Love is the universal language everybody can speak. And yet it requires constant brushing up. Still we might fall short in speaking it and the other may not receive it well like we expected.
Have you ever had any experience where you took an effort and prepared something for someone dear to you, thinking this will hit them like anything and they will be overjoyed, only for this person to give a not so enthusiastic response to it? Or an instance where you feel like you are trying to connect with this person, but you feel like this person is just not resonating with your efforts – you can still feel that something is missing. Or you could also have felt that way.
Does it feel like they are not receiving the love you want to convey in the way you expected or that you are not getting it from them? So what’s happening here?
This is where you have got to work on your language – yes, your love language.
So what exactly is this love language?
Love language is a theory introduced by Gary Chapman, in 1992. He observed through his work as a counsellor, that partners were not feeling loved even when their significant others believed that they were doing everything right from their side. He noticed that there were patterns to what partners wanted from their significant others. Thus emerged the concept of love languages.
Words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, quality time, acts of service.
It is true that all of us are recipients towards all these forms of love language. But what Gary also observed was that even amongst the five, there is one that resonates deeply with each of us – which is one’s primary love language. Everyone receives and expresses love in unique ways – which is limited to any of the five languages of love. It is so that the partners did take efforts and put in credible contributions towards expressing their love and connecting with their loved ones, but it was observed that they were not doing so in a manner that was more meaningful to their significant other. So this missed the mark and the loved one couldn’t understand or receive the love in a way that mattered to them.
Thus it is important to understand and recognize what your and your partner’s love language is. In the beginning of a committed relationship, we do put in effort, to connect, convey our appreciation, likes, love, and efforts on communication, to spend time with each other, to know more about each other. But as time goes by and as the relationship progresses, there is a chance that the fire, the vibrancy, the energy frizzles away. During those times, it’s important to check in with oneself and each other to evaluate areas of lacking. Love language can thus be used as a guiding principle, to give direction to your efforts to celebrate your love for each other.
Now, some can like and appreciate all the five languages. Some may prefer only certain ones, some like other combinations, some may even hate some of the given languages of love. It is up to you and your partner to try and find out each other’s love languages, and what you appreciate and don’t.
Let’s explore each of these languages…..
Words of affirmation
Words of affirmation is the love language, where you feel loved and appreciated only through words that are encouraging, supportive, affectionate or cheerleading. The essential fact is that if you have a partner whose love language is words of affirmation, you have to genuinely and authentically express your love for them through words of affirmation. You feel the most loved when your loved ones say I love you or often appreciate and encourage you. You love hearing from your loved one through the day, through verbal or text messages of words of affirmation.
For instance – “I love you”, “I am grateful for you”, “I feel so lucky to have you in my life”, “I admire you”, “you are my sunshine”.
The next love language is physical touch, which consists of consensual, appropriate physical contact – hugs, hand holding, cuddles, kisses, sexual contact as well. Here you feel loved, appreciated and cherished through physical touches. People whose love language is physical touch, expressing and receiving physical touch is important and touch is the way through which they feel loved and connected to their loved ones. You feel the love when your partner engages in public display of love – when they randomly touch, hold you.
For instance – Kissing them goodbye, spending extra time cuddling, prioritizing sex, comforting them through hands on shoulders or touch, being generous with your affection, rubbing feet, giving a massage.
With quality time as one’s love language, one feels the most connected and loved in a relationship when they spend quality time with their partner. They look for a partner who appreciates spending time with them. They feel the most loved and appreciated when people they care about make time for them and give them all the attention and care. When quality time is lacking, you feel disconnected with your significant other, you make conscious efforts to spend time with them. The definition of quality time differs with each, for some it could be about making time for them daily, or it could be about planning a free time once in a while, where all the distractions are avoided, for others it could be spending time together, doing something that interests them both, or being creative. The key here is that they get to spend time together.
For instance – Having a date night, planning a weekend trip, creating a ritual (where you spend time together), going for a long walk, turning off digital spaces, hiking, and going for a coffee.
For people whose love language is receiving gifts, they appreciate thoughtful and meaningful gifts and surprises from their significant others. Those who express love through this love language put lots of effort and thoughts to give to their partners. Now, when we say receiving gifts, any gift is not going to cut it. The gifts through which they feel loved and appreciated may also be something that is deep, and meaningful to them – could be a necklace, or a card, or a cake, or preparing a dish they like etc. – anything with meaning that resonated with them. The point is that it doesn’t have to be a luxurious or big expensive spending, it could also be a small meaningful gesture, a token of their love to you.
For instance – Personal gifts, picking flowers for them, getting their favourite meal, something they love, a card etc.
Acts of service
For those with this as their love language, actions speak louder than words. Any act of kindness, of all natures, resonates deeply with them. For those with this love language, any kind of selfless and thoughtful act makes you feel loved. Those who express love through this love language, do small acts of love for their partner, such as doing chores, helping in the kitchen, preparing food, buying groceries etc. pay attention to small things, consider things that you could do – something that your partner struggles with, be spontaneous. No act here is irrelevant, any small act done with love is appreciated and noticed by someone whose love language is acts of service.
For instance – Taking dinner (on no special occasion), preparing a bath, making breakfast, doing chores, taking care of the children, getting them their favourite chocolate, meal, baked goodies etc.
So, what are the benefits of knowing the love languages?
It improves your connection with your partner. Now that you have heard of the concept and are taking efforts to discover, understand and explore each other’s love language, you are trying to connect with your partner in a better way. In a way that reduces misunderstandings as well. This adds to your communication, connections and building a stronger foundation. These new ways of connection are going to lead you to have deeper meaningful connections with each other.
None of us are mind readers or psychics. And yet, being in a relationship, it’s common for one to have certain expectations from the significant other. And sometimes they might fail to live up to it. Knowing the love language thus can help you mitigate this particular distance and helps you convey your affection and appreciation to the other. Chances are that your partner is only loving you in the way that they know, and not that they don’t love or appreciate you. Therefore it becomes all the more impertinent to connect with each other through knowing each other’s love language. Yes, relationships take effort and work. And yet, it could get exhausting to always put up with the work. Love languages can thus come to your aid here. Also, be open, communicate, and be connected with your partner.
Moreover knowing the love language, also helps one communicate their needs as well. With this awareness, you are more aware, thoughtful and mindful of each other’s languages. Knowing one’s own as well as learning your significant other’s love language can benefit you in many ways. What is important is that beyond the expectations we have of our partners, the needs we have of a relationship are met or not. And being in the know about your love languages instills you with the opportunity to communicate your needs, ask and ensure that both of your efforts contribute to meeting each other’s needs – whatever it is, it should let you know that you are loved. It might be your need from the relationship to feel safe, protected, loved, appreciated, respected, supported, validated, independent, trust, connected, space – it could be ‘N’ number of things. Communicating to your partner what acts – out of the 5 love languages or beyond – will let you know that your need is met from them.
A study by Farnsley (2021), on relationship satisfaction through the love languages revealed that “overall relationship satisfaction might be predicted by fulfilment of a person’s Love Language by their partner.”
Another study by Egbert & Polk (2006), Speaking the Language of Relational Maintenance: A Validity Test of Chapman’s (1992) Five Love Languages, suggests that “Chapman’s love languages may reflect behaviours performed to enact intended relational maintenance.”
“People who expressed their affection in the way their partners preferred to receive it, experienced greater satisfaction with their relationships and were more sexually satisfied compared to those who met their partner’s needs to a lesser extent.” (Mathews, Mostova & Stolarski. 2022).
An exploratory cluster analysis on the distribution of Chapman’s love languages in couples revealed that “a trend whereby couples were less likely to report distress the more their combination of LL preferences was congruent” (Bland & McQueen. 2018).
This valentine’s season takes up the opportunity to know more about connecting with yourself as well as your significant other’s love languages. No matter where you are in your relationship with your significant other, this day, celebrate your love for each other by being honest, courageous and taking up new initiatives to connect, communicate, enhance and build on your love for one another. Better yet, with love language, no matter your relationship with your loved one – be it friendship, family, friends, lover – you can show your appreciation and affection for one another. After all, at the end of the day we just want to love and feel loved. What better opportunity than this season of love.
To grow together, with love and openness.
A very happy Valentine’s day from us.