Which expression of caring from your partner would make you feel most loved?
- A big hug.
- A gift of your favorite candy.
- A compliment about your wit.
- Washing your car for you.
- A picnic in the park together.
If you answered the question on the earlier page and you want to know why you chose “3” over “1,” marriage counselor and author Gary Chapman has a hypothesis. In his best-selling book “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” Chapman theorizes that everyone has a primary and a secondary love language. Those are the expressions that make us feel most loved.
The list, translated into Chapman’s five love languages, is:
- Big hugs = Physical touch
- Gift of your favorite sweet = Receiving gifts
- Compliments about your wit = Words of affirmation
- Washing your car = Acts of service
- A picnic in the park = Quality time
For clues to your partner’s love language, observe what they most often complain about not getting. This is also likely to be the expression of love your partner most readily gives to you. If physical touch is your love language, you might be bothered by how your partner doesn’t try to hold hands while you are watching TV together. A person who prefers to receive love through physical touch will likely pat or hug their partner around the house.
We may need all of the love languages at different times, but the ones that fall lowest on our personal love scales will have less of an emotional impact. Although it’s possible to have two that rank at the top of the list, one will usually prevail as the most important.
The concept of love languages gives us a more positive framework to talk about what we are missing from our relationship. For instance, instead of criticizing your partner for being a workaholic, you can point out that you miss quality time with them. Even if our partner loves us, unless we receive it in our primary love language, it won’t feel like love.
Kiss your partner as you head off to work and hug them when they get home. Cuddle on the couch. If you have to spend time apart, give them a photo or physical reminder to make them feel loved. The worst thing to do is to touch them in a physically abusive way or to never touch them at all. Both will make them feel rejected and unloved.
Don’t discount this love language even if gifts don’t make you feel loved. There is no need to spend a lot of money — just slip your partner’s favorite snack or a gift card into their briefcase, or scrape a heart into the ice on their windshield. If the idea of a lifetime worth of gifts is overwhelming, you can ask your partner for a list of ideas. The worst thing to do if this is your partner’s love language is to forget a special occasion.
Words of Affirmation
This might not come easily to you if you were raised in a home where people didn’t compliment each other. It’s easy to do, though: Simply comment affectionately on your partner’s appearance or accomplishments. For a person who needs affirmation, fixing the broken screen door will not make them feel loved. The worst thing to do to a person who is loved by words is to criticize them
Acts of Service
Tasks, errands or other actions that lighten your partner’s load are acts of service. For some people, actions speak louder than words. Saying “I love you” may not mean as much to some people as having their spouse vacuum the house or wash the dishes. Ignoring your partner’s requests, while instead helping others, is the most hurtful thing you can do to a person who speaks the love language of service.
Undivided attention is the key to quality time. Quality means you aren’t distracted by your phone and you haven’t invited your neighbor over to join the two of you for a beer. This love language is expressed whenever you do something together, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store. The worst thing to do to a quality time person is to go away for long periods of time or to spend more time with friends than with your partner.
Activities to Deepen Your Relationship
Make 10 hearts, using five different colors of paper. On each heart, write one love language and the definition. On the back write, “I feel loved when…” Each person gets a set of the five hearts and ranks them by placing the number of importance on the card – with one being the most important and five being the least important. Trade cards and as you discuss fun, practical, and even sexy ways to speak your partner’s love language, write them on the back of the hearts so you can keep them for future reference.
Spend some quality time with your partner guessing what each other’s primary and secondary love languages might be, and then take Chapman’s 30-question online test (5lovelanguages.com) to confirm your prediction. Once you know each other’s primary love language, “speak” that language as often as possible to improve your relationship and fill your partner’s emotional love.