Understanding love languages

couple connecting with eachother

Gary Chapman, author of ‘The Five Love Languages’, Northfield Publishing 1992, 1995 & 2004, has proposed that everybody has a ‘love language’ in which that they are most comfortable to express their love to their partner, and as importantly, need to receive back. The five ‘languages’ that he suggests are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

Problems develop in a relationship when partners don’t share the same language and therefore, don’t express love and affection in a way to which their partner can relate. For example, if one person needs words of affirmation to feel loved and secure but their partner only uses physical touch, then neither is going to be satisfied.

Not everybody would agree with these categories, but the concept is one that has been explored in different ways, by many motivational writers. Some even suggest that each sex has a completely different love language and to have a happy relationship, you need to learn how these operate.

In my experience as a relationship counsellor, I have come to the conclusion that everyone does have one or more methods by which they express their love for their partner and if they do not feel loved in return, it may be that their partner is expressing it in ways that they cannot understand.

Communication problems are usually the most often cited problem by couples, when they come for counselling. What do they mean by this? Sometimes it means that they simply don’t talk, they have fallen out of the habit of sharing day to day news and problems and may be living quite separate but parallel lives

Alternatively, they may be referring to the style of communication between them. Perhaps one is very aggressive and the other, non assertive; they are incapable of solving any relationship problems without conflict. Could it also be possible that they are failing to communicate at the most important level of all, the way that they express their love for each other, their ‘love language’.

How do you find out your partner’s preferred ‘love language’?

Firstly, you may need to identify your own. This can be done by ascertaining what it is that your partner does to cause you the most hurt. Using Dr Chapman’s examples, you may decide that lack of quality time together or couple time, is the main problem in your relationship. If this is the way that you need proof of your partner’s love and commitment and they are not supplying it, then your ‘love language’ is not being listened to.

Similarly, what are the principle things that your partner complains about in your relationship? Does he or she constantly try to give you physical affection (not sex) and you turn it away or rarely retaliate with a spontaneous cuddle or touch. Perhaps their ‘language’ is physical touch and you are not hearing it.

Finding out your own and your partner’s ‘love languages’ and learning how to speak them, will go a long way to repairing communication problems. May be all you need to do is ask them what they need from you, so that they know that you love them.

The answer may very well surprise you.

Here’s a Love Language quiz which you download for free; you might find it interesting.



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