How to Discover Your Love Language

How to Discover Your Love Language

Let’s see what science has to say about how the five love languages can help you.

The five love languages are a typology, or a way of organizing things – in this case, different love-related behaviors. More specifically, the five love languages are the five different expressions of love that a faith leader named Gary Chapman described in a best-selling book (Chapman, 2009). Although Chapman’s ideas were first applied primarily to romantic couples, they have also been applied to all kinds of other relationships between people.

Chapman (2009) proposed that each of us has a metaphorical “love tank”, which reflects how much we feel loved by other people. We can think of our love tank as being full when we feel close to and loved by others, and we can think of it as low or empty when our emotional needs are not being met by our relationship(s). Chapman wrote that certain behaviors fill our love tanks better than others. Each of us has preferences for how love is communicated to us – that is, each of us has a love language (or two) that we prefer over the others.

Why Are The Five Love Languages Important?

First of all, the five love languages are important because this typology is a popular idea with many people, including many therapists (Chapman, 2009). The idea of different love languages fits nicely with our natural desire to understand why some people seem more like our “types” than others, and why experiences of love can vary so widely from one person to another.

Second, it does appear that expressions of love are related to the quality of our romantic relationships (Hahn & Blass, 1997; Ireland et al., 2011). Specifically, there is a lot of research that suggests that people prefer and even seek out relationships with people who have similar ways of expressing love, and communicating more generally. This may be because people with similar styles of showing love have similar underlying personality traits (May & Jones, 2005) or because they tend to have similar attitudes regarding how to build and maintain relationships (Egbert & Polk, 2006).

“No matter where we come from, there is one language we can all speak and understand from birth, the language of the heart, love.”
― Imania Margria

The Five Types of Love Languages

Chapman (2009)’s five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Let’s look at each one in depth.

● Words of affirmation (verbal compliments and statements of appreciation)

● Quality time (focused attention and quality conversation)

● Receiving gifts (tangible gifts and physical symbols of love)

● Acts of service (doing favours for one another)

● Physical touch (from putting a hand on one’s shoulder to intercourse)

Acts of Service

Acts of service are helpful behaviors or favors that make the other person’s life easier or happier. These can include everything from doing your partner’s laundry to picking up a prescription for a friend to donating an organ to a family member who needs it. Acts of service are an intentional use of one’s own energy and time to demonstrate love for another person in a functional way.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation typically include some aspect of appreciation or being complimentary. This could include a parent praising a child for their hard effort, one partner thanking the other for making the dinner reservation, or someone praising their friend for the beautiful attention to detail in their artwork.

Quality Time

When we deliberately choose to spend time with a partner in some meaningful activity, we are expressing love through quality time. Note that sitting on the couch watching a sitcom after dinner might not count as quality time, unless you’re truly connecting through conversation while you do it. Quality time means that some thought was given to what would be an enjoyable experience for the other person.

Physical Touch

Many of us express love regularly through touch. As humans, we can use words of affection to communicate much of our love, but sometimes a wordless moment of physical contact can say just as much or more. Sexual touch definitely falls into this category, but it is far from the only way to express this love language. Sometimes little moments of physical connection often matter much more than intense, sexual touches (Gulledge et al., 2003).

Gifts

The final love language is the giving of gifts. Whether homemade or store-bought, a gift signals love by showing that you considered what the other person might want or need and that you were willing to make sacrifices or time or resources so that they could have it.

In Sum

Chapman’s five love languages are a popular and helpful way of understanding the different ways we express love. They are far from the only way to think about this, and it is likely that more research will help us understand the love languages even better. For example, a recent study suggested that we could potentially add a sixth love language – “check-ins” – to the list (Pett et al., 2023). Hopefully thinking about love languages has helped you better understand the close relationships in your life.

References

● Chapman, G. D. (2009). The 5 love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

● Egbert, N., & Polk, D. (2006). Speaking the language of relational maintenance: A validity test of Chapman’s (1992) Five Love Languages. Communication Research Reports, 23(1), 19-26.

● Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmannn, R. F. (2003). Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(4), 233-242