According to author, Gary Chapman, there are five love languages for couples; five primary ways individuals demonstrate their love for one another.
Although his theory isn’t based on scientific research, it is backed by more than 30 years of anecdotal evidence from Chapman’s experience as a marriage and couples counselor.
Chapman identifies the following love languages:
1. Receiving Gifts
2. Quality Time
3. Words of Affirmation
4. Physical Touch
5. Acts of Service
In Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, he outlines ways to decipher the individual language both you and your partner speak. Believing that these languages are embedded within each person at a young age, he’s confident they hold the key to developing healthy relationships.
What does this all mean for you? How can you tell which love language your partner speaks? What is your own love language? Furthermore, why is it important?
How to Identify Your Partner’s Love Language
Learning another ‘language’ is one thing but identifying the language and understanding it is completely different. Here are some tips on how to home in on the love languages you and your partner speak.
Look for Excitement
Observe your partner in everyday activities. Is there something that really makes them smile? Do they get excited over a certain behavior or action of another person? Can you tell when something is genuinely meaningful to them?
For example, one partner got as exuberant as a child every time their partner brought home fresh donuts on Saturday mornings. Or, consider the partner who consistently let out a sigh of relief and relaxed as the couple held hands.
These tiny moments are clues into which love language your partner speaks. Take these moments and connect the dots back to the love language.
Pinpoint What Upsets Them
As you observe what is meaningful to your partner, remember to look at the negative responses, as well.
Take note of the behavior and situations that upset them. Listen for a theme in their complaining or frustrating moments.
For example, one partner was easily upset when a device would interrupt the conversation. In this case, it may be worth considering Quality Time as their love language.
Why Your Partner’s Love Language Matters
More than simply “getting along,” here are two important reasons to learn which love language your partner speaks.
Establishes Guidelines in the Relationship
Relationships work better with guidelines to clarify each partner’s needs and personal boundaries.
Without guidelines, you and your partner have no map to give you direction on how to show your love in a way that has meaning to the other. It’s a situation where neither of you know how to show the other love.
Furthermore, no matter how hard you try to express your love, your partner may not even understand what you’re trying to do. They may even misinterpret your action as having some other motive.
These types of misunderstandings could easily cause rifts in your relationship.
Keep Their “Emotional Tank” Full
According to Chapman, the most vital reason for learning which love language your partner speaks is to avoid their emotional gas tank becoming empty.
Close relationships and even casual human interactions—at the office, in the home, in line at the store, etc.—they all require a certain amount of emotional energy. When a person gives and gives without having their emotional gas tank replenished, burnout can happen.
Think of a vehicle sputtering to the side of the road, all out of fuel.
As a couple, you each have the responsibility of keeping not only your own tank full, but also your partner’s.
Another way to think of this concept is as if you’re making deposits into what John Gottman calls an emotional bank account. When the account is kept full, your partner is at maximum emotional strength.
Nurturing a relationship can be tricky. Furthermore, it’s no small feat to pinpoint which love language makes sense to your partner, and then speak it! However, with attunement and intention, you can definitely learn.
Mirela Bitkowski, MA, LPC Intern is a couples therapist at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you’d like help in strengthening the connection between you and your partner, and learn more about “love languages” in your relationship, please contact Mirela by calling (512) 270-4883, ext. 103, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.