In the first of an occasional series, our dating expert chooses her pick of the best relationship advice books ever written. This month, it’s The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Do you ever feel like you and your partner are at cross purposes? You’re both well intentioned, but somehow your expressions of love just never seem to hit the mark— or if they do, it’s more by luck than judgement? Do you often feel as if you’re falling short in some, tiny, indefinable way? Does the person you love always seem ever so slightly baffling?
If so, I recommend you read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman (Moody Press, £10.99). This has been a classic for 25 years, for good reason: it explains what many of us feel but can’t express.
Chapman is American, and is now in his seventies. He has been a pastor and a marriage counsellor for over 30 years, and married to his wife Kathy for 45 years. When he first began counselling, he saw many couples coming to him with issues around understanding each other. Eventually, Chapman theorised that each of us speaks one of five very different Love Languages: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, or Receiving Gifts. We all have a primary Love Language, and a secondary one.
The Love Language that we “speak” describes how we express our love and, crucially, how we receive it, too. Chapman believes that all of us have an internal “Love Tank” that needs to be filled regularly. When our partner speaks to us in our Love Language, it immediately tops up our Love Tank and we feel content and happy. But when they show affection in one of the other Languages, it doesn’t resonate—and our Tank remains empty, despite how lovely they have been.
Haven’t you ever felt like that—that, while your partner is technically sweet and caring, they just don’t seem to know how to make you feel truly loved and appreciated?
In the olden days, the only way to find out your Love Language was to take the quiz in the book. But today, Chapman has a huge, interactive website, where you can find a very easy-to-complete online quiz.
The five Love Languages are:
1. Acts of Service
“Let me do that for you,” is about the sexiest thing you can say to an Acts of Service person. They notice and appreciate every time that their partner showers them with tangible, practical help. Forget flowers and jewellery: what an Acts of Service person wants to receive on their birthday is anything that lifts their burden. For example, having the house cleaned, their car serviced, or having dinner cooked and—more importantly— cleared up afterwards. If this is your Language, you probably try to show people you care by helping them out practically. Just remember that, if your partner talks another Language, your efforts might feel unromantic.
2. Physical Touch
This is generally where the husbands sit up and start paying attention. But Physical Touch isn’t just about lovemaking (although that’s one of the most enjoyable ways of expressing it!)—it includes hugs, cuddles, a casual hair-ruffle in passing, or a sensuous massage. People who speak the Physical Touch language need to feel connected to their partner in a physical way. Holding hands is their favourite thing in the world. If this is you, you’ll already know that a hug can say a thousand words when you’re feeling down. If this is your partner, never hold back from touch, even if you’re not in the mood for anything more. And always touch them when you talk—they find it soothing, and it helps them listen.
3. Words of Affirmation
If this is your Love Language, then hearing “I love you” NEVER gets old. Compliments and praise give you life, while insults cut your soul down to the core. You still remember every syllable of your wedding vows, and you keep birthday cards just so you can read the poems and messages inside. When this is your Language, it’s important to create easy ways for your partner to fill your Love Tank, especially if they’re not the most verbose of people: get into the habit of texting little messages during the day so you can keep and re-read any replies. You don’t need long expressions of love, but you do need daily top-ups.
4. Quality Time
It’s not about what you do together, it’s how you do it. People who speak the Quality Time Love Language need uninterrupted attention from their other half. No distractions, no phones or Kindles. TV turned off. Even if it’s just an hour or two every week, the Quality-Time Lover needs a chance to feel that they’re basking in their partner’s full attention. If this is you, you’ll already know how cranky you feel when your partner is repeatedly busy with other things. Tell your partner kindly that you just want to go for a walk with them, just them, for 30 minutes or so. If this is your partner, the hottest thing you can do for them is kicking everyone else out so you can be alone together.
5. Receiving Gifts
This isn’t about being a gold digger. The Receiving Gifts Love Language is all about the thoughtfulness behind a gift. When they see that their partner took time out of their day to choose something to make them smile, the Gift-Lover feels genuinely loved. (And, to be fair, they probably shower their other half with presents in return.) Forgetting birthdays or anniversary is unforgivable. But just picking flowers from the garden is memorable. If this is you, make sure your partner realises how much you love gifts by never ever criticising or swapping anything they give you! And if this is your partner, set reminders in your calendar for birthdays, anniversaries, the first time you met, your first kiss...
For more about the five Love Languages, Gary Chapman’s other books, and to take the 5 Love Languages quiz, visit his website.
You can read more from Kate on her website
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