What comes to mind when you hear the term “Love Language”?

In society, and especially on social media, the term “love language” has become more and more common. I’ve seen making food referred to as a love language, or exchanging memes be considered a love language. Heck, I’ve seen visuals of a cozy couch with blankets and pillows been described as a love language!


The 5 Love Languages

In Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, The 5 Love Languages, he wrote that there are 5 primary ways we give and receive love.

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Gift Giving
  • Physical Touch.

Knowing what they mean and how they impact you and your relationships helps


Your love language is how you communicate and interpret love, according to the author, Gary Chapman. There are 5 Love Languages that Chapman teaches:

According to Chapman, these are the 5 ways we communicate and interpret love in our lives. The conflict is, we often don’t share the same primary Love Language as those in our lives, so it’s important we take the time to understand what the love languages are for the people you love, and why.


The Five Languages

Words of Affirmation:

This Love Language is the most straightforward. Giving someone verbal compliments or words of appreciation directly communicates our feelings and intentions.

However, if your Love Language is Words of Affirmation, that doesn’t mean hearing “I love and appreciate you” are the only words you can hear to understand someone’s love. It means that kind and encouraging words are important, but also how these words are communicated are important. Paying attention to your paraverbals-tone of voice, inflection, and accompanying body language, even paying attention to punctuation if you are using a note or text, is a part of Words of Affirmation!

Quality Time:

This Love Language means giving someone your undivided attention. Sure, sitting on the couch watching Netflix can be spending time together, but is it quality time? Someone whose love language is Quality Time often needs more than simply undivided attention, they also need quality conversations about topics that are meaningful to the person you are talking to with relatively equal back and forth. You can also enhance quality time by doing meaningful (and fun!) activities together, creating a memorable shared experience.

Acts of Service:

This Love Language follows the notion “Actions speak louder than words”. If a person’s love language is Acts of Service, it means they feel love from those around them when they see others completing tasks that are helpful and freely given. Imagine coming home from a hard day’s work and you see that your partner has already started dinner, even though you previously agreed that it was your night to cook. It might signify to you that your partner took the time to think “What can I do to help my partner?” The best way to communicate love with Acts of Service is to not wait until your partner asks you to do something, but proactively think about how you can help your partner.

Gift Giving:

Many people scoff at this Love Language. “I shouldn’t have to BUY my partner’s affection!” But that’s not what this love language is about. A gift is a symbol of love. It is a physical representation and reminder of love and affection. If someone’s Love Language is Gift


Giving, when they receive a gift from someone they love, they often make the connection “Wow! This person thought about me and cares about me.” This isn’t about spending an exorbitant amount of money. A handmade card, or even a Pepsi from the grocery store can be a great way to utilize this Love Language! Sometimes one of the best gifts you can give someone is the gift of your presence. For example: if someone we care about has a family member pass away, being there for them in their time of need can be a way to communicate “I love you and I’m here for you.”


Physical Touch:

This Love Language is about understanding that our bodies are an extension of our love. Think of all the things a hug can communicate: it can be a welcome or a goodbye, it can be congratulatory, it can be romantic, and it can be a way to express that you care when someone is going through a difficult time. Sure, words can express those things, but for those whose Love Language is Physical Touch, it’s important to communicate with our bodies.

Physical Touch can range from large interactions (think of those passionate kisses in black and white movies) to small interactions (like a simple touch of the hand during a conversation).


The Development of Love Languages

Chapman points out in his book that some basis of Love Languages are innate. He uses an example of a toddler who picks a flower and gives it to their caretaker (Gift Giving). Love Languages also develop based on the unmet needs a person has. If someone came from a household that was verbally abusive and their accomplishments were not celebrated, that person may light up and have a strong reaction when their partner says “I’m so proud of you” (Words of Affirmation). Love Languages can also form based on unmet needs in the current relationship.


Love in the real world

Imagine Partner A is a stay at home parent with 3 year old triplets who is responsible for childcare in addition to maintaining the house while Partner B works a traditional 40 hour a week job. If Partner B comes home at 5:30 and wants to use their primary Love Language to communicate love and appreciation, but it’s not Partner A’s primary Love Language there may be a miscommunication.


Partner B: Awe Honey, you do so much around here. Thank you for all that you do! I really appreciate it. (Words of Affirmation)

Partner B proceeds to start unwinding from work by sitting on the couch and turning on the TV.

Partner A: You appreciate it because it means you don’t need to do anything! I don’t feel appreciated at all when you get to take it easy while I manage everything!


What is Partner A saying is important to them? Which of the 5 Love Languages is their unmet need in this situation? Partner A has communicated that they do not feel appreciated because of Partner B’s lack of action.

If both partners knew each other’s primary love language and used them to communicate, how would the situation be different?


Partner B: Awe Honey, you do so much around here. I’ll take out the trash and set the table so we can relax a little bit before dinner’s ready. (Acts of Service)

Partner A: That would be great! Thank you, I really appreciate your help. (Words of Affirmation)


When we recognize which Love Language is important to others in our lives, we can make sure that those we love feel loved in a way that they understand and recognize. In reality, all 5 Love Languages are important. We use them all with different people in our lives at different times.


Different Strokes for Different Folks

Just as it’s important to know your partner’s Love Language, it is also important to know your child’s Love Language. Even infants react to Love Languages! We can use Love Languages with infants and children to create strong attachments. When a strong attachment is present, a child will grow to feel safe and secure with their caregivers and will in turn become more confident adults. How we use Love Languages may differ between how we use them with our romantic partner rather than our children. You can use Physical Touch by giving your child a high five when they face their fear. You can use Words of Affirmation by thanking them for completing a household chore. You can use Quality Time by reading books together before bed. How can you use the other Love Languages with your children?


In order to make sure you are using the Love Language that people you care for understand, it is important to have a conversation about Love Languages. You can directly ask your partner

  • “How can I show you that I love and appreciate you?”
  • You can ask your child “What can I do to make you feel special?”


You can also read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman to discover more ways Love Languages are present in your life. I also recommend taking the quiz on www.5lovelanguages.com for yourself and encouraging your partner to take it as well. There is also an option to take the quiz for your child.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the 5 Love Languages are and how to utilize them, how do you see yourself using them in the future?


Caroline Molnar

The Cole Center


Clinician Bios