Dr. Gary Chapman’s #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, seems like any other cheesy self-help book that promises to find you love or change your life, but really just ends up shoved in your bookshelf, partly-read and forever forgotten. Going on the website is no more encouraging, besides the fact that Oprah’s wardrobe stylist gave it her stamp of approval (I don’t care if it’s her garbage man… if they’re related to Oprah, I listen to them).
But halfway through taking the personality quiz, I started to buy into the idea that maybe this was not just one of those cheesy, useless, self-help books, and Dr. Chapman was onto something. Maybe knowing a partner’s love language just might save a relationship.
The idea behind this psychology is that every individual has a different way that they give and receive love. Dr. Chapman argues that these ways can be divided up into 5 simple categories:
1. Acts of Service
If your #1 Love Language is “Acts of Service,” you feel most loved and appreciated when your partner thinks about what they can do to ease the responsibilities that are weighing on you. Hearing “let me help you with that” or “I already took care of it” is more exciting to you than those pictures of hot guys with baby animals (yes, it is a real book). Laziness, failure to perform their share of chores, or being unthoughtful with how they can help you are all easy ways for you to feel unappreciated and unloved.
2. Words of Affirmation
This one is the gushing best friend of love languages. If your #1 Love Language is “Words of Affirmation,” actions do not speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments make you feel secure and happy in your relationship. Hearing “I love you” on a regular basis is important to you, and helps you to believe you are loved. Hearing the reasons behind why they love you is icing on the happy-relationship cake. Insults are not easily forgotten and not hearing enough words of affirmation will make you feel unloved.
3. Quality Time
For you, nothing says “I love you” like binge-watching Game of Thrones or playing Scrabble on a Friday night. Having your partner’s undivided attention is the time when you feel most appreciated. Distractions during quality time or postponing dates can make you feel like you aren’t important to your partner. Scheduling the time to be together is crucial to the success of your relationship.
4. Receiving Gifts
This one may sound like it’s materialistic or reserved for gold diggers. But if this is your #1 language, don’t question your character. It actually has more to do with the thought behind the gift than the gift itself. You appreciate the thoughtfulness behind gift giving (whether it’s a grand birthday present or bringing home your favorite magazine from a trip to the drugstore). All gifts, whether small and daily or big and grand, remind you how much you matter to your partner and how much thoughtfulness and effort they think you’re worth. Missed birthdays or thoughtless gifts are your relationship nightmare because it makes you feel like your partner doesn’t care about you.
5. Physical Touch
Get your mind out of the gutter, this isn’t just about intimacy — holding hands, hugging, or pats on the back make you feel loved and cared for. Physical closeness is directly related to emotional closeness for you, and neglect can be destructive to the relationship. A hug can lift your mood or take away your insecurities.
So why is knowing your partner’s love language so crucial to the success of your relationship?
It will help you and your partner feel more appreciated.
Think about it: if you’re an “Acts of Service” person dating a “Words of Affirmation” person, your partner might shower you with compliments and “I love you”s every day, but you would spend the relationship not feeling truly appreciated because they never offer to run errands or do the dishes. Understanding your partner’s love language will help you discern how they show their love, so that you do feel loved and appreciated, knowing the way in which they give their love is different than yours.
It will allow you to communicate your needs more.
We’ve all had those little things we wish our partner would just do without us asking; complimenting us when we dress up, bringing home flowers, planning a date night. When they don’t do these things, it can be hurtful because in our minds, those things equate to their appreciation. We also might worry they’d just be doing those things because they feel forced to if we ask them to, not out of appreciation or love. Understanding that they do other things out of love, and that they just have a different love language, will help you to communicate, “it makes me feel appreciated when you clean the kitchen,” or “I feel loved when you hold my hand.”
It will show you and your partner what you both should do without being asked.
Knowing your partner is a “Physical Touch” person will make you more thoughtful about holding their hand in public or hugging them when they’re down, and you will be able to understand the meaning and importance behind these little acts that, for you, would otherwise be insignificant. Your partner will be more conscious about what they can do to show you how much they appreciate and love you. When you and your partner both know how the other gives appreciation and wants to receive appreciation, it makes for more thoughtful decisions and efforts that make you and your partner both feel loved and valued.
Take the quiz with your partner, and you can thank me and Oprah’s Wardrobe Stylist later.