“I love you,” is universal. Sometimes though, a freshly mopped kitchen without a dish in sight means “I love you” or the sweatshirt you saw at the mall, but didn’t buy waiting on the bed means “I love you.” Sometimes, it’s easy to see these unspoken signals, but when partners are speaking two different love languages, the message isn’t always clear.
The five love languages are a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages. He presents a simple concept, relationships improve when we understand each other.
This concept is supported by the basics of communication studies. When something is communicated (whether through words or actions) there’s both an intended meaning and an understood meaning.
Think about a foreign language. If someone said “ Wǒ ài nǐ” would you know that meant “I love you?” In the same vein, Chapman defines five love languages to understand how to better communicate our intended meaning in a way that will be understood.
Words of Affirmation refers to affection through direct “I love you’s,” compliments, verbal appreciation or encouragement, and frequent check-ins through text or social media.
Acts of Service refers to affection through assistance or tasks that make their life easier. It’s the embodiment of actions that speak louder than words.
Receiving Gifts refers to affection through physical embodiments of thoughtfulness. The focus is not on the cost of the gifts, but on the concept of “They thought about me and picked this.”
Quality Time refers to affection through time spent together with active listening and participation. It’s not about the physical closeness, but the attention to them with distraction.
Physical Touch refers to affection through touch whether it’s casual contact when in public like holding hands or physical proximity or active touch like cuddling, kissing, or sex.
Just ask! They might not know their own love language, so an indirect approach will explore the topic widely:
“What makes you feel loved?”
“What have I done in the past that made you feel really special?”
If you want to know more specifically, try these themed conversation cards that can create a date night out of exploring what both of your love languages are. Once you know the language they’re speaking, you can try ‘speaking’ it too! Here’s Love Languages 101, Easy Phrases.
Tell them when they do something you like: “Thank you for cooking dinner. This is delicious.”
Acknowledge what they do well: “Sometimes I’m amazed at your brain. You’re so smart.”
Text them randomly during the day with a little check-in.
Take-over a task that they would normally do like empty the dishwasher.
Handle household tasks, even small things can be impactful like taking out trash.
Make a coffee for them in the morning before work.
Pick up their favorite drink or candy when you run other errands.
Note in your phone for when they mention things they want so you can remember them.
Gift them presents outside of standard holidays.
Schedule time in your calendar to explore new hobbies together.
Give them your full attention at mealtimes by leaving your phone in another room.
Set up a recurring date night.
Hold hands when you’re out walking.
Prioritize physical intimacy (which can be sex or any form of physical closeness).
Make a point to hug or kiss before you leave for work.
The five love languages are merely a guide. Remember that listening directly to your partner is going to matter more than anything you find on the internet, but use these languages to get into your partner’s headspace about what makes them feel loved. Like any language, practice speaking often and you’ll get better and better.
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Founder and lead planner of Amore Austin. It's my mission to transform couples' dream proposals into reality by using creative solutions to design and execute luxuriously romantic proposals that are as unique as the couples we love to serve.
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