Have you ever heard of The 5 Love Languages?
I first encountered this book my sophomore year of college while I was visiting a friend over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was perusing her family’s bookshelf and when I can upon it, I was intrigued. Her mom explained the basic premise of the book, which I found fascinating. The author, Gary Chapman, writes that humans can feel loved in five main ways (as opposed to the assumption I think we all have, which is that we all give and receive love in the same way). The five love languages are: Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Receiving Gifts. I thought it was so interesting, but it wasn’t until about five years later this book became a huge game changer in my life.
You see, Tom and I have been really lucky to have had a generally easy relationship. Of course we have our ups and downs, and we’ve walked through our share of difficult times, but generally speaking we don’t have any heavy-duty problems that plague our marriage.
But there was a point a few years in when we found ourselves bumping into the same problem over and over again. It felt like we were talking in circles, and we couldn’t seem to find the words to communicate effectively with each other. Basically, we knew how much we loved each other, but we were struggling to feel loved by the other person. We couldn’t find common ground on which to discuss this problem rationally, so we kept struggling with it over and over again.
That’s when this book entered our life. (Timely, no?) Finally, we could get on the same page. We could understand what the other person was saying when they said they weren’t feeling close, and learned how to give the other person what they needed. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ll go so far as to say it was a breakthrough for us.
So what is it? The basic idea is that we all experience love in five main ways. We each have a primary love language. That primary love language dictates how loved we feel by other people. It also determines how we will instinctively try to show others we love them. Say, for example, Susie’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation. And let’s say Susie is married to Steve. If Susie is feeling suuuuuper in love with Steve, chances are she is going to tell him with words. Phrases like, “I appreciate you so much,” and “I love you so deeply,” will be how she tries to communicate her love to Steve.
But let’s say Steve’s primary love language is not Words of Affirmation, it’s Quality Time. Let’s say Words of Affirmation registers so low on his love scale, it’s at a zero. Susie can tell Steve how much she loves him until she’s blue in the face, but Steve will most likely not feel very loved. He may even feel sad and start to resent Susie.
Bottom line: if someone we love (and we logically know loves us) isn’t “speaking our love language,” then we aren’t going to feel loved by that person.
Imagine your heart is a tank fueled by love (not unlike a car’s gas tank), and your “love tank” gets filled by the different languages. If your partner expresses their love for you in your primary language, your tank is going to get really full. If they express it in a lesser love language for you, then your tank might fill up half way. If they express it in a love language that barely registers for you, your tank might feel totally empty.
In our example, Susie is going to feel really loved by Steve if he tells her, “Susie I’m so proud of all your hard work.” Steve, alternatively, is going to feel really loved by Susie if she dedicates three hours on a Saturday afternoon to go on a hike with him. If Steve doesn’t tell Susie he’s proud, Susie won’t feel love. If Susie doesn’t go for the hike, Steve won’t feel loved.
The key is to learn your and your partner’s love language and then start speaking it. For example, Tom’s primary love language is Quality Time. So as his wife, I know that if I want to make him feel loved by me, I have to actively spend time with him. Maybe I suggest we go on a bike ride together, or go on a walk around the neighborhood. We can even do an activity together, like practicing a song on the guitar or visiting a museum. Whatever we do, I have to be sure I am focused on Tom and connecting to him so he feels we are spending Quality Time together.
(Side note: this concept also applies to all types of love, not just romantic. It’s helpful to learn the love languages of parents, siblings, friends, etc. so you can also start speaking their language in order to demonstrate your love.)
This also helps me to understand when others are trying to show me love, just not in my primary language. For example, Receiving Gifts is not a strong love language for me (in fact, it registers as a 2 out of 12 on the scale for me). But let’s say it’s Great Aunt Nancy’s primary love language. Chances are Great Aunt Nancy isn’t going to read this book and start trying to speak my language. She’s going to keep giving me gifts as a way to express her love. Instead of feeling annoyed and awkward that she keeps insisting on giving me gifts, I can instead appreciate that she is trying to tell me she loves me. My previous irritation would have kept us apart, but my new understanding allows for compassion and connection between us.
So, how do you learn what your love language is? Well, you can answer a few short questions right here to find out. The book encourages partners to each take the quiz and then review the answers with each other. That’s what Tom and I did, and I can say without a doubt is was the best thing we did for our relationship. Now we know how to fill each other’s love tanks, and we have had years to practice speaking each other’s love language. I truly believe if we continue speaking each other’s love language, our love and marriage will continue to grow strong.
We used to be two ships passing in the night, trying to express our love to each other, yet often feeling unloved and disconnected. Now we know how to show love so that the other feels it.
So tell me, what do you think of all this? Can you relate? Does it sound useful? Have you tried it? I’d love to hear your experience! Whatever your love language, I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and that you feel loved <3
Also, since we’re on the topic of love and Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I’ve rounded up a slew of red coats below!
- Love this wrap version, so classy!
- This one has the cutest buttons and sweetest sleeves.
- This one is a tad pricier but I love the color and the quality looks amazing.
- Another belted version, this one in a richer burgundy hue.
- Love this bright and fun trench, and it’s on sale too!
- How cute is the flared bottom of this one?!
- And this one is such a classic silhouette, and it’s such a great price (clearly, since it’s almost sold out!)