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Sex + Relationships

Speaking the same love language as your college partner

College isn’t the best environment for a healthy, committed relationship to thrive in. With the prevalence of hook-up culture, the ever-spinning gossip wheel, and the continuous personal stress from school itself, it can be hard to focus on maintaining the strength of all your relationships—especially a romantic relationship. Moreover, college is the age where each of us is struggling to figure out who we are, what we like, and what we need in all aspects of our lives. From figuring out how much sleep you need to function optimally to determining your personal work-play balance to knowing what your love languages are, this is the time to struggle in order to find yourself. 

In a romantic relationship, it is also important to know your partner’s love languages. This means not just the love language you and your partner express, but the one they enjoy receiving. For example, one partner might communicate their love through giving gifts but enjoy receiving acts of service. Recognizing your partner’s love languages is important because it ensures effective communication and expression of love; if you know how your partner expresses love, and vise versa, then you can know to look out for those actions and even make your prominent way of receiving love compatible with their way of giving love. A common source of conflict in relationships stems from a miscommunication of love languages–a language barrier, one might say–and working together to create a compatibility in languages for both partners to receive and give or express love is key. 

As commonly known, there are five love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, and acts of service. Here are some examples of what each might look or sound like, how one might express negative feelings through each language, and how to be compatible with your partner’s language: 

Words of Affirmation

In a romantic relationship, this love language can be manifested as phrases of encouragement, affirmation, and appreciation. For example, saying things like: “I really appreciated spending time with you today in the library” or “You look so nice tonight in that dress” (perhaps said at a date party) or “I know you had a big test today, I hope you’re having a good day.” Specific actions for words of affirmation include an out of the blue text message, a simple note scribbled on a post-it and left on your partner’s desk, a meaningful letter (perhaps before Thanksgiving break to remind them of your love before spending some time apart). Someone whose predominant love language is words of affirmation might express negative upset by making negative remarks or giving the silent treatment. It could be hurtful to them if you don’t push away their words of affirmation, ignore them, or get annoyed by them. If your partner expresses love through words of affirmation, it is important to acknowledge their comments and/or notes and to share your appreciation for them (for their love). It could also be beneficial to reciprocate through kind words, to a level that feels comfortable to you. 

Physical Touch

This one is a very common language that almost everyone speaks at least a little in a romantic relationship. Aside from the typical hugging and holding hands, individuals who mainly show their love through physical touch might caress your arm while sitting together or give you head and back scratches—it is common for them to constantly have a point of physical connection when you’re together. For example, if you’re out at the bar together, they might rest their hand on your back or keep their body close to yours. Additionally, making intimacy a thoughtful priority is a key sign of this love language. These individuals will prioritize your sex life together and will often place a lot of value in intimate moments. If they are feeling upset, they might pull away physically by not touching you as much as and even react negatively to physical touch from you. These individuals could feel hurt if you get annoyed or upset at their constant touching, if you never reciprocate any touch, and if you de-value your sex life. The best way to reciprocate this form of love is by also engaging in physical touch, in a way that is natural and comfortable to you, and by acting positively to their touch. 

Receiving Gifts

This holiday season is great for individuals whose predominant love language is gift giving. While some people might think this form of love is materialistic, it is really a sign of attentiveness and giving. Someone who likes to give gifts usually doesn’t value the cost of the gift but the thought behind it; the love is expressed by being able to give their partner something they truly wanted or needed. This love language is also good for creative individuals, as they can make a painting or a collage or even a song as a gift. Moreover, gifts might include a nice meal, a special trip, or some other meaningful gesture. It is not as easy to know when these individuals are feeling upset, but some signs might be not giving gifts or gestures. They might get upset if you don’t want their gifts, tell them to stop buying/getting/making gifts for them, or throw away their gifts. In college, it might seem like they’re spending too much of the little money they have on gifts (that might seem useless), but it is important to recognize that, to them, this is an expression of love which is valuable. It is also important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend money on gifts as well, as long as you’re showing love in other ways and appreciating their show of it. In order to reciprocate gift giving, you could make an effort to always be appreciative of their gifts/gestures, mention how great the gift is if it is something you use often, and even give some yourself

Quality Time

This is another love language that is more common in most romantic relationships. Spending quality time with your partner is the best way to grow your bond and get to know one another better. For those who express their love mainly through quality time, however, this becomes even more important and valuable. This can look like small moments, as well as big moments, in which the two of you do something alone together; while it might be hard to make a ton of time in the fast-paced college environment, it is important to note that small moments can be the most meaningful. For example, ordering take out and watching a movie in your dorm room, going on a Sunday morning walk, or even doing work together in a study room. These individuals might express negative feelings by seeking alone time or pushing you away. Some things that might upset them include not making time for them, saying they are needy or need too much quality time, and not being present or thoughtful during these moments together. The best way to reciprocate this language is to make an effort to prioritize quality time and sometimes go out of your way to make plans together. 

Acts of Service

This last form of expressing love is often practiced by individuals who are very giving and caring. Some manifestations of acts of service in college are: getting coffee for your partner if they’re having an especially tough week, asking if they need anything from the grocery store or Walmart when you do a run, and lending them your charger or cleaning supplies or food. These acts revolve around making your partner feel supported and feel like the two of you are in it together. Someone who prioritized acts of service might be upset if they don’t reach out for these small acts or if they express that they want to do things alone. They might be upset if you often want to do things alone or fail to appreciate their help. It would be best to value their acts of service, and even make small habits or plans out of it (ex: always buying each other coffee when the other is having a rough week), as well as performing acts of service yourself sometimes. 

In the end, communication is the most important tool in making any romantic relationship thrive. It is so important to talk about love languages or, if these 5 love languages don’t work for you, to talk about what you appreciate and need in a relationship as well as what your partner appreciates and needs. Often times, we assume that as long as we love someone then the relationship is perfectly fine, but we also need to be attentive of ourselves as well as our partner in order to make sure both of you are feeling loved and are happy in the way you’re loving. 

Nicole Yeager

Bucknell '22

Nicole is a senior writer majoring in Literary Studies and Psychology with minors in Arts Entrepreneurship and Social Justice. She spends most of her time on campus finding new places to read, drinking vanilla lattes, and sending emails. She believes HerCampus is a great platform for college women to express their unique thoughts and experiences in a fun way.
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