Decoding Your Partner’s Love Language

Have you ever given a gift to a significant other that wasn’t appreciated? That may have been due to the fact that you two were speaking different languages—different love languages, that is. For some, their love language comes in the form of giving or receiving gifts, while for others it may mean spending some quality time together. Knowing your partner’s love language, as well as your own, can improve both your self-knowledge and your relationship.

As psychologist Dr. Gary Chapman explained in his 1995 book, The Five Love Languages, people feel loved and appreciated in five different ways. Understanding how you and your partner feel love helps manage expectations and needs, and it can eliminate frustration.

If you’re new to the subject or you need a refresher course, here’s an overview of the five love languages. Please keep in mind that you may relate to more than just one love language, but there’s usually one that’s dominant.

Words of Affirmation

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The old playground saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is especially untrue for speakers of the Words of Affirmation love language. These people thrive on words of appreciation or verbal compliments. 

You don’t have to stay up at night composing poems to please this type of person. Keep your comments sincere, simple, and straightforward. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Yes, sometimes you’ll have to disagree, but remember to sandwich a negative between several positives.

For instance, you can say, “You look so lovely in that dress/handsome in that suit.” “I really like how you make an effort to get along with everybody.” “You have such a great sense of humor!” If you have a positive thought about your partner, say it, and your relationship will reap the rewards.

Quality Time

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Spending time together is a start to speaking this love language, but it only counts if the TV, Netflix, phones, computers, or any distracting gadgets don’t take part of your time together. Quality time is when you give each other your undivided attention and time can be spent in many ways– taking a walk, having an intimate chat, or sharing a nice meal together. 

Although it seems like there’s never enough time, know that you can and should make time for what’s important to you or your partner. If your partner’s main love language is quality time, he or she just wants to hang out and savor uninterrupted time with you. Make that a priority, or, better yet, a non-negotiable.

Receiving gifts

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The person who relishes gifts isn’t necessarily materialistic. The gift is a visible, tangible symbol of love, one that you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” 

For speakers of the Receiving Gifts love language, it is and it isn’t the thought that counts. Your partner may feel more loved with a gift of wildflowers in their favorite color than with an expensive bottle of perfume they may not necessarily enjoy. What’s more important than the cost is the thoughtfulness. Learn what your partner likes and doesn’t like.

Maybe you’re not good at gift-giving and it’s way down on the list of your preferred love languages. That means that you’ll have to learn a second language. Don’t worry– receiving gifts is one of the easiest love languages to learn, and your partner will be happy to tutor you if you ask.

Acts of service

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Partners who speak the Acts of Service love language will feel valued and loved when you take on tasks that you know he or she would like you to do. Early in a dating relationship, this will be tough to do, but pay attention to the little things you can do to ease your partner’s burden. 

Although words are always important, for this type of person, actions speak louder than words. Put thought, time, effort, and energy into doing things for your partner out of a positive spirit. 

Physical touch

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From infancy, people are wired to thrive on physical touch. Countless research projects in the field of child development have concluded that babies who are held, stroked, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who receive the bare minimum of touch. In fact, the infant mortality rate for touch-deprived children is alarming. Some people continue to employ physical touch as their primary love language into adulthood. 

If you’re uncomfortable with physical touch and grew up in a family that didn’t show affection, you’ll have to learn a second language. Sitting close to your partner as you watch television communicates your love, as does a brief touch on the arm. If your partner speaks this language, use your imagination as to how to make him or her feel loved.

Now that you know the love languages and have the opportunity to explore what your partner prefers, you have the ability to learn more about them. We recommend setting some time to talk to one another and figuring out how to be better at expressing love for each other.