Decoding Affection: A Comprehensive Guide to Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages

September 7, 2023

Love is a universal language, but how it’s expressed varies from person to person, culture to culture. The idea that there are 5 core “love languages” was introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman, a renowned marriage counselor and author, in his book “The 5 Love Languages.”

The idea is simple: if you know what someone’s love language is, you can show them love in the way that they value and like most — and vice versa.

Being aware of your partner's love language reduces miscommunication, enhances understanding, and strengthens your relationship, but it can also help with any relationship, including with family members and friends.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 5 love languages.

The 5 Love Languages: A Comprehensive Breakdown

According to Dr. Chapman, there are 5 love languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

The idea is that everyone shows love and interprets the actions of others as loving through these 5 major languages. They are not mutually exclusive — it's possible for someone to resonate with more than one love language, or even all of them.

Here’s how each of them works.

Words of Affirmation

If you like to verbally express how you feel to those you care about, Words of Affirmation is probably one of your love languages.

This can be as simple as giving your partner compliments, telling them how much you appreciate them, or telling them you think they’re beautiful, handsome, amazing, awesome, etc. The possibilities are as endless as the English language itself.

Of course, this doesn’t just have to be verbal — writing them a note or texting them to say these things is just as valuable. If this is your love language, you feel most loved when your partner tells you how much they love you, appreciate you, and value you.

This is also likely how you best express your feelings of love. You might tell your partner you love them 50 times a day. The drawback is that, if your partner speaks a different language, they might not give you the amount of affirmation you need to feel okay, and they might not feel loved by simply hearing you say it.

Quality Time

Quality time means spending uninterrupted time together. If this is your love language, you value the time your partner spends with you. You may only value specific activities — going on a date, going hiking, having deep conversations — or you might be fine with doing anything as long as they’re around.

People who speak this love language will have a very difficult time being in a relationship with someone who can’t be with them a lot, but what being “with them” means will differ from person to person.

For example, you might be fine with a long-distance relationship as long as you can call them for a few hours every day, or you’ll feel fulfilled as long as they text you all day long.

The drawback is that if your partner works long hours or can’t be home much for another reason, and you really need them around, you’ll feel neglected, even if they actually love you deeply and you feel the same.

For partners that don’t value this, you need to be clear about how much you need this time with them, because for them, as long as their own love language is being met (for example, physical touch), they won’t be bothered about being away from you for long periods of time.

Receiving Gifts

This love language isn't necessarily about materialism — what matters more in most cases is the thought and effort that goes into the gift. If this is your love language, you feel loved when your partner surprises you with gifts that show they know what you like and appreciate you.

The difficulty with this love language is that you may have specific requirements for your gifts that are difficult to meet. For example, if you expect expensive flowers multiple times a week, this may not be something your partner can reasonably give you.

Or you might only want gifts that require a lot of effort to get — maybe you want your partner to create something for you, like poems or paintings. This may be too time-consuming for them.

On the other hand, something small and simple might be enough to get you through between the larger gifts. If this is your love language, it’s very important you tell your partner how much gifts mean to you — you then need to find ways for them to do it reasonably given your combined budget.

If your partner doesn’t speak this love language, they might only give you gifts on big occasions, leaving you feeling unfulfilled. They might also not care much when you give them gifts, so it’s important that you communicate this to them so that they can understand how much this means to you.

Acts of Service

This love language involves doing things that you know your partner would like, such as chores, cooking a meal, or running errands. If this is your love language, you feel loved when your partner does things to make your life easier.

If this is your love language, you’ll feel happiest when your partner does things for you, even something simple like giving you a back massage or taking out the trash. If this is your partner’s love language, try to find out what you can do for them to reduce their burden each day.

If your partner doesn’t speak this love language, they may not realize how important it is to you that they do their chores or help with the kids, which can happen with partners who work a lot or have a lot of obligations outside the home.

It’s important that you tell them how much it means to you that they help out and do things for you. If this is your partner’s love language, try to find out what chores or activities they hate the most so that you can help out where it matters most.

Physical Touch

This love language expresses love through physical contact. If this is your love language, you feel loved when your partner shows affection through touching, hugging, kissing, cuddling, or sex.

If this is your love language, you’ll feel unloved if your partner doesn’t hug or hold you regularly, or if they don’t want to hold your hand very often or make love. They might not be physically affectionate naturally and may not realize how much you need physical touch.

Clearly communicate to your partner how much you need these things, and make it especially clear that you want them to initiate, that it shouldn’t always be you who comes up to give them a hug or a kiss.

If this isn’t your partner’s love language, they just might not understand how much touching you matters, and you touching them all the time might mean nothing, or even annoy them. You have to both get on the same page as physical touch is different for everyone.

For example, some people don’t like to be touched at all regardless of who it is. Some people have diseases that make them uncomfortable when they’re touched or cause them a lot of pain — finding out this in advance and then figuring out workarounds is essential.

The Importance of Understanding Love Languages

Understanding someone’s love language, even if you don’t speak it, is critical for any relationship — if you want something to really last, you have to find ways of doing things for them that make them feel loved while helping them do the same for you.

It can help you communicate more effectively, foster a deeper connection, and avoid misunderstandings. It's an internal roadmap guiding you on how to meet your emotional needs and those of your partner.

Knowing your partner's love language helps you express your feelings in a way they will appreciate and understand best. Ultimately, this can lead to stronger bonds and better communication.

Having Relationship Issues? Hormones Might Be to Blame

If you’ve found that the spark is missing in your relationship, a hormone imbalance could be to blame. When your hormones are too low or too high, it can drastically change how you think, feel, and react to other people, including your partner.

To learn more about hormone replacement therapy and how it can help, schedule an appointment today.