What Are the 5 Love Languages?

The five languages are quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and physical touch. Knowing them can help strengthen relationships.

Love is one of the deepest emotions you can experience as a human—especially when that love is for another person. But giving and receiving love can be a complicated exchange, particularly if you and your partner have different ways of expressing love.

To help people navigate this phenomenon, Gary Chapman, PhD, a well-known author, speaker, and marriage counselor, developed the idea of the Five Love Languages. Based on years of clinical practice, Chapman suggests that a person experiences love in five distinct ways:

  • Quality time
  • Acts of service
  • Words of affirmation
  • Receiving gifts
  • Physical touch

When people do not speak the same love language as their partner—or they give or receive love in a different way—Chapman says they can experience relational challenges and can ultimately feel unloved. That can be resolved, though, by learning to speak your partner's love language—which can help your relationship grow, your love deepen, and your communication improve.

A Look at Each Love Language

The Five Love Languages Photo Composite

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According to Chapman, all five love languages have a place in a relationship, but each person has a primary love language that makes them feel loved. Additionally, learning to speak your partner's love language—as well as sharing your own—can help strengthen your relationship, reduce misunderstandings, and lead to more happiness and relationship satisfaction.

Words of Affirmation

If your partner's love language is words of affirmation, they likely want to be appreciated, valued, and even treasured. But the way this is done is important. People with this love language often prefer a soft tone, kind words, and humble requests.

Another way to use words of affirmation is to compliment your partner in front of friends, family, or coworkers. Your loved one may feel more loved because you are expressing admiration for them in front of others.

You also can show love by being encouraging and pointing out what they do well or what you appreciate about them—especially out of the blue. You also can send uplifting quotes, write love notes, create a thoughtful card, or create fun text messages. Your positive and kind words can go a long way in making them feel loved and connected to you.

Quality Time

The love language of quality time revolves around giving your partner your undivided attention and creating a sense of togetherness. During your time together, it is important to focus your attention on each other and not have interruptions from your phone, social media, work, or children.

Another way to experience this love language is to set aside time for a quality conversation. Ideally, you will both have time to share your thoughts, feelings, and desires, which is crucial for feeling loved.

Quality time can also involve doing something together like going for a walk, participating in a fun activity, or having dinner together. The key is to focus on one another and pay attention to what the other is thinking, feeling, and saying.

Physical Touch

While physical touch is often an integral part of any relationship, for people who see this as their primary love language it is a powerful way to communicate. Showing love to your partner in this way can involve hugging, holding hands, giving a massage, kissing, and being sexually intimate.

Even cuddling close on the couch, touching their arm, or playfully bumping them with your shoulder can communicate love. The key, though, is discovering what type of physical touch your partner wants. It is very possible that they may not want to be touched in certain ways.

You also never want to pressure your partner into physical touch they are not interested in. Instead, ask what they like and dislike or what they prefer when it comes to touch. Some people may appreciate holding hands in public or kissing goodbye, while it might make others uncomfortable. You want to ensure you have your partner's consent before touching them in any way.

Receiving Gifts

Gift giving has always been intertwined in relationships, but for some people the simple act of receiving a gift can communicate love in a number of ways. Not only are you investing in the relationship when you give someone a gift, but also you are demonstrating that you know them on a deeper level.

Of course picking out a gift is not always an easy task—and if it is not a strength of yours, it can cause some distress. But gifts do not have to cost money or take an enormous amount of time. Instead, something as simple as picking a few wildflowers can be a great gift, especially if the flowers have some significance for your partner.

Also, experts indicate that the entire process of gift giving—from the fact that you thought about the person to the careful choosing of a gift—can cause strong feelings of affection. Gift giving also communicates a level of selflessness and appreciation.

Acts of Service

If your partner's love language is acts of service, they likely appreciate it and feel loved when you do things for them. From relieving them of a responsibility to offering to do something helpful, showing love through acts of service means doing things that you know they would appreciate or need help with.

Offering to do things for your partner—or even doing something without being asked—shows that you are thinking about them and that you want to make their life better. It also demonstrates a level of unselfishness, especially when you put their needs above your own.

The key is to do things with a positive attitude. Doing so communicates love because these acts convey you are thinking about your partner.

What Is Your and Your Partner's Love Language?

The basic premise behind the five love languages is to treat your partner in a way that communicates love to them—or fills their "love tank," as Chapman calls it. This may mean learning to communicate in a way that feels foreign to you—especially if the two of you have different love languages. But by learning to love your partner in meaningful ways, you will likely reduce frustration and increase your connection and intimacy.

One way to discover your love language is to take The Love Language Quiz, which is designed to pinpoint your primary love language. Your partner can take it too so that they and you can find out how they best love.

If your partner is not receptive to taking a love language quiz, you can ask them questions to try to determine how they receive love. For instance, ask your partner, "What would an ideal partner be like?" Then, listen to how they describe this person.

If they mention cuddling on the couch while watching a good movie, this might signify a love language of physical touch. If they say taking long walks together, this might indicate their love language is quality time. If they say they like getting little notes on their car or getting a random text telling them how much they mean to someone, that could indicate words of affirmation is their love language.

Of course, you may need to ask more questions to truly narrow down their love language. But remember, your goal is to find out what is important to them. In the end, their answers often point to their love language. And even if you still are uncertain, at the very least you have learned more about your partner.

What Are the Benefits of Understanding Love Languages?

When you or your partner's emotional need for love is not met, you may experience more conflict, withdraw romantically, and even fall out of love. If the need is met, you are both better equipped to deal with differences as well as feel loved and fulfilled.

As for research supporting these claims, the number of studies is limited—but still promising. Here are some of the potential benefits of understanding and utilizing the concept of love languages.

Creates Intimacy

One of the hallmarks of using the five love languages is discovering what love means to your partner. Not only can regularly talking keep your emotional need for love met, but it also can build intimacy in your relationship because you are learning to communicate better and connect in more significant ways.

Improves Self-Regulation

When implementing the love languages concept in your relationship, it requires you to stop and consider the needs of your partner first. To do this, you have to learn to manage your emotions and feelings. Research indicates that managing your emotions and feelings on a regular basis can help you improve your self-regulation skills. In the end, you also may find that you are happier and have more relationship satisfaction.

Strengthens Communication

Because consistent and open communication is an important part of the five love languages, understanding and utilizing the languages can help build and strengthen your communication. It also helps you learn to communicate love to your partner. And even when your attempts hit a snag, there is still the opportunity to talk about it and find out more about each other.

Boosts Relationship Satisfaction

When you are trying to use your partner's love language to communicate how you feel about them and let them know they are loved, they are more likely to feel happier in the relationship. But using your partner's love language can help you, too. For instance, research shows that helping your partner get their needs met produces a greater emotional benefit for you than you would get from having your own needs met.

Promotes Empathy

Anytime you want to try to understand where your partner is coming from, doing so with empathy can help. Using the five love languages is no different. You need to use both emotional empathy (concern) and cognitive empathy (perspective taking) to fully understand what your partner needs.

Consequently, using the love languages concept in your relationship requires you and your partner to develop this skill. In the end, not only can you both learn to be more empathetic and loving, but research indicates that you also may be more satisfied with your relationship.

A Quick Review

The five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and acts of service. The concept was created by Gary Chapman, PhD, as a way to summarize the different ways people communicate love. Learning and using your partner's preferred love language can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction. When you recognize that your partner is trying to communicate with your preferred love language, you will also likely have increased feelings of love and satisfaction of the relationship. You can find out your and your partner love language by taking an online quiz. You can also ask yourself or your partner questions about what an ideal partner might look like and what makes you or them feel loved. Once you know what their love language is, it's simply a matter of implementing it.

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8 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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