A Beginner’s Guide to Love Languages (& How to Use Them to Keep Your Relationship From Turning Into Hot Trash)

A Beginner’s Guide to Love Languages (& How to Use Them to Keep Your Relationship From Turning Into Hot Trash)

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Have you ever done a super thoughtful gesture for a loved one and have it go completely unnoticed? Or have you dropped every hint to a friend or partner about a gift you’d love to receive—only to end up empty-handed? Well, there’s a chance that everyone around you sucks. Or alternatively (and probably more likely), maybe you two are just speaking different languages—as in, love languages. What are love languages, you ask? Well, my friend, get ready for a wealth of information as you’ve come to the right place to have your curiosity satiated. Quenched, even.

Back in 1992, Veteran marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman came up with the Five Love Languages to describe these gaps in communication between people who care about each other—and since then, they’ve become kind of a phenomenon among a certain personality type-loving crowd (gestures dramatically to self). Dr. Chapman claims that all of the different ways we give and receive love can be boiled down into five categories and that each person mostly shows their affection via one or two of these categories. Just based on how math works, you’re likely not to speak the same exact love language(s) as your S.O. and friends. Dr. Chapman also says that identifying these differences can be the first step to actually feeling and sharing the love.

If you don’t already know your language, Dr. Chapman recommends asking yourself what makes you feel the most loved, what you find yourself asking for the most, and how you usually express love as you read the list below (you can also take the love languages quiz). You’ll likely be able to find your own language—and you might also realize that the last five times Adam took out the garbage, he wasn’t just doing it because he’s an anal clean freak, but because it’s his version of kissing, or whatever. The point is, you’re just that much closer to harmony the more you know about what love language you and your loved ones are speaking!

What Are the Five Love Languages?

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Quality Time

Someone whose primary love language is quality time values undivided attention and togetherness over anything else. They likely won’t be satisfied with surface-level conversation or with just shared TV time. They’re happiest when you’re fully engaged with them, learning things about each other, or sharing thoughts and feelings. One of the major “dialects” of the quality time love language is quality conversation—meaning you’d better bring your A game and be ready to share about yourself. Listen thoughtfully to them, as well.

Another dialect is partaking in quality activities. Taking the time to do something a QTer loves with them is a huge display of time well spent. People who love in quality time can lash out if they feel like their share of your time is being threatened. If someone close to you has brought up the late hours you work or how much time you seem to be spending with a new friend, they might just be trying to tell you they’d like a bigger piece of that sweet, sweet time pie. Give them the gift of an intentionally scheduled conversation, a no-phone date night, or some shared activity time and watch their gripes with your schedule vanish.

Ideas for Speaking the Quality Time Love Language:

  • Go for a walk in an area one of you has history with and talk about it.
  • Pick an interest or hobby they love and plan an afternoon around it.
  • Print out the “36 Questions That Lead to Love” questionnaire that went viral a few years ago and crack open a bottle of wine. Have fun learning about each other.
  • Make each other slideshows of photos from before you knew each other and explain why each one is important.
  • Plan a dream trip or a made-up business together.
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Words of Affirmation

If you feel happiest when someone tells you they appreciate you, that you’re good at something, or that you look nice, you might just speak in Words of Affirmation. The easiest way to get to this type’s heart is with clear and simple validations: things you love about them, recognition of accomplishments, or even just noting that their outfit looks good. A really strong dialect of this language is encouragement. Nothing lifts an Affirmationer’s spirits faster than recognizing a talent or gift they have. Sometimes the words of a loved one carry a lot more weight than anything their internal monologue is telling them. This is why it’s vital to learn what’s most important to people who speak this language and be fervently protective of it.

Not only is it important to encourage them but any negative words towards topics close to their heart could be devastating. If you find that your gestures or gifts for a person are going unnoticed, I’d suggest just straight up telling them the things the gesture was supposed to mean because there’s a good chance that’s what they’re really looking for. If you’re not used to ~talking about feelings~, this might seem like a big ask at first. But knowing that all someone really wants is for you to look at them and say things you like can definitely make things simpler.

Ideas for Speaking the Words of Affirmation Love Language:

  • Start keeping a little list of stuff they do that you like and appreciate. Make a note to tell them things on your list throughout your week.
  • Write them a little card just to tell them you care about them.
  • Take care to support any creative ventures they take up. Read their writing, look at their art and tell them what you love about it.
  • Take out a nice pen and write a good, old fashioned love letter! If you absolutely can’t do snail mail, write them an email about things you love about them.
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Acts of Service

People who relate to this language view sacrifice/labor as the biggest expression of love. If the sexiest thing a person could do for you is vacuum the carpets, guess what, this is probably you. The biggest windfall for this type is that asking for love can come off as nagging—requests for an empty sink or a clean bathroom can sound more like demands than a relational ask. Service folks can also end up feeling unappreciated if their partner doesn’t recognize all the labor they do is supposed to be a display of love.

The best thing you can do for an Acts of Service person is save them time and energy by doing some of these tasks for them. Taking time out of your day to make theirs easier is guaranteed to make them feel loved and appreciated in a big way.

Ideas for Speaking the Acts of Service Love Language:

  • Chores. Literally. Keep in mind things they hate doing the most or say they wish they had time to get to and take care of them. Cook dinner on a night they feel stressed or Swiffer unexpectedly and watch them pop a big ol’ chore boner.
  • Fill up their car with gas or take it to get washed.
  • If you’re low on time, consider hiring a maid service to deep clean the apartment one weekend or shop for their groceries online. Watch the tension leave their shoulders as they realize you’ve given them the gift of time, energy and rest.
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Receiving Gifts

It may sound materialistic but monetary value has very little to do with having Receiving Gifts as your love language. People in this category view gifts as tangible reminders that people care about them. Effort and thought matter way more than the actual value of whatever you’re giving.

If you’re looking to make a Receiving Gifts person happy, don’t wait for a birthday or anniversary to show the love—give them something that made you think of them on your next date night or Netflix sesh or any other ordinary day and watch them light up. Tokens of affection mean everything to this type—they just want to be able to look around and see they’re cared for. Even a card for no reason or a cool rock that made you think of them will be appreciated.

Ideas for Speaking the Receiving Gifts Love Language:

  • Be spontaneous without breaking the bank. Bring home a rose, a cupcake, or something else small but meaningful the next time you’re out. It’ll mean the world to them.
  • What matters most for Gift types is the thought and gesture behind the gift, so make sure when you’re picking one out, it means something to you both. If you’re a crappy gift giver, reach out to friends who know your person well—no shame in getting a little assistance!
  • Keep a note in your phone so you can sneakily jot down things your person points out or mentions they like. This will save you time around the holidays when you’re 100% going to be paralyzed with pressure!
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Physical Touch

This is not (just) the horny type! Of course Touch people care about big physical intimacy, but equally important are the everyday touches that will make this type feel loved and wanted. Throwing an arm around them at a movie, holding hands on a walk, or just brushing your hand through their hair will speak volumes. People with this love language see physical affection as the ultimate sign that they’re cared for, so even little touches are important to them.

Ideas for Speaking the Physical Touch Love Language:

  • Take a massage class. Might as well get really good at that thing they love!
  • Set aside time to really talk about what they like physically. Intentionality is important.
  • Make it a habit to touch them regularly, even if it’s just putting your hand on theirs or hugging them hello and goodbye. If you’re not very physical yourself, this can feel like a daunting habit to take on, but practice makes perfect.
  • Make an effort to touch them (NOT IN A BIG GROSS WAY. I WANT TO BE VERY CLEAR. IN A CHILL WAY ONLY!) when you’re in groups so they know you’re still thinking about them when others are around.