Understanding your love language as well as your partner’s can help strengthen the relationship. Here are the five love languages and what they mean.
Love languages are used to describe how people prefer to show and receive love and affection. There are five: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts.
Author, counselor, and pastor, Gary Chapman first named the five love languages in his 1992 book The 5 Love Languages. Chapman created the love languages based on observations he made while counseling couples. He noticed communication patterns between partners and could see when they weren’t meeting each other’s emotional needs.
Understanding your love language as well as your partner’s can help strengthen the relationship.
The Five Love Languages
Chapman’s love language theory suggests that each person has a specific way they prefer to give and receive love.
1. Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation means the person prefers to receive love by way of spoken language or written messages. They probably enjoy being told they’re loved and appreciated and will respond well to love notes, texts, and encouraging words when they’re doing something. Did your partner do something really great or helpful? Make sure to tell them.
2. Quality Time
This person wants you to spend quality time with them. It can be shorter blocks of time as long as you give them your full attention. Someone with this love language will value quality over quantity. They’ll want you to put down your cell phone or any screen, make eye contact, listen to what they’re saying, and respond thoughtfully.
3. Physical Touch
Someone who has physical touch as their primary love language feels love when affection is shown physically. It could be sex, but physical touch is also about more than sexual encounters. They might enjoy a hug, back rub, cuddling, hand-holding, a gentle massage, and more. A person with this love language feels love by receiving touch, and they want to be close to a partner physically.
4. Acts of Service
Acts of service means doing things for your partner. Someone with this love language feels loved and appreciated when you help them with something. It could be running an errand, cleaning, cooking, or helping them with a project. People who receive affection through acts of service usually notice the things you do and might also perform acts of service for people they love.
5. Receiving Gifts
Someone with this love language responds when you give them gifts. Receiving gifts is about more than just getting things for this person. They also appreciate the time and effort you put into finding the right gift for them or for a certain moment. People with this love language will probably keep the gifts you give them and remember the gifts they receive.
How Learning Love Languages Benefit Relationships
Partners might not have the same love language, but if they can learn each other’s language, they’re more likely to make each other feel loved and appreciated. Chapman felt that learning a partner’s love language and practicing it was an easy way to improve the relationship.
While love languages can be a powerful tool in learning how to show someone affection, they won’t fix all relationship issues. If you and your partner are having significant challenges that you’d like to work through, you might consider working with a therapist to unpack issues and improve communication.
- Chapman, G. D. (2004). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.
- Mostova O, Stolarski M, Matthews G. I love the way you love me: Responding to partner’s love language preferences boosts satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples. PLoS One. 2022 Jun 22;17(6):e0269429. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269429.
- Hughes JL, Camden AA. Using Chapman’s five love languages theory to predict love and relationship satisfaction. PsiChiJournal. 2020;25(3):234-244. doi:10.24839/2325-7342.jn25.3.234
- Bland, A. M., & McQueen, K. S. (2018). The Distribution of Chapman’s Love Languages in Couples: An Exploratory Cluster Analysis. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 7(2), 103-126. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000102