Do you feel most loved when your partner leaves you a sweet note on the nightstand, says you look smokin’ hot in those jeans or gives you a pep talk before a big presentation at work? If so, your primary “love language” is probably words of affirmation ― and you’re in good company.
Gary Chapman, an author, pastor and speaker, introduced the concept of love languages in his 1992 bestseller, The 5 Love Languages. He suggested that people prefer to receive love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch or receiving gifts.
According to Chapman, words of affirmation are the most common primary love language by a small margin. That’s based on the responses of 10,000 people who took the online quiz on his website in December 2010. Here’s the breakdown:
- Words of affirmation: 23 percent
- Quality time: 20 percent
- Acts of service: 20 percent
- Physical touch: 19 percent
- Receiving gifts: 18 percent
Chapman also noted that this was not a scientific study ― just a sampling of the people who came to his website during that time period.
So why does it matter? In relationships, people tend to express love to a partner in the way they’d personally most like to receive it. The trouble is that one person’s primary love language doesn’t always align with that of their partner. So while a back rub after a long day at work might make someone who values physical touch feel like a million bucks, the same gesture may not mean all that much to someone else.
“After many years of counseling couples in crisis and taking notes during each session, I sat down one day and began thinking about what it takes for a person to feel loved,” Chapman told HuffPost. “It became apparent to me that what makes one person feel loved isn’t always the same for their spouse or partner. I discovered every person understands and receives love in a specific language, one of five to be precise.”
If your partner’s primary love language is words of affirmation, you can make them feel loved by telling them how much you appreciate their compassionate nature (or any other positive quality), complimenting their appearance or commending them for a job well done at work. The words can be spoken face-to-face, over the phone, or written in a card, text or email.
“All of us appreciate affirming words, but for those whose primary language is words, nothing speaks more deeply,” Chapman said. “The important thing is that the words are spoken sincerely as an expression of your love for them ― not an effort to manipulate them to do something for you.”
On the flip side, harsh criticism can be particularly painful for a person who values words.
“When you use negative or critical words with this person, your words are like a dagger in their heart,” Chapman said. “Your critical words hurt them more deeply than they would hurt someone with a different love language.”
The least common of the love languages (again, only by a small margin) is receiving gifts. Of the five, this one in particular gets a bad rap. Just because receiving a gift makes your partner feel loved doesn’t mean they are superficial or materialistic. Rather, it means that this individual is moved by the time, thought or effort put into choosing the gift.
That means they will also notice when very little love went into a gift. “The wife who gives her husband a vacuum cleaner for his birthday is likely thinking more about how the gift might benefit her rather than him,” Chapman said.
If this is your partner, pay special attention to their comments when you’re out shopping together or watching a TV commercial, as they may be hinting (consciously or unconsciously) at things on their wish list.
“They often verbalize what they would like,” Chapman said. “Make a note of it. They are giving you valuable information.”
For more ideas on how to express your love for your partner based on their love language, check out this HuffPost story.
Not sure what your love language is? Take the test here. If you’re in a relationship, encourage your partner to do the same.