I remember so clearly back in 2011 when I first learned about love languages and why knowing each other’s love language can make your relationship stronger. It forever changed my perspective of relationships, both personally and professionally.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with love languages, Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages created a whole movement around the concept of there being 5 languages of love and how to use those languages to express love for your partner.
Expressing love seems straightforward, no? Well, not so much.
It seems that most of us express love in ways that WE need to feel loved – as opposed to in ways that our partner needs to feel loved.
We might feel loved when we get a piece of jewelry as an expression of affection but our partner might feel loved by getting to spend a full day together, just the two of you. We might feel loved when we get a hug but our partner might feel loved if we take out the trash.
The key is that knowing each other’s love language will help you understand what it is that your partner needs to feel loved. When you know what that is and express your love using those actions, your partner will truly feel cherished and your relationship will be stronger.
If you aren’t familiar with the love languages, let’s review them first. That will make knowing each other’s love language easier.
The 5 Love Languages are:
#1 – Quality Time
While this love language might imply more time in the presence of your partner, what it in fact means is that the time you spend together is quality time. It’s the time that you put down your phone and look your partner in the eye. It’s the time that you say you will be there and you are. It’s doing things together that will keep you connected. For a person whose love language is Quality Time, it’s time that, no matter how limited, is time that makes them feel loved.
In contrast, if the time you spend with someone whose love language is quality time isn’t of quality, if you are on your phone or watching TV or not showing up physically, your person won’t feel loved and your relationship will suffer.
#2 – Words of Affirmation
This love language is quite clear – it’s using your words to express how you feel about someone. While you might assume that someone knows how you feel, someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation is someone who wants to be told how you feel – that you love them, that you are important to them, that you like who they are.
In contrast, if you are one of those people who can’t express their emotions or, even worse, can be sarcastic and derogatory, you will only cause your person unmeasurable pain.
#3 – Physical Touch
The Physical Touch love language might seem quite clear but there are nuances to it. Yes, in relationships physical touch often alludes to sex but, in this case, touch can mean a hug or a pat on the back or touching someone’s arm. Touch can excite someone but it can also show that you care and that you love them.
In contrast, if you struggle with being physically affectionate your person will feel neglected and disrespected and they will struggle to feel happy in the relationship.
#4 – Acts of Service
‘Let me do that for you’ or ‘Can I help you with that?’ are magical words to a person whose love language is Acts of Service. Anything that you can do to make life easier for your person will make your person feel loved.
In contrast, if you are one of those people who doesn’t step up and help or who promises that they will and don’t, your person won’t feel loved and will struggle to love you in return.
#5 – Receiving Gifts
If your person’s love language is Receiving Gifts, they believe that the giver of gifts is using those gifts to represent how they feel. They believe that the thoughtfulness and the time spent around the gift speaks volumes about how much their person cares about them.
In contrast, those people who miss birthdays or holidays or give a thoughtless gift ensure that their person doesn’t feel loved and that can be devastating.
So, now you are familiar with the 5 Love Languages. Let’s talk next about why knowing other’s love language will keep your relationship strong.
#1 – Guessing could mean failure.
You know how when you are newly in a relationship and you want your partner to feel loved and appreciated, you are motivated to make an effort so that they will feel so. Unfortunately, if you don’t know your partner’s love language, you might fail in that effort.
I have a client whose girlfriend was celebrating her birthday and he was considering what to get her. He told me that he was going to get her a vacuum cleaner. I suggested that perhaps a bracelet would be nice. It would be a thoughtful gift and most women love jewelry.
So, he bought her a bracelet and while she did like it, her response upon opening the gift was ‘Is this what you think I want?’
She couldn’t verbalize it but what I learned about this woman later on led me to believe that what was really important to her was quality time and words of affirmation. The gift didn’t make her feel loved. What would have worked best for her birthday was a dinner out and declarations of affection.
So, while the bracelet was appreciated, his stab in the dark about what she might want for her birthday fell flat.
#2 – You will give what they want not what you want.
For many of us, when we don’t know our partner’s love language, we tend to express our love through what we would want to be done to us.
Many of my male clients struggle with emotions in a relationship. Giving someone words of affection and quality time can be a challenge. What THEY want, often, is physical touch and so they express that love language, physical touch, when they are trying to communicate their feelings to their partner.
Unfortunately, if their partner’s love language isn’t physical touch, they won’t feel loved by their partner’s affection. Instead, they will feel like their person doesn’t understand them and they will feel rejected.
So, it’s important that you know your partner’s love language, and your own, so that you don’t project what you would want on your person.
#3 – Knowledge is power.
As in anything, knowledge is power.
Let’s say that you know what your partner’s love language is and that you are learning what that looks like specifically for them. Let’s say that you and your partner argue and you want to do something to make up for it. If you know their love language you will know exactly what your partner would want to feel loved after the fight.
Perhaps it’s a walk in the park, cell phones at home. Perhaps it’s a heartfelt ‘I am sorry and I love you.’ Perhaps it’s a hug. Perhaps it’s picking up the kids from school. Perhaps it’s a small thoughtful gift.
Whatever it is, knowing what it takes to make your partner feel loved will give you the power to set things straight quickly so that you can get past your fight and move forward together.
#4 – Consistency.
Relationships can be long and hard and one of the things that can keep them strong and healthy is consistency.
What I mean by consistency is that the partners always feel loved and valued, even if issues and disagreements arise. If you don’t know your partner’s love language, there are times where you will do something for them that will make them feel less than and disrespected.
I have a client who is always telling her partner that she needs more sex. He says ok and promises to step up his game. And he obliges her once but then goes back to taking the garbage out and giving her time away from the kids – acts of service. While she certainly appreciates those things, that he does them doesn’t override her need for sex. In fact, that he thinks that those things make her feel loved frustrates her and is causing a significant amount of discord in their relationship.
So, if you can consistently help your person feel loved, instead of riding the roller coaster of unmet expectations, your relationship has a much better chance of staying strong.
#5 – It could save your faltering relationship.
Here is the magic of knowing each other’s love languages – that they have significant power to save a dying relationship.
I have a couple client whose marriage was circling the drain. They had been married for a long time and she felt ignored and disrespected. I know that her husband was confused about her feelings – he felt like he did things that she would like and make her feel like he respected her. But, for some reason, she still felt that way.
When I reviewed the love languages with them we learned that their love languages were quite different. She needed Quality Time and Words of Affirmation. He needed Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation. They had both been giving each other Acts of Service with the intent of making each other feel like they were cared for.
As soon as the couple learned what the other needed to feel loved, they were able to identify and implement, with confidence, what the other person needed. There was a little bit of trial and error but it didn’t take long for both of these people to feel loved and respected in their relationship and their marriage grew stronger as a result.
If you are looking for a way to make your relationship stronger quickly, knowing each other’s love language could be just the thing.
So, now you understand what love languages are and hopefully you understand why knowing each other’s love language can make your relationship stronger.
Go to the 5 Love Languages website, NOW, and take the online quiz together. You will be 5 minutes away from understanding each other in a profound way, a way that will keep your relationship strong.
You can do it!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.