Love Languages: The Ultimate Guide
Love languages are often a hot topic among those who write about marriage. But what are love languages after all? We’ll cover that in this post (and then some)!
If you haven’t read The Five Love Languages book, that’s ok. Because we’re going give you our spin on it. Even better, we’ll help you learn how to apply it’s principles in your life.
What is a love language?
The concept of a “love language” was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. He is a well-known marriage counselor and pastor. He wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages” in 1995 – the book REALLY caught on and has been a staple in marriage literature ever since. It’s even been published in hundreds of languages and is sold throughout the world today.
Dr. Chapman describes a love language as the way in which you feel love. It’s different for everyone, and often times married partners don’t have the same love language.
Each of us has specific needs in order to feel loved. The assumption in a marriage is that your spouse will meet those needs. Therefore, love languages are essentially the same as those emotional needs that we expect to have met.
Your “Love Tank”
Dr. Chapman explains that each of us have, what he calls, a “love tank”.
When our emotional and physical needs for love are met, your love tank will be full. But when you repeatedly don’t get what you need in your marriage, your love tank is depleted. Soon enough, your love tank is empty.
And it works a lot like a fuel tank. When the tank is full, everything works great and you can get to where you are going. But over time, if you don’t fill the tank up, it becomes empty, and there is nothing left to draw from. And then, your marriage won’t be able to get anywhere.
Generally, you expect that your spouse is capable of filling your love tank. But sometimes, they aren’t able to, or they simply don’t fill your love tank.
Being “in love” vs. Mature Love
When you first fall “in love” with someone, it’s usually because you’re attracted to them physically, and you connect with them emotionally. When this feeling is new, it’s very exciting – even euphoric.
But over time, that “in love” feeling fades. And when you don’t feel “in love” anymore, that’s when mature love kicks in.
Mature love depends on understanding each other’s love languages. If both partners’ love tanks are filled – great! There’s not much work to be done.
But if one or both spouses doesn’t understand the other’s love language, it can feel like you’re stuck in a marriage where your spouse doesn’t care about you at all.
And that hurts – deeply.
But it’s also why knowing your spouse’s love language is so important. You can’t depend on that “in love” feeling to last forever. And when it goes away, you’ll want to know how exactly you can fill up your spouse’s love tank.
What are the five love languages?
One way that people feel love in a relationship is through quality time. Lots of people think they know what quality time means, but don’t really act on it.
For example, texting your friends on your phone over a dinner date is NOT quality time.
The key word in “quality time” is quality. The time you spend together should be quality time – connecting emotionally, reminiscing, and learning new things about each other.
Quality time means giving focused attention to your partner. Better yet, it can help you reconnect with your spouse.
Quality time can come in 2 forms (or “dialects”, as Dr. Chapman refers to them):
- Quality conversation – this requires you, as the giver of the love language, to LISTEN.
- Quality activities – hobbies, outings to new places, trying new foods, etc.
Another way that people feel love in a relationship is through receiving gifts. And in a way, giving love itself is a gift to your spouse.
But still, some partners really appreciate a physical gift every now and then. A gift is a visual reminder that you’re love and thought about by your spouse.
Gifts don’t have to be lavish or expensive. In fact, sometimes it’s those thoughtful homemade gifts that leave a lasting impact.
Sometimes it’s simply your presence. It could be as simple as a bouquet of flowers, or a thoughtful greeting card.
The point is, a gift can show your spouse that you are thinking of them – that you care about them, and that you love them.
(Pro tip: If you give them a gift and you were very thoughtful about them, and they don’t like the gift, gift giving is not their love language).
Similar to receiving gifts, physical touch is a reminder that you’re loved and thought about by your spouse. Physical touch is a great way to communicate love.
That’s why we hug our friends, snuggle our kids, and kiss our spouses.
Nonsexual affection (like hugging, kissing cuddling, holding hands, etc.) is a powerful way to communicate love to your spouse. It helps the two of you feel connected. Not only is this completely normal in close relationships, but it turns out that physical touch is a basic human need.
The physical touch love language does not have to mean sex, but sometimes it is. Some people need sexual intercourse in order to feel love within a marital relationship.
For some, this is where the issue of different sex drives comes in, and it’s really important to understand that your spouse wanting sex is often a far deeper desire than just physical sex. It’s the way they connect with you.
So, if your spouse is constantly begging you for sex, but you’re simply not interested…. well this is why some spouses turn away, because you’re actively depriving them of the very thing they need to feel love.
Acts of Service
Acts of service is a the fourth love language. This is a simple concept – it simply means doing little things to help your spouse out.
If your spouse is anything like me, they have a never ending to-do list. I get overwhelmed easily because of all the things I have to do, and sometimes I need a little help.
(Can you tell that acts of service is one of my love languages?)
When Mike takes the time and the thought to help me out with all the little things I have to do, it makes me feel loved and appreciated for all the work that I do. It shows his gratitude for the work I do to support us.
And of course, I return the favor to him for all that he does for us too.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation is the last of the five love languages. Just as receiving gifts is a visual reminder of love, words of affirmation is a verbal reminder that you love your spouse.
Words of affirmation can include many types of sayings:
- saying “I love you” often
- giving a compliment about their appearance
- expressing gratitude for their love and support
- telling them all the things you like about them
… and the list goes on!
Words of affirmation has double benefits too. Not only does it help your spouse feel loved, but it reduces their insecurities too. They’ll have no doubts that you love them.
What’s my love language?
Knowing your own love language is just as important as knowing your spouse’s love language.
Why? Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to communicate your emotional needs to your spouse.
After reading through the five love languages above, you probably already have a pretty good idea of what it is that you need to feel loved.
But if you’re still unsure, Dr. Chapman has developed this quiz to help you determine your love language.
What’s my spouse’s love language?
Here’s the trickier part. What if you don’t know your spouse’s love language, but they don’t know it either? It’s not as simple as just asking them what it is.
So how do you figure out your spouse’s love language?
Here’s a trick. Look for clues in your arguments. Think about when your spouse gets upset at you for doing something (or not doing something).
They might say something like this:
“You never do _________ for me”. Whatever that fill-in-the-blank is should give a clue to their love language.
For example, if they say, “you never get me flowers or give me any surprises, and it makes me feel unloved,” their love language is probably receiving gifts.
If they say,”I feel like you don’t love me because we never have sex anymore,” that’s a pretty good indication that physical touch is their love language.
What if our love languages are different?
If you and your spouse have different love languages, you are not alone. In fact, most partners have different love languages.
Sometimes that the reason why marital problems arise. But here’s the good news – you can learn your spouse’s love language.
Using the tools in the section above should help you do that. It will take some time, and you might not be perfect at it right away, but over time it will make a difference in your marriage.
It’s never too late to learn your spouse’s love language. And when you understand each other better, you just get better at loving each other, and your love will grow.
Why are love languages important?
In reading all this, you may find yourself asking this question:
“What’s in it for me?”
You might be wondering what you are getting out of performing acts of service for your spouse, or setting time aside to go do dinner. If that’s not your love language, it won’t make a difference to you.
So, what’s the point?
Here’s why it matters so much: Your life will get happier and easier when your spouse’s life is happier and easier. You will have the satisfaction of knowing you’re giving your spouse what they need for love.
And your spouse will be a happier person for it.
Incorporating love languages into your marriage
Once you’ve identified your love language, and your spouse’s love language, it’s time to put that information into practice. We listed a few simple activities below to help you do that.
Exercise – set aside some time to do something together that YOUR SPOUSE wants to do. Make it a weekly, or monthly tradition. Make this time that you owe to each other.
Exercise – give a gift daily for a week. It doesn’t have to be expensive or flashy. It can even be homemade. What’s important is that it’s thoughtful, and something you think your spouse will like.
Exercise – ramp up your levels of affection. Kiss for 30 seconds each time you kiss. Hug for 60 seconds. Hold hands in the car. These are simple, physical reminders of your love and interest in your spouse.
Acts of Service
Exercise – everyday for a week, perform some small act of service that will lighten their load. Listen to the all the things on their to do list, write them down, and help them out for a whole week.
Words of Affirmation
Exercise – write an “I love you because” letter. On it, write all the reasons why you love your spouse, and all the things you love about them. It will fill your spouse’s heart with love, and it makes for a nice moment too!
Why you should read The Five Love Languages book
While we have covered the most basic concepts of The Five Love Languages book in this post, there is even more great content in the book.
In the book, Dr. Chapman has additional great advice, stories, and concepts that will help you have a happier marriage.