, stepping up to the plate to help out is exactly how they're going to feel most loved. It involves reading between the lines and noticing where you can lighten the load. 

Receiving gifts

Sometimes people tend to think that gift-giving as a love language is materialistic and maybe even greedy, but that couldn't be further from the truth. For those whose love language is receiving gifts, they don't need extravagance to feel loved. For them, it's genuinely the thought that truly counts.

"If one's love language is gift giving, it simply means that one received early in life the clear communication that giving a gift is an important, acceptable, and/or clear way to show others how you feel about them and that you love and appreciate them," licensed clinical psychologist Juanita Guerra, Ph.D. told Women's Health. Even something minute, but tangible and thoughtful can really go a long way for these people. What's also great about gift receivers is that, in turn, they love to give gifts to show their affection and appreciation. And because they put a lot of thought into what they're giving, they always give the best gifts too.

Physical touch

While someone whose love language is physical touch isn't necessarily ruling out sexual activity, their needs regarding communicating love are more about hugging, kissing, holding hands, and just being physically close. "Physical touch, specifically cuddling, releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that makes you feel like nothing can hurt you," behavioral scientist and relationship coach, Clarissa Silva told Verywell Mind. "In addition to the bonding [cuddling] creates between the couple, it also helps boost your immune system." These are the people who have had a taste of oxytocin, became hooked, and want more — or all of it, to be exact.

While knowing your loved ones' love language can be beneficial, there can also be a learning curve. If your love language is receiving gifts and your partner's is quality time, you both might have your work cut out for you in the beginning, but it's work that will be worth it. "When we know how we experience love and also understand the ways that our partner experiences love, it helps us create a meaningful, healthy, authentic connection," licensed clinical psychologist Avigail Lev, Psy.D. told Forbes. Granted, that doesn't guarantee relationship perfection, but it does get people one step closer to it.