I remember my very first experience with Gary Chapman’s The 5 love languages. It was at a Toastmaster meeting where I was judging a speech contest. One of the contestants (a male) started out talking about his cute relationship with his girlfriend (who was sitting in the audience). His relationship was good at first, but after reading about the five love languages and learning about his and his girlfriend’s primary love language, their relationship was even better.

The only other thing I remember from that speech was that he brought his girlfriend up on stage and told everyone that her love language was physical touch and so he embraced her with a big side hug and then continued on with his speech. Since then, I was intrigued by what the love languages were and how they could help me have a better relationship with my partner.

Gary Chapman is an author, a speaker and first and foremost, he is a counselor. Through his counselling of couples, he has found that people express love in different ways. A lot of his counselling is at interesting points in a relationship. For example, he shares stories of couples coming in for counselling shortly after marriage or after having kids or after several years in the relationship. Each person in a relationship has a ‘love tank’ that is slowly filled or emptied depending on what their partner does. If their partner speaks in their love language, their tank is filled and they are better able to communicate the love language for their partner. If their partner does not speak their love language, the tank is empty and the relationship sours.

One example of this is a husband who works incessantly at his job to provide for his wife and kids. The husband and wife came to Gary and in talking with each of them separately, he found that the husband was someone who needed praise and appreciation (i.e., words of affirmation) which stemmed from his childhood. Gary suggested that he and his wife both write down on a notepad a list of positive things about each other, and then at least once a week, compliment one another on one thing in their list, and adding to the list as they went on. The husband, in receiving compliments and praise from his wife, found that his love tank was getting filled. Except the wife was not feeling the same way. That is when Gary realized that people may have a different love language, and it was obvious with the wife what her love language was by the language that she was using. She was telling Gary that her husband was not spending enough quality time with her. The husband listed out the different ways that he could spend quality time with his wife and just like with the notepad, tried to spend quality time with his wife at least once a week (or more). After several months, the husband and wife came back better than ever.

What are the five love languages?

Words of affirmation

Words of affirmation are compliments and words of appreciation to your partner. It can be about their appearance. It can be about the things that they do around the house. It can be about how they make you feel.

Gary shares a story about a woman nagging her husband about painting a bedroom. Gary suggested that the woman, instead of nagging her husband, compliment her husband on different things and to not mention painting the bedroom at all. The interesting thing here was that her husband ended up painting the bedroom. Verbal compliments are a better motivator than nagging words.

If your spouse’s love language is words of affirmation, find out what they would like to hear by asking them. Then make it a point to express compliments and words of appreciation on a regular basis

Quality time

Quality time is different than just sitting in front of the TV and watching a movie together. Quality time is about putting down devices and really having focused conversations with undivided attention.

One way to have quality time is to have quality conversations. Gary says that quality conversations is about expressing feelings and expressing sympathy. I can’t count how many times someone has expressed a problem to me and I immediately jumped into suggesting a solution. People may not want to hear a solution to the problem. Maybe they just want to be felt and heard.

Another way to have quality time is to do quality activities together. This is about finding what your partner or spouse is most interested in. For example, one of the things that I love to do when I travel is go to a used bookstore. My partner does not enjoy going to used bookstores as much as I do, but she will come along and spend the time with me.

If your spouse’s love language is quality time, find out what five activities that they would enjoy doing with you. Make plans to do one of these activities each month for the next five months

Receiving gifts

A gift is something that you can hold and say “he / she was thinking of me”. Gifts can be tangible such as jewelry or a book. Gifts can also be a gift of self, such as being there when your partner needs you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or even any money to buy a gift for your loved one. It can be made or handcrafted as well.

If your spouse’s love language is receiving gifts, think about what they were excited in receiving in the last few years. Make a note of these gifts and make an effort to find similar gifts to give in the coming months.

Acts of service

Ever wish your husband or wife would do some chores around the home? Do you feel extra appreciated and loved when your spouse does a chore that you may not like doing or that you regularly do. Your love language may be acts of service. When your husband cooks and cleans around the house when you are busy, this is an act of service. When your wife helps take out the garbage and takes care of the kids, this is an act of service.

If your spouse’s love language is acts of service, find out what chores that your mate hates doing and then make an effort to do that chore in the next month. Not all acts of service are chores though, so ask the question if there is something that you can do to help your spouse and then do it in the next two weeks.

Physical touch

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to communicate love is through physical touch. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, sex are all ways of communicating love, through physical touch, to your spouse.

If your spouse’s love language is physical touch, are there some nonsexual ‘touching times’ that enhanced intimacy between the two of you? What was it that made your spouse feel loved?

What do you think about these love languages? Do you know your love language? Do you know what your spouse’s love language is? What kind of things do you do to express and communicate to your spouse’s love language?

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