Books · Lifestyle

Love Languages

Unpacking the 5 Love languages to learn to love better

What are Love Languages?
Similar to how we use the traditional language (ie. English, Mandarin etc) to express our thoughts and ideas, Love languages are the way in which we express and receive love.

As with all things, our love language sits on a spectrum, which means we favour some expressions more than others. Hence, it’s so important to identify what YOUR primary love language (ie. way you feel most loved) is and that of your partner/immediate family/ close friends to improve your relationship with one another.

Mismatch in love languages and the ignorance of the other party’s love language feels like a case of misaligned priorities and incompatibility.
‘How could he do that, can’t he see that it’s so important to me?’
‘After all I’ve done for him, and all he says is just “Thank you, Love”, why can’t he help out?’

Why write a letter in Mandarin, if your partner can barely understand the contents of it, right?

The concept was coined and made popular by Gary Chapman in his famous book: The 5 Love languages – the secret to love that lasts.

Here are the 5 categories of Love Languages:

1. Words of Affirmation

The verbal or written word to express love and appreciation

If you find that your partner/friend frequently tells you how they feel about you or enjoy writing appreciative notes, this is likely their primary love language. Those with this primary love language prefers explicit expressions of love via words.

Examples of ways to love:

  • Tell them how proud you are of their accomplishments – eg. “I’m so proud of you, your hardwork inspires me everyday”
  • Share words of encouragement on their down days such as “This is a minor set back, but tomorrow you will come back stronger”
  • Tell them how much they mean to you – eg. “I love you more and more each day”

Similarly on the flipside, it’s important to mind what you say/write when you are mad cause those words will stick.

Food for thought: I think women in general tend to be more expressive about feelings of love. Perhaps it’s years of reinforcement that ‘real’ men don’t talk about feelings, but it doesn’t mean men value Words of Affirmation any less.

2. Physical Touch

The physical intimacy and human contact as a means to deepen emotional connection

If your partner loves hugging you in silence, initiating and cuddling before bed consistently then he/she likely prefers this love language. Those with this primary love language views your initiation of physical touch as an expression of love.

Examples of ways to love:

  • Share a kiss before heading to work – shows you hope they have a great day ahead
  • Hug after a long and hard day – shows you are always there for them
  • Hold their hand when they are standing near an edge so they don’t fall – shows you worry and care for them

For those who are less likely to be expressive via words, a warm embrace can say a thousand words; so the inverse such as refusal to be intimate can be viewed as rejection.

Food for thought: On some level, all of us value physical touch because we have been conditioned since we were babies. When we were not able to express/understand love in any other way, its our parents’ loving touch that makes us feel safe. It’s just what drives the desire for physical touch differs between men and women – men from their biological needs and women from their emotions.

3. Receiving Gifts

Gift giving as a tangible symbol of appreciation and celebration

If your partner/friend loves getting you something that reminds them of you/something you always wanted – this is likely the way they love to express love. They relish in the joy of you receiving a great gift and likely view money as a commodity to enable them to shower you with what you want most.

Examples of ways to love:

  • Gift them something they said in passing – it shows you were listening
  • Celebrate milestones/anniversaries with a meaningful gift – shows you are proud of how far they’ve come
  • Surprise them at work/school with chocolates/flowers/packed lunch – shows you are thinking of them and care to brighten up their day

People who loves gifts are not materialistic, so be mindful to not accuse them of such or gift them something thoughtless. Remember, it’s what the gift represents, that matters most.

Food for thought: Someone with this love language may not necessarily enjoy buying gifts, but instead making gifts. Crafty and creative people with this love language are likely to utilise their skills and time to make something unique for you, and is likely to appreciate your attempt in doing so too 🙂

4. Quality Time

Emphasis on providing undivided attention and time well spent together

If your partner gets slighted when you are busy texting on a date, or is getting tired of group dates, then he/she likely prefers Quality Time together. Quality Time comprises of doing Quality Activities and having Quality Conversations (which involves active listening and us sharing more about ourselves).

Examples of ways to love:

  • Schedule weekly date nights regardless of how busy you are – shows they are a priority
  • Take them on trips to experience new adventures and spend some alone time together – shows you want to make memories together
  • Listen and engage in conversations/catch ups about their goals and daily happenings – shows you value their growth as an individual

Those who value quality time seeks your full attention on the relationship. So, do not repeatedly suggest group dates or re-schedule date nights when something more interesting comes along because for them, what you are effectively saying is “You are not a priority”.

Food for thought: When met with a friend or partner who is ranting about a bad situation, it’s instinctive for us to want to offer solutions and help them so they never have to face it ever again. What we fail to realise is they likely didn’t want advice, they just wanted to be heard and to be understood. As the saying goes ‘Never give advice unless asked’.

5. Acts of Service

The use of time and effort by doing something for another

If your partner/friend helps you finish up some chores/work when you are overwhelmed, doesn’t hesitate to pick you up when you are stuck at the airport – chances are they express love through acts of service. Those who do so truly live up to the motto of ‘Actions speak louder than words’ and focus on doing what they can to make your life a little better.

Examples of ways to love:

  • Feed their pet without them asking – shows you value those who are important to them too
  • Pick them up after work/party despite the time/distance – shows them they are worth the effort
  • Take on chores they dread doing – shows them you want to relieve their burden

In the busyness of our lives, it’s easy for small things to go unnoticed. Actions sometimes are not as loud as words so be careful to not take their actions for granted or be dismissive, making it sound like their efforts are a no big deal.

Food for thought: I think this love language grows on you. The older you get, the higher the likelihood for you to appreciate this love language. It takes a level of maturity to be perceptive and thoughtful enough to serve others with no expectation.

It’s not to say that we only interpret love in terms of our primary love language; it just means we appreciate them to a varying degree. Someone whose love language is Acts of Service, may also appreciate a thoughtful gift. But if you had to choose between doing their chores for them or getting a thoughtful gift..then the former is likely more bang for your buck (or effort in this case).

A word of caution though, understanding love languages is not a replacement for true connection or compatibility with your partner. It improves a relationship with sound foundation, but it does not make a bad relationship a good one.

Armed with this knowledge, I hope it can help you distinguish between relationship deal breakers vs a mere mismatch in love language. 🙂

To find out your very own love language, you can take a quiz here.

With that, I will end this article with my favourite quotes/excerpts from the book!

  • ‘Requests give direction to love; Demands stop the flow of Love.’
  • ‘If two people had the same primary love language, why were they having so much difficulty? The answer lies in the fact that they were speaking different dialects – they were doing things for each other but not the most important thing.’
  • ‘People tend to criticize their partner most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love.’
  • Most of us do things each day that does not come ‘naturally to us’ such as getting out of bed early each morning. Why? Because we believe there is something worthwhile to do that day. Our actions precede our emotions. The same is true with Love. We discover the primary love language of our partners and we choose to speak it regardless of whether it’s natural for us.

    Love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself.’

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3 thoughts on “Love Languages

    1. Thanks for recommending the article! I think there is much to learn about what love looks like, and varies by individuals. Glad u enjoyed the article 🙂


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