Whether we are single or are in a relationship, we all have a need or desire to feel loved or cared for by the individuals in our lives. It is also true that we have a tendency to express our love and caring feelings for others, whether we are aware of it or not. Because we are all unique individuals with different upbringings, experiences, and relationships, not everyone seeks this emotional attachment need to connect with others in the same way. That is where The Five Love Languages (Chapman, 1995) comes into play. Throughout years of experience in providing relationship counseling, Dr. Gary Chapman determined that there are 5 primary needs or avenues that we all seek to be met in our relationships, which are relevant in all cultures:
Acts of Service: Individuals with this love language value more action-oriented behavior in their relationships rather than verbal expressions. Like the expression says, “actions speak louder than words”; therefore individuals with this love language tend to express their love in their relationships by doing things for others and likewise, these individuals seek the same from others in order to feel loved.
Quality Time: Individuals with this love language place emphasis on spending one-on-one time with others in which they feel they experience undivided attention. It is important to distinguish between quality versus quantity time in that individuals with this love language do not necessarily seek to spend long durations of time with people in their relationships but rather focus on how the time they are together is spent.
Words of Affirmation: Individuals with this love language long for others to validate and provide affirming statements to them in order to feel loved and cared for in their relationships. Whether it is through giving compliments or positive reinforcement to others, words definitely speak louder than actions with this love language.
Physical Touch: Individuals who experience and express love through appropriate physical touch and affection with others fall under this love language. With this love language, it is important to understand that physical touch does not necessarily mean sex and intimacy but can be as simple as handholding, hugging, cuddling, or just being physically close with others.
Gift Giving: Receiving and providing gifts to others is how individuals with this love language express and feel loved in their relationships. Gift giving can promote thoughtfulness of others, which ultimately makes us feel connected to others.
So, which love language do you possess? It can be helpful to answer a few questions in order to determine this:
• How was love expressed in your household growing up between your parents and caregivers and yourself?
• Do you notice that you engage in a pattern of actions or behaviors when you express love towards others?
• What do you complain about is missing the most in your relationships?
• What behaviors do you request from your relationships most often?
Once we identify our own love language we can think about what love languages others close to us possess, whether it is our intimate partner, spouse, parent, or friend. It is important to not assume that those individuals close to us share our own love language or that they know and understand what our own love language means. We can ask important people in our lives the same questions above in order to figure out what needs they seek to have met as well.
So how can The Five Love Languages help us in our relationships? First, it can help us gain insight into our relationships and experiences, whether positive or negative. Second, it can help us direct our efforts into the correct place so that we don’t end up feeling ignored or unappreciated. Because one of our primary emotional needs is to feel loved, being able to express and speak the love languages of individuals in your relationships can help decrease conflict and tension and promote an increase in connection and overall relationship satisfaction.
I talk with all of my clients who present with relationship struggles about this topic and encourage everyone to read the book, The Five Love Languages By Dr. Gary Chapman, 1995.