Turns out there are more languages than English, Spanish, Mandarin, etc. There are also The Love Languages (1), five very different ways to communicate your love to your partner (or child, or friend, etc).

The 5 Love Languages:

  1. Physical touch
  2. Quality time
  3. Words of affirmation
  4. Acts of service
  5. Gifts

One of the most common places to get stuck in a relationship is through speaking a different love language than your partner. What if you need lots of quality time together, but they prefer to spend less time together? What if your partner is happy and feels loved if you keep your clothes off the floor, but you like to show them love by telling them how much they mean to you?

Let’s look at a few examples of how you might express your love:

  • Sarah reaches out to hold her partner’s hand as they eat dinner (physical touch)
  • Greg stops off to get flowers for his partner on the way home (gifts)
  • Abby clears her busy schedule to spend a whole weekend with her partner (quality time)
  • Monika turns to her partner to say, “I’m so lucky to be with you!” (words of affirmation)
  • Everyday, Jonathon wakes up early to make his partner breakfast (acts of service)i>

These are very different (and valid) languages for communicating the same thing: “I love you. I care about you. You matter to me.” The problem happens when you start speaking a language that your partner can’t hear.

If you’re not getting along with your partner, or experiencing your old spark, it could be you’re actually just speaking different languages (of love). Imagine that for you, what you crave from your partner is words of affirmation. And let’s say your partner tends to give love through acts of service. In the morning he takes the time to make you an excellent cup of coffee AND make the bed. But for you, hearing “I love you” before you leave for the day lights you up in a way that receiving a well-made cup of coffee from them just can’t do.

In this example you’re likely to feel unsatisfied, disappointed, and probably even guilty about feeling that way. But no one has done anything wrong — you’re just speaking different languages, and you need to learn to become bi-lingual and fluent in a different language

So, what to do?! First, take this quiz to determine your primary Love Languages. It may surprise you to find out physical touch is more important to you than gifts, or that you tend to do acts of service for your partner more than have quality time together.

Second, talk about it! Ask your partner how they tend to feel most loved. Have them provide examples of times when they have (and haven’t) received love from you. If you’re in couples counseling, this could be a good framework for you to discuss issues with your partner.

Third, celebrate! Diversity is the spice of life. It’s normal to speak different love languages than your partner. That’s part of what makes an interesting relationship.

References: (1) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts is a book written by Gary Chapman