- The 5 love languages include words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and more.
- Partners with different love languages may feel a disconnect in how each one shows love.
- That’s why it’s important to demonstrate love in a way that is meaningful to your partner.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
There are many ways you can show love to your partner, but depending on your partner’s love language, some may work better than others.
Understanding your own love language and your partner’s love language can give you valuable information about what you need to feel loved and what you can do for your partner to make them feel loved.
Here’s what you need to know about the five love languages and how they can enhance your relationship.
What are the love languages?
The five love languages divide how each person wants to receive love into five categories:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch.
The five love languages were first created in 1995 by a marriage counselor named Gary Chapman. Chapman found that in his meetings with couples, there was a common disconnect – one person thought they were showing love and affection, but their partner wasn’t feeling loved.
“People have different desires and needs in a relationship,” says Samantha Saltz, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice. “Recognizing a partner’s love language helps a person make sure their partner’s needs and wants are being met,” Saltz says.
Issues can arise in a relationship when two partners have different love languages but don’t realize it. For example, a person whose love language is acts of service might regularly cook meals for their partner as an expression of love. But if their partner’s love language is words of affirmation, they may not see this as a sign of love.
“If you want them to feel love, you’ve got to talk their love language. Even if it’s not your love language,” says David Woodsfellow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and couples therapist at The Woodsfellow Institute for Couples Therapy.
Here are the five love languages and how you can show love using each one:
Words of affirmation
If your love language is words of affirmation, you place high value on verbal expressions from your partner. This can include saying “I love you,” giving compliments, or acknowledging the things you do well.
Here’s what you should do to make someone with this love language feel cared for:
- Tell, don’t show: People with this love language respond better to words than actions. “They thrive on being told how their spouse feels rather than an action provided to them,” says Saltz.
- Communicate often: You may also want your partner to text you during the day or call you often when you have to be apart.
- Keep it simple: If your partner wants words of affirmation, it’s often best to keep it simple and just say how you feel. “Don’t worry about over-doing it. Don’t worry about repeating yourself,” Woodsfellow says.
Acts of service
“Think of acts of service as actions that can be physically done in order to make a significant other feel cared for,” Saltz says. This can include doing the dishes, helping out around the house, or picking up the kids from school.
If your partner likes acts of service, be sure to:
- Show some chivalry “People who value acts of service may enjoy some things that are old-fashioned,” Saltz says. Opening doors or offering to pay for a date with your partner can make them feel loved.
- Don’t neglect the little things: Making your partner a cup of coffee or tea can be a small act of service that makes your partner feel appreciated.
“People who value gifts value things that are tangible items,” Saltz says. This can be traditional gifts like roses or jewelry, but can also be anything your partner likes. “Imagine if it was their birthday once a month. What would they want?” Saltz says.
Here’s how to show love to a partner who responds best to gifts:
- Give small things often: “Find things you can give frequently,” Woodsfellow says. Some people may prefer getting small gifts more often rather than a rare large gift.
- Be thoughtful: People who value gifts also like the thoughtfulness behind a gift – give your partner an item that shows you understand them.
- Make it pretty: “Presentation means a lot,” Woodsfellow says, so you may also want to invest in gift wrap.
People who value quality time appreciate the time you spend together with undivided attention. “That means putting down the phone for more than a couple minutes, not having dinner with the television on, and really trying to embrace your one-on-one time,” Saltz says.
To show your quality-time loving partner that you care, you should:
- Save time for discussions: Your partner may like doing activities with you and then talking about those experiences afterward. “For instance, after the movie, talk about it. Talk about what each of you thought and felt,” says Woodsfellow.
- Listen to what they have to say: “Eye contact is key,” Saltz says, adding that spending quality time often means being a good listener.
- Give your partner your undivided attention: It’s also important to separate your work life from your home life when you’re with your significant other, Saltz says. This can mean staying off your email and limiting how much you talk about work.
If your love language is physical touch, you feel most loved when you’re in contact with your partner. “People who enjoy physical touch thrive on the sensation of being held, hugged and kissed. Something as simple as hand holding can make them feel desired and loved,” Saltz says.
Some ways to show your love to someone who responds to physical touch are:
- Give lots of hugs: When your partner is upset, they are often reassured and comforted by touch, Woodsfellow says. This means that just listening to your partner may not be enough, and it can help to add in some physical affection.
- Focus on non-s3xual touches: It’s important that touch in your relationship isn’t only related to s3x. “They need affection, which is separate from s3x,” Woodsfellow says.
In many cases, your love language may be different from your partner’s, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. “Learning love languages will ultimately allow couples to communicate in a way that creates a secure foundation and allows them to grow,” Saltz says.
To make someone feel loved, it’s important to use their love language. “Find gentle ways to ask them to do things that will make you feel loved too,” Woodsfellow says.
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