When it comes to relationships, engagements, weddings, and marriage, love is the word that seems to connect them all. It's about falling in love, being in love, and expressing love, but love can mean something different to each person. These differences are what have come to be referred to as love languages, discovered through years of research by relationship expert Dr. Gary Chapman. Here we uncover what love languages are, and Dr. Chapman offers a few words of wisdom to help you make the most of them.
"The concept of the five love languages is to help people understand the positives and negatives within their relationship," he says. "They may love each other yet be missing one another and finding themselves in constant conflict." The goal: Figure out each person's primary love language. Learning how to speak it will help make any relationship closer and more loving.
What are the five love languages?
1. Words of affirmation. For people with this love language, words are more important than actions. They need to hear "I love you," says Dr. Chapman. Even better is including the reasons behind the love. Insults are a huge issue for people who speak this love language, and they have a hard time letting go of hurtful comments.
2. Quality time. Giving your partner your undivided intention is what matters most to them. That means no TV, no chores, no cell phone, says Dr. Chapman. Putting off dates, acting distracted, or not listening can be deal breakers for people who speak this love language.
3. Receiving gifts. "Don't mistake this love language for materialism," says Dr. Chapman. "The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift." The trick here is picking the right gift that shows you understand your partner. Forgetting a big event or choosing something completely unlike them can be a turnoff.
4. Acts of service. This love language is about help. Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibility—vacuuming, going grocery shopping, sending thank-you notes—will satisfy this type of partner, says Dr. Chapman. The danger zones: laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them.
5. Physical touch. It's not just about sex, says Dr. Chapman. People who speak this love language thrive on any type of physical touch: hand holding, hugs, pats on the back. If you're not physically present, this type of partner can feel neglected.
How can understanding them help your marriage?
So what can you do with this info? First take a look at the list and figure out your (and your partner's) love language. With this information you can start to figure out how to approach your partner in a way that better expresses your love. Keep in mind that there might be a learning curve to addressing your partner, especially if you're all about words of affirmation and they're more into physical touch.
"If the love language of your spouse is something that doesn't come naturally for you, it will take effort," says Dr. Chapman. "The good news is that all of these languages can be learned." Get started by taking it one step at a time. If you know that they're all about words of affirmation, start with one simple statement to let them know you care. Use it often. Over time, it will start to come more naturally, and the payoff will be a warmer, more loving marriage.