I’ve been thinking about love languages a lot lately. I’ve been asked to give my advice on a range of topics from signs you’re in a good relationship to how to date when you’re ready to get married. And these topics have all circled back to one common theme: knowing yourself inside and out. I could go on and on about why that is the key to any successful relationship, but I’ll save that for another post. Here, I want to share one very crucial aspect of knowing yourself that will continue to grow your relationship long after you’re married.
Learning your love language.
“Love languages” are a concept developed by marriage counselor Gary Chapman. It’s not backed by scientific research, rather, it’s based on his anecdotal research from 30 years of marriage counseling. And it sure does make a lot of sense.
“My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages—five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics, a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects....The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse,” Chapman says.
So what are the love languages?
Words of Affirmation - This language uses words to affirm other people.
Acts of Service - For these people, action speaks louder than words.
Receiving Gifts - For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.
Quality Time - This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
Physical Touch - To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.
People identify with these love languages because it helps you identify your needs in a relationship and also puts some sense around why partners misinterpret one another’s intentions. For instance, let's take a hypothetical couple, Holly and Bill.
Holly's love language is quality time and she feels the most loved in a relationship when her partner gives her his undivided attention, which could mean talking about their days together, hearing her out about challenges she's facing as well as other meaningful conversations and activities they share together without any distractions. But every day after work, Bill retires to the couch for a long TV sesh. This is happening so much that Holly feels as if Bill doesn’t want to spend time with her and it's even now transcending into her feeling that he doesn't care about her.
On the other hand, Bill is always doing little things for Holly. Need a ride to the airport? No need for Uber, Bill's on it. Did the toilet break? He’s mister fix it. Run out of milk? He’ll swing by the store on the way home and grab it. In doing these tasks, Bill thinks he's being incredibly responsive to Holly's needs and showing her how much he adores her. Without realizing it, Holly and Bill are missing each other’s signs of affection.
Just as in this case, most partners do not have the same love language.
You see? Knowing your love language gives you the communication to explain what’s most important to meet your emotional needs and also the insight to figure out what’s important to your partner so you can best meet their emotional needs.
There’s a nifty quiz you can take here to find out your primary love language as well as any secondary love languages you may have. I suggest you take it with your partner, separately of course, and then come together and discuss what you found out. You’ll learn a lot about how each other expresses love within your relationship and probably recognize the root of some of your longest standing disagreements. Win/win.