Learning Your Partner's Love Language

We often show others, especially our partners, affection how we would like to receive it. However, we don’t all experience feeling loved in the same way. This is an idea that a man named Gary Chapman realized, prompting him to write his famous novel The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. In his book he shares that there are five specific “languages” or means in which we give love and prefer to be shown love. This, he says, is the trick to us feeling secure and fulfilled in our relationships.

Chapman’s website invites you to take a quiz to determine your love language: asking participants to choose their preferences based on a variety of scenarios. The languages are divided into five sections of which individuals can be a mixture or have one that presents itself most prominently. Quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service and receiving gifts are presented as the ways we like to give and receive love.


Quality Time

As someone whose prominent language is quality time, I can vouch for the fact that people who fall into this category see your time as a gift. The act of simply spending time with you is super meaningful to them. Things to avoid with your partner would be rescheduling or dropping plans with them. This is because these individuals see time as a means of bonding and neglecting this time can be extremely hurtful, eliciting similar feelings to that of betrayal. Constantly checking your phone in their presence produces a similar effect: they want to feel like their time matters to you, and nothing makes them feel more loved than your full attention. Taking initiative to go out or hang out at home is increasingly meaningful to this type of person and is a direct communication of “I love you.”


Photo by Scott Broome


Physical Touch

Following in close second on my list was physical touch. It is important to make the distinction that physical touch does not need to equate to physical intimacy. While this love language is the most sexualized and glorified in the media, all it means is having contact with your partner. For those who have this as their primary love language, they would know they feel most loved when their partner is in their immediate proximity and showing them affection. This could mean holding hands, getting a back rub, brushing up against their partner, being held in a hug, etc. As the partner of someone who has this love language, it is important to note that you will quickly become “that touchy couple” and that’s something you’re going to have to live with for the sake of making your partner happy. It would be a mistake for you to act distant in front of your partner. Neglecting outward displays of affection when you first see them can throw them for a loop, making your time together “feel off” in their eyes. Remember that they want you to get in their personal space: in their mind contact equals bonding and this bonding equates to their feeling loved.

Photo by Isaac Mehegan


Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation have shown to be an important way I feel loved and an easy way you can validate your partner so they feel loved as well. For individuals that have this as their primary love language, uttering words of appreciation is exceedingly important. Sharing the phrases “I am so proud of you” or  “I love you” are an important part of the way your partner feels about you and the relationship you two have. In this instance, you should forego the “show, don't tell” mentality as your partner can feel forgotten. To them, your words of encouragement, affirmation and affection are life-giving. Nothing will make them feel like they are on cloud nine more than a meaningful conversation about your intimate feelings. These individuals need to be reminded of the role they play in your life and how important they are to you. Avoiding verbal means of affection can make your partner feel neglected. If this is your partner's love language, make sure you carefully craft what comes out of your mind as they will hang onto every word. Name-calling and raising your voice while in an argument is a bad idea with this type of partner. Your partner remembers your words, and how you verbally treat them is a direct sign of your affection. Therefore, your words must be aimed towards love in all situations — regardless of your emotions and feelings at the time.

Photo by Sean Mungur


Acts of Service

For individuals who have this as their love language, they love it when you drop what you are doing to help them out: taking out the garbage, editing their essay, helping them clean up their space, etc. They feel most loved through your sacrifice. Individuals dating these types must be dutiful and accountable to their partner’s needs. Caring for your partner and making them feel loved are visual, outwards expressions of your feelings. It’s important to not be lazy or compromise your promises to them. Being attentive to your partner as they walk in the door, offering to take their bag and hang up their coat, will make them radiate happiness. Don’t let them come home to find the fridge empty while you’re asleep on the couch. It’s also not a good idea to offer to help them with something and then bail, as this will only put more pressure and tasks onto their plate. Ideally, you want to offer to do something they were going to do anyway. Being your partner’s humble servant in times of stress and seasons of busyness will be invaluable to earning and proving your love.

Photo by Henri Pham


Receiving Gifts

For individuals who have this as their love language, they love marking special and mundane occasions with tokens of affection, whether big or small. However, it is important to note that your partner does not expect you to prove your love through buying them material things. It can be small, seemingly meaningless gestures that show you were thinking of them. For these individuals, consideration is the name of the game — not materialism. I think a lot of us can be ashamed to admit to this love language for fear of being called materialistic, but that is not the proper manifestation of this love language. Individuals of this language love being given homemade tokens of your affection. Things you can do for your partner is leave them little notes around the house or thoughtful love letters for no reason. It’s small tokens of your appreciation that make them feel loved. For example, if your partner knows that you went out of your way to bring them a coffee before coming to see them, they will be extremely grateful and validated in their love for you. What not to do is quickly throw together a gift last minute as this will appear to your partner that they are an afterthought and that you don’t care about them. Missing a birthday or an anniversary can be extremely hurtful and become a major point of contention in your relationship. For individuals of this love language, it is the big celebrations as well as the small gestures that add up to their love, so consistency is key. They will treasure everything you give them endlessly — it is truly the thought that counts!

Photo by Andrik Langfield


The Love Language Cocktail

With all of these love languages in mind, it is important to realize we are not fully one or the other. While we may be stronger and more literate in one language, varying occasions may call us to want to receive our partner’s love differently. For this reason, it’s so important to love your partner in a comprehensive manner that emcompasses all five of the love languages given by Gary Chapman. We all have to be aware that we most often show love to others in similar ways we wish others would show love to us. However, as we have learned, individuals in relationships can be two vastly different love languages and fall very differently in their ranking. We are all inevitably a cocktail of each language, and it’s so important that we tend to all our partner’s needs at once.


However, in the end we can be illiterate in our partner's love language. So, if your partner makes an effort to give you a gift, although your love language is, for example, acts of service, acknowledge their effort and let them know it is appreciated. It is important to educate your partner how they can best love you, so you can both be at your best within your relationship. For this reason I encourage you to take this free quiz and see what revelations you and your partner have about each other! When we are loved properly, we are energized, in love and able to reach our greatest potential. We feel affirmed, valued and most secure. The secret to a successful relationship is the “feeling” we have in the company of those we love; learning how to love our loved ones better is the first step. Good luck!