A lot of miscommunication takes root in not understanding how others show their affection. As humans, we can become resentful if we tend to show love a certain way, and do not receive the same in return. The chances are that it is not that the other does not care as much, but that their love language is different. American author Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book on the five love languages in 1995, which covers exactly that: five different ways people express their love.
We all have at least a little bit of each love language, but what Chapman defines as your “primary love language” is that which is more prominent than the other ones. Humans, at the end of the day, are multifaceted and we cannot encapsulate ourselves in a single category. However, understanding what type we relate to the most is the beginning of learning, and taking advantage of the love language theory.
Understanding your own and your loved ones’ love language is an essential tool in improving your relationships with them. By understanding what love languages are, we can begin to see others’ efforts to care for us more clearly. Additionally, we can tailor our efforts so that they can feel our love.
Words of affirmation
The first love language is words of affirmation. According to the official Five Love Languages website, “If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you.” You better understand that someone loves you and cares when they straight up tell you so.
On the other hand, insults, rudeness and lack of encouragement hurt this kind of person more than someone whose primary love language is not words of affirmation. For this type of person, actions are necessary, but what makes you feel at home is hearing how much somebody loves you.
Acts of service
This love language anticipates the needs of someone and helps them meet them: Are you stressed? I can help you study for your exam. Are you tired? No worries, I’ll clean the house for you. Acts of service seem to take away the burden of responsibilities weighing on the loved one, at least to an extent.
For someone with this love language, it is crucial that you pay attention to their needs, not add to them. If they feel like you are lazy, breaking your commitments and adding on to their burdens, it is like telling them their feelings do not matter. To show them you care, do something you’re not obliged to every once in a while.
The initial impression some people have when learning about this language is thinking that it is superficial or material, but this is not true. For those who speak this love language, what matters is not the gift, but what the gift shows.
The thought and effort that goes behind gifts are what matter for this person. A small, unexpected gift that is thoughtful is like saying, “I pay attention to your needs,” “this reminded me of you” and “I care.”
As with the rest of the love languages, you can easily hurt a person who speaks this language by exhibiting the opposite behavior. A forgotten birthday or a thoughtless, superficial gift could do a lot of harm for someone like this. For them, it’s not about the material value but the meaning behind it. By being thoughtless, it is like you are saying, “I don’t care enough to make an effort.”
For those who speak this language, the best way to show love is by giving them your full and undivided attention. Quality time does not have to be anything exciting. It can just be sitting together and watching TV, as long as you are fully present and there with them.
Actions need to say, “There is nowhere I’d rather be,” and that, for them, is love. Showing undivided attention to these people might deepen your connection, while being constantly distracted and not prioritizing time with them can make them feel neglected.
Finally, someone whose primary language is physical touch tends to be touchy and needs physical closeness. Contact is not limited to hugs or kisses, but any thoughtful touch will do. Hugs, pats on the back, hand-holding or merely physical presence is crucial.
Not being physically close to them or physically causing them pain can be considered unforgivable and could potentially destroy this relationship. By keeping physical contact with them, you can make them feel loved.
Speaking the language of love
Some of us feel loved by being told we are, some others by being hugged. Your love language might involve a thoughtful gift, cleaning your partner’s house, or a relaxing afternoon watching Netflix. Detecting it can improve your relationships and even your understanding of yourself. We do not all need to speak the same language to love each other, because even if a certain one is not our primary, we can still make an effort and understand.