The 5 love languages: how to communicate effectively and not let your love get lost in translation

Mental Health

Do you know your love language? What about your partner’s? Discover the ways you like to express and receive love, to ensure the lines of communication remain clear

No matter how much we love our partners, sometimes, it can feel like we get tongue-tied expressing it, or that we’re reading signals the wrong way. We may know that communication is key to a healthy, lasting relationship, but are you communicating in a way that matters most to your partner?

What are the five love languages?

Developed in the 1990s by author and counsellor Gary Chapman, the five love languages are a method of explaining the different ways people like to express and receive love. These include:

  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Gift giving
  • Words of affirmation

But can learning about our partner’s love language really help us communicate? Psychotherapist Beverley Blackman explains more.

“Learning each other’s love languages (we usually have two preferences that stand out) can help you understand your partner better,” says Beverley. “In the early days of a relationship, a person may be looking for a particular behaviour as validation that the relationship is heading in the right direction. If both partners are aware of their own and their partner’s love language, then it gives them an opportunity to understand them better.

“All love languages are important as everyone is different, and has their own way of expressing affection. It’s little acts of connection that keep a relationship balanced, respectful, and affectionate.”

In essence, our love language is the way we prefer to share how we feel about those we are close to. By learning more about your own love language, as well as the way that your partner prefers to show their love, we can begin to avoid some miscommunication and misunderstandings, as we learn to look for signs that we might have been missing.

The five love languages explained

Acts of service

Who doesn’t like it when life feels that little bit easier? If your love language is acts of service, there’s nothing you value more than when your partner goes out of their way to make your life easier. Whether it’s making you breakfast, looking after you when you’re sick, or picking up an extra task or two around the house when you’re feeling exhausted or low, you firmly believe actions speak louder than words.

Physical touch

What better way to feel close, than through getting close? Those whose love language is physical touch feel most loved when sharing physical signs of affection. This includes everything from holding hands and cuddling, through to kissing and having sex. Sharing physical touch can create a sense of intimacy that is not only affirming, but creates a powerful emotional connection, as well as a sense of warmth and comfort.

Quality time

There’s no greater gift than the gift of time. If quality time is your love language, you feel most appreciated when your partner wants to spend time with you. Active listening, eye contact, and having their full attention (without distractions of social media or other interruptions) are important. The key to meaningful quality time is spending it actively with your partner; that means shared activities or conversations, rather than just vegging out together without interacting.

Gift giving

You can’t buy someone’s love – but gifts can act as a visual, tangible symbol of how you feel. The love language of receiving gifts isn’t about spending big; it’s about the thought behind each gift.

Taking time to truly reflect on how well you know someone, seeking out the perfect gift to make them feel loved and appreciated, not to mention the emotional impact that receiving a gift can bring. Gift-giving can be a physical, meaningful process when the gift being given is something that the giftee will feel a connection with. The key is to ensure it’s something that is all about the giftee – not the gifter.

Words of affirmation

Words can be more powerful than you think. If words of affirmation are your preferred love language, you value verbal acknowledgements above all others. This could be in the form of compliments, encouragement, or words of appreciation. You prefer to hear ‘I love you’ frequently, and keeping in touch with your partner digitally through messages and social media interactions is as important as sharing your love in person.

Learning your love language

While it’s not unusual for couples to have different love languages, learning what yours is can be a valuable way of better understanding each other. As Beverley explains, “It is important to understand how your partner ticks. This way, you understand they are showing affection in their own way. Without this understanding, you may end up feeling uncomfortable or distrustful. Communication is the cornerstone of every relationship, and observation is not far behind. Find a way to make both sets of love languages work for you.”


Try our fun quiz to discover your love language in issue 62 of Happiful.

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