Are you speaking your partner’s love language?

The notion of love languages was constructed by Gary Chapman in his book, “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts”, wherein he identifies five distinct ways of communicating love. Each definition of love was extracted from his expertise in marriage counselling and linguistics.

Chapman’s work claims that a mismatch in love languages can be detrimental to romantic relationships, it can cause one or both parties to feel isolated, mistreated or neglected. Hence, this framework to romantic relationships has become an important component in sustaining a healthy and thriving relationship.

The five love languages help us gain an understanding of what makes our partner feel the most valued. As such, it also helps us become more sensitive to their emotional cues and unique vulnerabilities.

It is noteworthy to know that it is essential to maintain healthy boundaries between you and your partner when using the love language concept. It is not appropriate to use the ideology of love languages as an effort to control the behaviour and attitude of your partner. We must remember that the framework is intended to be a reflective tool of you and your partner’s emotional needs. With that being said, here are some of the five love languages that you should know!

Five love languages according to Gary Chapman

1) Words of affirmation

This is one of the most common love languages according to Chapman’s research. People who resonate with this approach of love are people who feel appreciated when their partner articulates statements of affection and gratitude towards them. Affirmative words in a romantic relationship serve as a verbal reminder and promise that all is well in the relationship.

Those who converse this in this particular love language feel encouraged when they hear things like, "You're so beautiful" or, "I really appreciate you" from their partner. This can be carried out in a variety of ways, be it through text, letter, spoken word, or a card.

2) Physical touch

These are people that are receptive to physical acts of affection. If your partner is showing you that they take full comfort and joy in your embrace, their love language could be physical touch. These are people who seek to be in close proximity to their significant other because it allows them to be physically connected, this can come in the form of holding hands, hugs, kisses and so on. Both sexual and non-sexual forms of physical intimacy can act as a major emotional connector for people with this love language.

3) Acts of service

When your partner has a great deal on their plate, anything that you can do to help take some weight off them will make them feel special and valued. This could be in the form of doing housework, preparing dinner, refuelling the car and so on. These are people who appreciate assistance in any shape or form, it does not even have to be work-related. It could be as simple as holding the door open for them when their hands are full or making the bed in the morning. This love language is applicable to people who believe in the saying that “actions speak louder than words”.

4) Quality time

These kinds of individuals are seeking their partner's recognition, not in a way that is deemed clingy. Rather, the emphasis is on spending quality time together, which amplifies one's feeling of being valued by the person they love. This goes beyond just dinner dates and movie nights, it is about capturing the undivided attention of one’s affection. These people feel loved when intentional focus from their partner is directed to them. Intentional focus can be conveyed through active listening, firm eye contact and the quality of being mentally present.

5) Gift-giving

Gifts is a simple and straight-forward love language; these are individuals who value “visual symbols of love”, as Chapman calls it. It is not about the financial worth behind the gift, it is about the symbolic value behind the gift.

People who speak this particular love language appreciate the thoughtfulness in the gift-giving process. They value the careful evaluation of the gift, the intentional choice of the object to convey affection and the emotional meanings attached to it. In other words, they feel most loved when their partner’s expression of love is in the form of a tangible item.

Once you have identified which love language is your partner’s top preference, you can start to practise their preferred love language to enhance the quality of your relationship. It invites both you and your partner to stay curious and engaged in one another’s emotional needs and tendencies.

Love languages can be the map to effective communication but it is not the antidote to all relationship conflicts. It must be recognised as a function that helps couples become more aware of their own needs and the needs of their partner; it is often the gateway to meaningful conversations that will set couples on the right track but the work does not stop there.

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