Understanding “love languages” is key to communicating in a relationship.

By Priyanka Aribindi
Updated August 07, 2017

When it comes to relationships, we’ve all heard that communication is key, but that can be easier said than done, especially when you and partner communicate in different ways.

In his bestseller The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman explores the idea of “love languages” and how they can impact the way you and your partner express yourselves. Chapman argues that there are five primary ways people express and receive love, and though most people value all five, there are two that operate as our primary and secondary languages, or the ones that are most important to us.

Problems can arise when partners don’t recognize how best to express their feelings to one another. For example, gestures or words that may be your partner’s favorite way to receive love—for example, helping out with chores or making breakfast—can get lost in translation if you operate with a different “love language,” and see those acts as helpful, but not an expression of their feelings.

The five major love languages Chapman outlines are as follows:

  1. Quality Time: Those who operate with this as their primary love language value one-on-one time spent with their significant others above all. According to Chapman, “Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes you feel truly special and loved.”
  2. Words of Affirmation: Actions can demonstrate love, but above all else it’s most meaningful to this person to hear from their partner. Whether it’s expressing “I love you,” or a simple, unsolicited compliment or statement of support and encouragement, words make all the difference to this person.
  3. Physical Touch: Hugs, hand-holding, and close physical proximity are this person’s favorite way to receive affection. According to Chapman, “Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and love to you.”
  4. Receiving Gifts: Those who show and receive affection this way value the thought and effort behind tokens of affection from their partner and likewise, put similar effort into giving meaningful gifts to the ones they love.
  5. Acts of Service: “Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an ‘Acts of Service’ person will speak volumes,” says Chapman. Helping out with tasks that are stressful or a burden to this person is the best way to convey that you love them and want to be there to help.

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You may notice yourself naturally gravitating to certain descriptions already, but to determine your love language and your partner’s, visit Chapman’s website for a free quick questionnaire.