Are you multilingual when it comes to love?
We often hear that love is a language of its own… Author and anthropologist Gary Chapman, however, believes we express - and receive - love in five main “love languages”.
I wanted to share this with you because people often come to counselling for relationship issues. When we explore the core of the relationship, we usually realise the following: that there is strong love between the couple, but poor communication, as if they are speaking a different language...
Chapman’s framework is valuable whether you’re part of a couple or single. It can also be applied to friendships and relationships with your children.
The languages of love
A “love language” is how you love and feel loved - and it needn’t involve words at all! Chapman’s five main languages of love are quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts.
We tend to express love in the same way that would make us feel loved. And we feel unloved if we don’t receive love in the “language” closest to our hearts.
For example, if your love language is “gifts” and you give gifts to your partner whose core love language is “acts of service”, your thoughtful, well-intentioned gestures may go unacknowledged. And if your partner then mentions that you don’t love or support them enough, you may feel unappreciated and confused.
So, what’s your love language?
You may have a clear primary love language or you may be “bilingual” or “multilingual”, speaking a few languages of love. If you’re not sure what yours is, ask yourself these two key questions:
- When do I feel special and loved in my life, friendships or relationships?
- When do I feel unloved (or even alone or angry!)?
What could this mean for your relationships?
Chapman’s framework could give you a completely different perspective, or the push you need to start improving your love life (and other meaningful relationships) by talking the "same love language", because:
- Identifying your love language(s) can give great insight into yourself and why you feel how you feel in your relationship.
- Being aware of your partner’s love language(s) gives you the opportunity to deepen your relationship by loving them in a way that resonates with them.
- Identifying each other’s love language can help to clear up misunderstandings in your relationship. This can take some practice, especially if your primary love languages are completely different!
Chapman's five languages of love
Here’s a quick introduction to Chapman’s five languages of love:
Words of affirmation
Words of affirmation are often the first step to becoming close to someone in a friendship or relationship. People in love often express their love by telling each other. Most of us like to hear kind and encouraging words from others. We often feel happy when we get a compliment, especially from our loved one.
If this is your love language, it is important to you to hear words of affirmation long after the “honeymoon phase” is over! For you, words like “I love you” or “I miss you” hold a magical power.
We all need quality time with our loved ones, but for some this is essential for being happy in a relationship. If this is your love language, spending uninterrupted time talking with your loved one or doing activities together deepens your connection. It makes you feel special when you receive your partner’s undivided attention. If quality time with your partner is lacking, you may feel lonely and unloved.
Acts of service
When we do something to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on our loved ones, it means a lot to them. Sometimes they need a shoulder to cry on or to hear “Let me do that for you.” If this is your love language, you feel truly valued and loved if your beloved is there for you when you need them most and you may feel unfulfilled if they create more work for you.
This doesn’t just refer to time in the bedroom! Non-sexual affection and touch communicate warmth, safety and love to all of us, but especially to someone who prioritises touch. Hugs, pats on the back and thoughtful touches are all ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. If this is your love language, touch is crucial to you feeling loved and secure in your relationship and lack of it may make you feel lonely or insecure.
This language thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind a gift. If you speak this language, gifts are heartfelt symbols to you of someone’s love and affection for you. Special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries are important to you and a partner forgetting them might leave you feeling wounded.
Understanding your love
The five love languages are equally beautiful and all can help us to create and experience a wonderful love life. Kind words, affection, spending time together, showing up and tokens of devotion are all beautiful parts of the whole called love. Understanding your deepest love needs could deepen or reaffirm a relationship that has been feeling stuck or broken and support you in enjoying your love life to its fullest...
My love language is quality time. What’s yours? I’d love to know - please leave a comment below!