Humans use language as a principal form of communicating with each other. Language allows us to convey our needs, wants, desires, demands and everything in between to be able to build interpersonal relationships and get by in the world. The language that we become most proficient in our lives is known as our primary language. Many factors contribute to the development of our primary language, this may be geography, ethnicity, the people around us, environment etc.
If languages already allow us to communicate with each other, then what are love languages and what do they help us achieve? The work and research of Dr. Gary Chapman has led to what he deems as the 5 love languages – the way humans communicate with one another to fulfil our emotional needs.
Words of Affirmation – verbal expressions of love, which may include words of encouragement, appreciation and compliments.
- “Thank you for coming with me tonight, I really appreciate it”
- “I loved that dish you made last week, could you make it again?”
- “You’re going to ace the interview; I believe in you!”
Quality Time – fostering a sense of togetherness by giving your partner your undivided attention.
- Quality conversations: different from words of affirmation, in this form it is about hearing what is said, rather than the words spoken
- Spending time at the restaurant talking with each other rather than being on our phones
- Setting aside 30 minutes each night to debrief on each other’s day
- Quality activities: engaging in activities that allow you both to be and do things with one another and bolster that sense of togetherness. Quality activities include the following three elements:
- One partner wants to do the activity
- The other partner willingly engages in the activity
- Both have an understanding that they are participating in the activity to spend time with each other
Receiving Gifts – an expression of love where the ‘gift’ symbolises being in their partner’s thoughts. The object, monetary value or size of the gift is not what is important, but rather, it represents a visual symbol of love.
- Returning with pastry for your partner after going out for brunch with friends
- Making a handmade card for their birthday
- Offer your presence at an event or occasion that you would not normally attend (e.g., birthday party, work drinks, concert)
Acts of Service – When actions speak louder than words. Expressions of love is perceived by taking the initiative to do tasks without being asked. These are generally small day-day tasks or chores that may become nagged about.
- Clean away the plates after dinner
- Making sure the petrol in the car is full
- Laying out their clothes for the next day
- Taking their bag as they walk through the door
Physical Touch – expressions of love through physical connection
- Holding hands, hugging, placing your hand on their knee at dinner
- Rubbing their back, shoulder massages, running your hand through their hair
- Kissing and physical intimacy
Now that we are aware of the five love languages, are you able to identify which ones might be yours? What about your partner’s or your friend’s love language?
Just like our primary spoken language, our personal love language is learnt and shaped by many factors during childhood. Children tend to develop unique emotional patterns, which depend upon their individual characteristics as well as how their parents and the significant people in their lives expressed love to them. This in turn tends to become their own primary love language. They become the most proficient in expressing love in this way and seek this form of love from their partner to be emotionally fulfilled.
Emotional distance can grow in a relationship when both partners are not speaking the same language. Both may feel as though they are emotionally expressing their needs, but never being heard. A partner may be offering words of affirmation time and time again, however if their partner’s primary love language is physical touch, then those words are falling on deaf ears. It is akin to speaking in Portuguese when your partner only understands Korean.
Throughout our life, we may learn a secondary language, however this may require more effort, take more practice and we may never be as comfortable with this as we are with our primary language. This can also be true for love languages. You and your partner may need to learn secondary love languages to be able to emotionally communicate with each other. This may be difficult and unfamiliar at first, but with patience and persistence will come success.
To find out your love language head to the following site and take the quick quiz: