What is Love? (Baby, just show me)- Understanding Love Languages
Updated: Jul 12
You’ve probably heard of love languages, but what are they actually?
General ways to give and receive love? Communication patterns of a person towards another? A list of ways to gain insight on a person’s needs and desires? If you chose all the above, you’re correct!
While relationships, romantic or platonic, comprise of a specific bond between people—at the end of the day, the people are still individuals with their own thoughts, behaviors, and value systems. No persons are the same, nor should they be! Everyone is unique with their own individual traits, needs, and wants, and as such, have their own little loves.
But with individuality comes differences; understanding each other can be a struggle, especially if individual experiences are different. That’s not to say that it is impossible to try to understand a loved one—it is possible and ultimately a rewarding endeavor!
To love and to be loved is to try to understand and be understood; while this may increase feelings of vulnerability, greater intimacy and affection follows as well.
Love languages are merely the vehicle in working towards understanding someone in their needs and expressions of affection. By knowing your partner(s)’ love language and allowing them to know yours, intimate closeness can be promoted along with deeper feelings of appreciation and care.
“The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” was written by Gary Chapman in 1992 after he noticed patterns in the couples he counseled. By realizing that much of the miscommunication comprised of couples misunderstanding each other’s needs, Chapman identified and formulated the Five Love Languages—or, the ways in which people express and receive love. They are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Everyone is deserving of love, and that includes you! You deserve to be understood in love, and in turn, deserve the chance to love others in kind. Read more below to find out which love languages resonate strongly with you!
Words of Affirmation
Or, also simply known as giving praise and compliments.
Words of affirmation is about affection expressed through spoken words and appreciation. People with this love language tend to enjoy and feel best when verbally complimented and praised; another aspect to this love language is verbal encouragement. Everyone has areas of insecurity, and that fear may hinder a person from accomplishing positive things. Through words of affirmation, encouragement is to inspire courage within a person to feel affirmed and secure. You can make your loved one’s day by complimenting them, recognizing what they did well, expressing gratitude, and verbally appreciating them!
Examples include: saying “I love you,” “I appreciate what you did,” “Everything is better with you here,” even a simple “thank you” will go a long way.
Acts of Service
Or, as exemplified in this well-known quote: “Actions speak louder than words.”
People with this love language place great value in when a partner goes out of their way to make their life easier. Life is full of struggles, but to go out of your way to alleviate discomfort, especially when you don’t have to—is a gift and expression of care. This love language may differ as everyone interprets tasks and services differently; the key is learning what feels thoughtful for you, and what is thoughtful to your partner. Acts of service may also include things not of the task/chore nature, but sweet and thoughtful gestures as well. The focal point of this love language is to demonstrate the action of going out of your way for another person.
Examples include: doing chores without having be told (washing the dishes, taking out the trash, doing the laundry, etc.), and thoughtful gestures (getting coffee for your partner because you know they’re having a bad day or bringing them soup when they are sick).
Or, having your undivided attention.
People who value this love language feel adored when you actively want to spend time with them. By dedicating time specific to your loved one, you are showing how much you value their time and presence. And as stated in the name, it is the quality of time versus the quantity that is important; the way your time is spent and the attention you give your partner is worth everything, especially when having a busy schedule full of priorities and daily obligations. By setting time to give your partner your attention and focus on them, you show them how beloved they feel.
Examples include: comfortable pastimes together (watching a show together without your phones, visiting a new place together for fun, snuggling, etc.), doing tasks together (walking the dog to the park together, cooking together, etc.), and meaningful interaction (eye contact and active listening, being interested in what they’re saying, avoiding distractions when together, etc.).
Or, “it’s the thought that counts.”
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and know that the person who gave it to you was thinking of you specifically, i.e., the gift is a symbol of that thought, a physical and visual representation of that love. People with this love language not only treasure the gift, but also the time and effort the gift-giver put into it; they do not expect expensive or large gifts, but the meaning and thought placed in said gift, proof of the gift-giver’s care and understanding of the giftee. Those that value this love language often remember every little gift they receive from their loved ones, as it made such an impact on them.
Examples include: remembering and getting what your partner likes (a favorite snack, tickets to see a favorite musician, etc.) and gestures of thoughtfulness (getting your partner flowers even when it’s not a special occasion, gifting a beautiful pebble because it was lovely and the gift-giver wanted to share that beauty to someone they love, personalized gifts, etc.).
Or, love shown through physical affection, rather than through verbal or action.
Physical touch has been known as a gesture to communicate emotional care; numerous results in child development research have seen that babies who have been held, kissed, and hugged will develop healthier emotional lives than those who were left with limited to no contact. Needless to say, it is just as important for adults to have physical contact, to promote wellness and social health. People with this love language feel cared for when they receive physical signs of affection, whether it’s sexual and/or non-sexual. Physical touch can be a form of affirmation and comfort, and may serve as an emotional connector for the relationship.
Examples include: hand holding, hugging, kissing, sex, massages, shampooing your partner’s hair, an arm around a shoulder/waist, etc.
You may find yourself with resonating with a one, a few, or even all of these love languages. By figuring out how you give and receive love, it will promote better understanding for yourself and your loved ones, and lay the foundation in learning how your partner(s) desire to love and be loved. A relationship is a collaboration, a conversation where people keep learning how to love one another. Struggle with understanding one another is a fact of life and can bring pain; however, the amazing thing about love languages are that they can help articulate what you need, and how to let others understand you in the way that feels authentic. By learning to allow yourself to love and be loved, and for others to do the same, intimacy and understanding will grow for you to live a fulfilling life.
Thy Tran is a Counseling Intern at Enhancing Intimacy, providing low cost relationship and individual counseling to the people of Austin. Thy strives to help her clients gain the freedom and safety to explore themselves in all areas and stages of life. Thy is LGBTQ+ affirming, sex and body positive, monogamous and non-monogamous relationships aware, and seeks to provide high quality services to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and/or socioeconomic status. Thy speaks both English and Vietnamese.
If you are interested in scheduling a free consultation with Thy, call us at 512-994-2588 to get scheduled. If you prefer to schedule online you can do so here.