Healthy Relationships: The Five Love Languages

In my coaching, I have found it particularly useful for couples to understand and integrate the Five Love Languages.  Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) says that there are five main ways individuals express and receive love.  Each of us has a preference for with language we receive.  We are also each more skilled in giving love in one of these ways than the other.

The trick is that we are most likely to give love in the forms that we most enjoy receiving.  But our partner may have a different preferred language and may miss our attempts at showing our love, or may give love in a way we aren't even realizing!

To clarify your preference take a few notes on the following questions:

1.  What is the sweetest thing your partner has ever done for you?  What made it so touching?

2.  What are the five most recent ways you showed your partner you love them?  How did they respond?

This information will help you determine your preferred love language.  Often we default to our own favorite love language when giving love to our partner.  However, its important to try to use a variety of ways to show your sweetheart you care.  Its even more helpful to learn their preference and try to work in ways they will really enjoy being loved.

The Five Love Languages are:

1.  Words of Love: Sweet things said or written to one another

There are many ways to share words of love.  It's really helpful to share affirmations and appreciations every day.  Tell your partner why they are special to you and what drew you to them.  Help them see how great they are in person and in writing.  Emails, texts, quick phone calls or Skype dates can quickly warm your loved ones' heart.  It can take a little creativity if this isn't your primary love language.  Make a list of all the ways you can tell them and begin making attempts every day.  You might want to make them a card, write it on a cake, read it in a poem, or shout it from the rooftop!

2.  Physical Affection: Nonverbal physical intimacy

Do you hold hands in the movies?  Do you kiss hello and goodbye?  hugging, cuddling, and sex is especially important to partners who prioritize this love language.  Increasing the amount of loving touch you share doesn't take much time, but may require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a physically affectionate family.  Simply sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but can communicate your love loudly.

3.  Acts of Service: Actions providing care for the other

Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an a partner who highly values acts of service will speak volumes. Some of the words they most want to hear are, “Let me do that for you.”  Ask yourself, what chore or responsibility is your partner constantly nagging you about?  Your spouse is telling you this particular task as a really important thing to him or her.  Try it as a starting point for your acts of service.

4.  Quality Time: The gift of your undivided attention

Time is a strong communicator of love and all too often couples spend more time apart than together.   Because we are drawn in so many directions it is especially important to spend real-time focused on each other and your partnership.  In order to increase connection and communication for the partner who especially values quality time there are a few easy ways to improve the quality of your shared time.

  • Set your electronic devices aside for a set time (especially on dates and during conversations).

  • Maintain eye contact when your partner is talking

  • Try not to interrupt

  • Reflect your partners words back to them so they know you hear them.

  • Ask yourself, what your partner is experiencing, and try to confirm their emotional experience

5.  Gifts: Gestures and/or presents as symbols of your love

All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.  This does not have to be a materialistic gesture.  Some of the most meaningful gifts can include tickets to a show you loved together, or a receipt from a date when you were just getting to know each other.  They can be flowers from your yard, or drawings, or poems.  Keep a note of your partners wish list (Evernote can be a great tool for this on your smart phone) so you always have ideas handy.

Understanding the five love languages and the ways they support your love can lead to greater creativity, interest, and most importantly awareness in your relationship.