The Five Languages of Love

One of my favorite books to reference in the therapy room is “The Five Languages of Love” by Dr. Gary Chapman, an experienced marriage counselor. After the success of his first book, Dr. Chapman expanded his Five Love Languages series with special editions that reach out specifically to singles, men, and parents of teens and young children.  In this week’s blog I will outline the Five Love Languages Dr. Chapman has developed and I encourage you to visit his website to not only learn more about the Five Love Languages, but to also take the online quiz that can help you recognize your own preference and possibly have other family members complete the quiz to discover their preferences.  Under Dr. Chapman’s hypothesis, each of us relies on a primary love language to help us feel loved; however, those we are closest to, such as spouses, friends, and children, may prefer a different love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved.

Words of Affirmation
This language uses words to affirm other people.  If someone closest to you requires words of affirmation to feel loved it is important to take time to give positive reinforcement and verbally express your appreciation.  The good news is words of affirmation can stem from small tasks, such as thanking someone for finishing their chores or emptying the dishwasher as these small, yet consistent words of affirmation add up and create a feeling of appreciation and love.

Acts of Service
If acts of service are a family member’s primary love language, nothing will speak more deeply to him or her emotionally than simple acts of service.  These acts of service can range from helping around the house, helping your child with homework, filling up your spouse’s car with gasoline, or any act of service that would be appreciated by another as your attempt to help make even simple tasks easier.

Receiving Gifts
According to Dr. Chapman, gift giving has been perceived as an expression of love throughout human history. “Giving gifts is universal, because there is something inside the human psyche that says if you love someone, you will give to him or her.”  For those whose primary love language is receiving gifts, they respond positively to thoughtful gifts on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and even random “just because” days.  Keep in mind, not all gifts must be expensive, even thoughtful gifts that come from the heart, such as homemade gifts or small tokens of affection, can mean a lot to a person whose primary love language is receiving gifts.

Quality Time
People often confuse quality time with quantity of time. For those whose primary love language is quality time they thrive on your undivided attention.  In today’s busy world, we are often juggling many tasks at once, such as making dinner while trying to read a news article and simultaneously listening to our children talk about something that happened to them at school earlier in the day; however, for those whose primary love language is quality time they can often feel unappreciated when they are trying to communicate to someone who is not giving them their full attention.  Instead, it is recommended that time be devoted to these individuals daily with no interruption.  For children, it may be carving out 15-20 minutes of talk time before bed, just the two of you.  For spouses, it may be turning off the TV and putting down all devices to just check-in with each other.  Maintaining active listening is an important piece of quality time, such as eye contact, nodding your head, and validating the other person’s experience.

Physical Touch
Upon being first born, we are introduced to the power of physical touch.  “Long before an infant understands the meaning of the word love, he or she feels loved by physical touch.”  Physical touch can be romantic when expressed between partners, such as holding hands, kissing, putting your hand on your partner’s leg while at the movies; but, it is also a very large part of parenting and friendship for many people.  Hugs, cuddling, and pats on the back can be very important communicators of love for those in our lives who we share no romantic connection.  For a child who needs physical touch, they respond well to cuddling, back massages before bedtime to relax, playing with their hair, and lots & lots of hugs.  Even making up your own “secret” handshake can be a silly, yet effective way to show your love and connection.

Mary Kathleen Hill, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist