Here's why the 5 love languages actually matter (like, a lot)

By Sara Kloepfer

When it comes to showing someone you care about them, there is no “right” way to do it; everyone gives and receives love in different ways. But, if you are not on the same page as your partner about how you each need to feel loved, it can be frustrating and lead to miscommunication or mismatched expectations. Let me introduce you to love languages.

Theorized by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, love languages relate to how you demonstrate and recognize love. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five main ways people show love: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The way you show affection also tends to be the way you prefer to receive affection. Most people have one or two love languages that they naturally gravitate towards. However, all five are important aspects of healthy relationships, so do not just focus on one and neglect the others. 

Knowing your love language and the love language of your partner is a great way to ease communication. For example, if you need your partner to tell you how much you mean to them (words of affirmation), but they show love by doing little errands for you (acts of service), you are not going to feel valued in the way you need. Even if your partner is constantly showing you affection, if it is not in a way you appreciate, you are bound to feel frustrated.

You do not need to have the same love languages as your partner to succeed as a couple, rather, you each need to understand each other’s love language. This requires recognizing that what is important to your partner may be different than what is important to you. Your partner grew up in a different family, perhaps in a different culture, and has their own personal needs and desires. If your partner does not know their love language, it is pretty easy to figure out: observe how they express love to you and others and take note of what they request or complain about most often. Think about what would comfort them most after a hard day — is it a pep talk, spending a cozy evening in together, surprising them with their favorite dessert, making them dinner, or cuddling?

Love languages are not just for romantic relationships, they can apply to friendships too. Every relationship dynamic depends on communicating your needs to each other, and love languages are a great way to simplify that. If you or your partner’s love language is not immediately obvious, there are some simple quizzes you can take. Read on to find out how each love language is expressed. 

1. Words of affirmation  

Showing love by affirming the other person through your words. This means unsolicited compliments, telling the other person what they mean to you, or sending them a text to let them know you are thinking about them. Hearing “I love you” is important, and hearing the reasons behind it even more so. People who value words of affirmation need to hear you verbalize your feelings, and criticism can cut especially deep. 

2. Quality time 

Showing love by giving someone your full, undivided attention when you spend time together. This means being completely present, not just making an effort to spend time together. For people who value quality time, it is not so much about how much time you spend together, but how you spend that time. When their partner is distracted when they are together, they can perceive that as being ignored or unappreciated. Postponing or flaking on special dates can be especially hurtful to them. Improving quality time could mean making an extra effort to put down your phone, having deep conversations, or taking an interest in activities your partner enjoys. 

3. Gifts

Showing love through gifts. People who value receiving gifts are not materialistic, rather, they appreciate not just the gift itself, but the thoughtfulness and effort behind it. The perfect gift shows that their partner listens to, understands, and cares about them. They appreciate little everyday gifts, such as flowers, a note, or a coffee. They may take missing a birthday or anniversary or a hasty, thoughtless gift very personally. 

4. Acts of service 

Showing love by performing practical tasks for someone. This means doing unsolicited thoughtful or helpful things for your partner, such as doing the dishes, fixing their bike, or making them coffee. For people who value acts of service, actions speak louder than words. They may not always explicitly acknowledge their actions as acts of love, so take note of the little things they do to make your life easier. Laziness, breaking commitments, or making more work for them are signs of disrespect. For people with disabilities or mental health issues, acts of service can be especially meaningful when they do not have the energy to do things for themselves. Acts of service is also often a primary love language between parents and children; for example, parents perform tasks to take care of their children, while children do chores around the house to help out their parents. 

5. Physical touch 

Showing love through physical affection. This does not always have to be sexual — it can mean holding hands, cuddling, or rubbing your partner’s back. People who value physical touch may place more value on PDA or have a higher libido, but not always. If your physical desires are mismatched, or you are uncomfortable showing affection in public, you need to be very sensitive in how you discuss your boundaries. If you do not respond to or reciprocate their touch, they may feel rejected, while thoughtful touches throughout the day show your concern and care for them.


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