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Knowing your partner’s love language may be the secret to a successful relationship. Here are the 5 types and how to show them

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Marriage counselor Gary Chapman identified the five love languages after spending time with frustrated couples. His clients would often stress how they didn’t believe their spouse loved them, which shocked their partners to hear. In reality, Chapman says his clients were showing each other their love and appreciation in the way that made sense for them, but didn’t resonate with their partner. 

After repeatedly seeing this and taking note of the most common ways his clients would show or hope to receive love, he coined the five love languages—acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time—and wrote a best-selling book from the notes he took during his counseling sessions.

“One of our deepest emotional needs as humans is the need to feel significant love from the people in our lives,” Chapman tells Fortune.

“But if we don’t get a specific amount of love in our language, it won’t feel like love.” 

This feeling can change though. In romantic relationships, Chapman says it might start by regularly asking your partner, “On a scale of zero to 10, how full is your love tank?” If they say anything less than 10, follow the question up by asking them what the most important thing is that you can do to help them feel loved. 

This can be said for romantic relationships, but also relationships between coworkers, friends, and other loved ones, like parents and children.

“In any close relationship, it’s important to know what really communicates that you care,” he says.

Before being a counselor, Chapman studied cultural anthropology. Much like spoken languages have different dialects, he says the five love languages do as well. 

The best way to communicate to your partner that you love them is typically a combination of more than one of the love languages. Here are the five and different ways they can be presented to show your loved ones you care. 

1. Acts of service

Anything that involves taking action or helping to take a load off can be considered an act of service. Think of showing them you love them versus just telling them. Examples of acts of service:

  • Cook a meal for them
  • Fill their car up with gas
  • Clean the house or do the laundry unprompted
  • Walk their dog while they are out of town
  • Pack their lunch

2. Physical touch

Physical touch is a bit more obvious of a love language, but does not always have to be intimate. Other examples of showing love or appreciation with physical touch:

  • Hold their hand while you drive
  • Scratch their back while watching TV
  • If you and your partner are long-distance, talk about being excited to hold them soon.
  • Sit close to your child while talking about their day
  • Hug your friends when you greet them

3. Receiving gifts

People who rank receiving gifts as their top love language aren’t superficial or materialistic; these people just enjoy being thought of when you’re apart. These gifts do not have to be big or spendy, it’s the thought that counts. Try things like:

  • Bring back a souvenir from a trip 
  • Grab their favorite dessert on the way home from work
  • Buy concert tickets for a band you both enjoy
  • Make them a handmade card
  • Pick flowers to give to them

4. Words of affirmation

If your loved one enjoys words of affirmation, they need to be assured—and yes, even reassured—how much you love them. Hearing a simple “I love you” can make the difference between a good day or a bad one. Though you may feel like your actions convey what you’re feeling, sometimes just saying exactly how you feel is what they need. Other ways to say how you’re feeling:

  • Tell them you’re proud of them
  • Mention to them how much you like their outfit
  • Let them know how much they mean to you
  • Praise their hard work on a project, task, or activity
  • Recount your favorite dates or moments together

5. Quality time

Sometimes, people prefer old-fashioned quality time spent with their loved one. If you live together, this may seem easy to accomplish, but don’t forget that quality time often means uninterrupted time with little-to-no distractions. Here are ways to spend quality time together, maybe even without a cell phone:

  • Go for a drive and listen to your favorite songs together
  • Bake and decorate cookies
  • Help your child with their homework
  • Play a board game (or two or three)
  • Run errands together

Check in with the individual regularly to see what they need, as our love languages can change. It’s important to remember that everyone typically enjoys most love languages in some form, but there is often one that we prefer.

“Learning [your loved one’s] primary love language is going to help you be far more effective in communicating, and be far less frustrating in the long run,” says Chapman.

As mentioned above, we usually resonate with a combination of the five love languages versus just one, but these love languages can look different for everyone. This can be especially true for neurodivergent people, for example. The point of love languages, no matter how they are defined, is to learn more about yourself and your relationships.

By understanding what your loved one needs, and how they need it expressed, there is less room for miscommunication and more room for great moments together.



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