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Love Languages and Relationships

By: Carolyn Mish, Contributing Writer

Love and affection drive us to be our best. To be the best friends, partners, and family that we can be, we rely on effective communication. Dr. Gary Chapman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote a book in 1992 titled The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts based on his experience with relationships. He boiled down the complex and unpredictable art of understanding what others need into one idea: we all have primary and secondary love languages. In the 25 years since the book was released, pop culture has latched onto the idea that how we love can be easily identified with an online quiz. Ariana Grande even referenced the concept on her latest album, Positions. But do Dr. Chapman’s ideas actually have the ability to influence and even improve our relationships? Regardless of the answer, his concept begs an interesting question about how to love and feel loved.

What Are Love Languages?

Love languages are ways of expressing and receiving love. The five Chapman highlights are acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and giving/receiving gifts. You can identify your primary and secondary love languages using an online quiz, which asks questions about how meaningful various affections are to you. You prefer to give and receive love based on both your primary and secondary love languages and may see different aspects of the two in different relationships.

Acts of service entail helpful actions that one partner knows the other would appreciate. It revolves around demonstrations of affection and love rather than verbal expressions of them. Words of affirmation, on the other hand, are verbal expressions of love. Supportive and uplifting words, whether unexpected compliments or a daily “I love you” drive this love language. Quality time is what it sounds like--quality time. This involves receiving and giving your undivided attention to your partner to foster connection. Physical touch can be as simple as hugs, high-fives, and other forms of non-verbal intimacy. Being close to loved ones is important for those with this love language. Finally, gift-giving uses physical tokens to demonstrate love.

How Do We Use Them?

Dr. Chapman intended for people to take note of not just their love languages, but the love languages of their partners and family. Using the frames of the five love languages can help you better understand your behavior. How do you often convey your love for others? What makes you feel neglected and lonely? These all help you understand what points and parts of love languages you identify with. It’s important to know communication begins at conveying what makes you feel loved and appreciated--and continues. The attentiveness and care that you take when understanding what makes you feel loved must be devoted to making the other party feel loved.

There are a variety of ways to implement both your and your partner’s love languages into your communication and actions. These depend on personal preference and need, but based on the five languages we can infer what actions can be taken and what can be said to make others feel loved. For example, for words of affirmation, thoughtful compliments go a long way. Empathizing and supporting them in conversation is also effective. Talking through which gestures, demonstrations, and tokens are most appreciated can be a great way to maximize communication and support in relationships.

Furthermore, love languages speak to a deeper human need. Toxic relationships and a lack of communication in relationships can be detrimental to mental health. Recognizing when your needs are not being met and the relationship is unhealthy is vital to know when to step back and prevent damage to your psyche and emotions. Additionally, feeling loved and supported is integral to having a support system in place when mental health becomes a priority. Giving and receiving love is key to your wellbeing.

In the decades since Dr. Chapman’s book was published, his idea has been researched and received mixed results. Some studies conclude that the awareness and regulation that love languages can add to relationships is helpful to long-term satisfaction. Others find them to be a neutral predictor of success. Whatever your personal outlook on love languages may be, their ability to spark conversations about love, communication, and meeting others’ needs is incredibly valuable during a time where connection needs more help than ever.

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