The Five Languages of Love

There are many ways we can express our love to our significant other, such as by holding them close to us, giving them little presents or simply listening to them talk about their day. In The Five Love Languages, author and relationship counselor Gary Chapman discusses the many ways to say I love you and why “speaking” the right language of love is important in our relationships.

Dr. Gary Chapman emphasizes in his best-selling book The Five Love Languages, is that even for couples who love each other, we might be expressing our love in ways that are not clear to our partners. Sometimes, Dr. Chapman points, we think that we’re already doing a lot to show our love while our partners think that we’re hardly making any effort simply because the way we express our feelings – the language that we use – is not the same as the one they are using.

First published in 1995, The Five Love Languages has consistently been on Amazon’s best sellers list.
Photo by Wikimedia

What are these languages? Dr. Chapman breaks it down to five: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. While we all can understand and express all five languages, each of us have a preferred language that we want our partners to use. A mutual expression of this language is the key to a loving and fulfilling relationship.

1. Words of Affirmation

Do you feel very happy when someone, especially your partner, gives you praises or says kind words to you? If you do, your preferred language of love is probably Words of Affirmation.

People who put the highest value on the first language of love likes to receive verbal compliments and words of appreciation, and are particularly sensitive to spoken criticism. For them, words aren’t just words – they are the ultimate expression of our emotions.

“I just don’t feel comfortable when my boyfriend isn’t talking to me,” says Melinda Li, a 27-year old secretary. “It feels like there’s something wrong. I would rather we talk over the phone than be together but not speaking to each other.”

For someone who communicates through Words of Affirmation, attentively listening is a great way to show one’s love.
Photo by Weelian Photography

In general, women prefer expressions through words more than men. When we dress up, we want them to notice and we want them to flatter us. When we’re having a bad day, we want to hear them say that things will be fine. When we do something for them, we want them to appreciate it.

In most couples though, the problem isn’t that men don’t think well about their partners – they’re just not very good at expressing their thoughts. If this applies to you, make your partner understand that he doesn’t really have to say so much to let you know that he loves you. Let him know that even simple praises and words of encouragement already mean so much to you.

A simple compliment is easy to give and is often enough to cheer a woman throughout the day.
Photo by Kinici Photo

You should also know that words have a different effect on men. They don’t care about their looks as much as we do, but they do care a lot about how people see their capabilities. So if you want to express your love through words of affirmation, the best way is to tell your boyfriend how much faith and trust you have in him, and that you feel safe when he’s around. Tell him the good qualities that you see in him.

Lastly, always keep in mind that there’s nothing more powerful in keeping a relationship intact than a kindly and sincerely said “I love you”.

2. Quality Time

For a person whose preferred language of love is Quality Time, there’s nothing better than spending time alone with their partner or to have their partner’s undivided attention.

If you’re like this, what you do during your quality time is often not as important as the mere fact that you’re spending time together. Whether you’re having an adventurous time trekking the Australian wilderness or just staying cosy at home reading romantic poems to each other – what’s more important is that you’re together and that, at least for the moment, nothing else matters to you but each other.

No matter how busy your schedule, you should always find time to rekindle your love for each other.
Photo by Weelian Photography

Having quality time is very important in every stage of the relationship. In fact, for most people, it isn’t until we share quality time with another person that we become sure whether or not we want to pursue a relationship with them. After all, this is when heart-to-heart conversations happen, and it’s often the time when we know we have irreversibly fallen in love.

Having quality time gets tougher as we grow older, though – just ask any couple who are past the honeymoon stage. Over time, we get occupied with our respective careers, responsibilities to our parents, and even social obligations, and before we know it, we’ve stopped having any form of quality time with our partner.

Quality Time means leaving your other responsibilities for the moment, and focusing exclusively on your partner.
Photo by Avior Pictures

“After our first child was born, my husband and I kind of drifted apart,” says Cathy Yeh, a 36-year old teacher. “We still loved each other, we never doubted that. But we focused so much on building the future for our family that we forgot to focus on each other.”

So how did Cathy fix her problem? It was as simple as agreeing to spend one day every other week exclusively doing what she and her husband love to do, together. They would take turns choosing what to do or where to go and make that their priority: the kids are left at their grandparents, mobile phones and computers are turned off, and they would do nothing but have fun and revel in each other’s company.

3. Receiving Gifts

We all like to receive gifts from time to time, but there are some people for whom tokens of appreciation are much, much more precious. These are people whose primary love language is Receiving Gifts.

Do you have a “memory box” where you keep an assortment of memorabilia like cinema tickets, souvenirs from your vacations, or even ribbons used to wrap gifts you’ve received? Do you find it hard to let go of gifts given to you even when these things have lost their usefulness? Do you feel particularly sad when something you gave wasn’t as appreciated as you hoped it would be? If so, you probably find gift-giving to be the ultimate expression of love.

Random small gifts are often the sweetest.
Photo by Avior Pictures

It’s actually easy to understand why many of us can become ecstatic over being given something as simple as, say, flowers or chocolates. Throughout human history, both men and women have given gifts to each other to show their love. It’s not just about usefulness, it’s more about showing one’s devotion. At the core of the gesture is this message: I found something beautiful, and there is no one else I would like to have it more than you.

“Nothing cheers me up like receiving something from my boyfriend,” says Annie Kao, 22-years old. “It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. Sometimes I’m just as happy to receive a card or a rose.”

The best material gift a man can ever give to his partner is – you guessed it – an engagement ring.
Photo by Renatus Photography

If you take special joy in receiving gifts, it doesn’t really mean that you’re materialistic because we don’t really appreciate the gifts given by our loved ones because of their monetary value. Rather, we appreciate these gifts because it’s something we can keep that attests to our partner’s thoughtfulness – they are tangible expressions of their love.

At the heart of loving is the act of giving. In fact, the 5 love languages can be interpreted as 5 gifts of love: praise (for Words of Affirmation), time (for Quality Time), effort (for Acts of Service), intimacy (for Physical Touch), and of course, presents (for Receiving Gifts).

Those whose primary language of love is receiving gifts are people for whom permanence is very important, which is why they give the highest value to receiving things that they can hold on to forever.

4. Acts of Service

For me, the sweetest thing my boyfriend ever did was to drop by my workplace to bring me coffee. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Well, I could go on and on about why it was special to me – because it was raining, because I sorely needed my caffeine shot but was too busy to go out, because of so many things – but the point is, he went out of his way to please me without me even asking him to do so.

I think that’s love, which is why my primary love language is Acts of Service.

If he replies to your texts as soon as he gets a break from work, he’s probably a keeper.
Photo by Livesnapps

In a way, people who “speak” using acts of service is the opposite of those who use words of affirmation. For us, exclamations of “I love you’s” and whispers of sweet nothings are all well and good – and, yes, we can’t live without hearing them every now and then – but these pledges of affection won’t count much for anything if our partner don’t prove it with their actions.

“Your dad’s actually quite romantic – even if he wouldn’t say so himself,” says Vivian, 56-years-old, my mum. “He still takes me to the movies and we still eat out every now and then. He drives me around, he’s always been patient. He’s a real gentleman.”

Taking turns taking care of the kids is an Act of Service in most mature marriages.
Photo by Berryhappy Photography

So does acts of service mean old-school chivalry? Well, yes, but not exactly. For one, acts of service go two ways: women can do it for their men just as much as the other way around. We can, for example, try to share their fanaticism to Manchester United, and conversely, they can sit down with us for a Jennifer Aniston marathon. They can cook for us, and we can tidy up their apartment for them. We can both give each other a massage after a tiring day.

Lastly, keep in mind that acts of service are best done selflessly. That means, we shouldn’t do it just because we think we’ll get a reward later as a favour in return; rather, we should do it out of a genuine desire to make our partner happy by putting their wants ahead of ours.

5. Physical Touch

A lot of people love to communicate through Physical Touch – and it’s easy to see why. It doesn’t cost anything, we do it naturally, and it feels, well, pleasurable. But don’t get ahead of yourself: the language of physical touch doesn’t just pertain to getting frisky under the sheets. In fact, most messages of physical touch are done openly and with naught a trace of naughty thoughts.

In fact, you may already be communicating through physical touch without being aware of it. The next time you’re with your partner, notice how easily your bodies conform to each other and how you automatically share spaces. Those light touches on the waist, the gentle bumps, the little kisses you leave on the shoulders – those are all iterations of love through physical touch.

Couples share their personal space in an embrace – few things are as intimate and none are as comforting.
Photo by Annabel Law Productions

“I’m not normally a touchy-touchy person. In fact, it took me a month before I felt comfortable holding hands with my boyfriend,” says Nicole Wan, a 29-year old personal assistant. “But now I’m usually the one who reaches out for him. Having him close makes me feel secure.”

The love language of physical touch is all about intimacy. When we allow our partner to touch us, we let them in to our comfort zone, allowing ourselves to be completely vulnerable to them. When we reach out for them, it’s like saying that we’re willing to give ourselves to them.

Again, remember that physical touch is not confined to the bedroom. So apart from hugs and holding hands, how else can you convey love through physical touch?

Boop – affectionate gestures like this are sweet ways to express your love.
Photo by Chris Ling Photography

Ladies, here’s what I’ve found out, your man likes it when you touch the part of him that he’s proud of. So if he likes to sport a facial hair, stroke his face once in a while. If he frequently pumps iron, hold his arm while slightly leaning on to him the next time you walk together. And for the men, an embrace from behind as you plant a little kiss on her neck can make any girl’s knees go weak. Even something as simple as tucking stray hair behind her ears would convey so much of the love and care that you have for her.

As they say, the most important thing in a relationship is communication. And in Dr. Gary Chapman book The Five Love Languages, he shows us that there are different languages we can use to communicate with our partner. When we know what language our partner is most attuned to, and especially once we’ve become “fluent” in this language, it would be ever much easier to show our love for them and maintain the foundation of our relationship.

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