Knowing Your Partner's Love Language May Strengthen Your Relationship

Deborah J Fox, MSW
couple in shadowDeborah Fox

"You don't feel I love you? How’s that possible? I tell you all the time how much I love you!"

"Well, I'd feel loved if you ever wanted to spend time with me - but you're always off doing something else!"

In his book, the Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that what makes us each feel loved and cared for is not universal. Just as what floats your boat doesn't necessarily float mine, the same is true for how we express caring for our partners. Chapman identifies that you feel loved and cared for if your partner expresses her caring for you in your “love language.”

Do you ever think to ask your partner, "What do you need from me that would let you know I love you?" More likely, you do unto your partner as you'd like them to do unto you. Herein lies the problem. You're speaking to them in your love language, not theirs. You say nice things, but they’re still longing for that quality time with you. You're missing the target.

What is your love language?

Below are some possible expressions of Chapman’s five languages:

Words of Affirmation. These people appreciate the spoken word.

“You sounded so smart when you were presenting today!”

“You look so handsome in that suit!”

“You are such an awesome mom!”

“You threw a great dinner party!”

Acts of Service. Actions speak louder than words. This means doing things you know your partner would like you to do.

Shop for and cook dinner

Take the car in for service

Pick up the dry cleaning

Make the vacation arrangements

Physical Touch. This could include sex, but not necessarily.

Affectionate touch as you pass each other in the hall

A long hug when you greet each other at the end of the workday

An unexpected embrace

Holding hands or an arm across their shoulder

Quality Time. This means undivided attention, not just being in the same air space.

An evening out to a movie, concert, or some entertainment venue you both like

A leisurely conversation outside on your porch with your favorite snacks

A fun activity you both enjoy, perhaps a long walk or bike ride

Declaring device-free time at dinner and before bed

Receiving Gifts. The kind that you can touch, perhaps wrapped up in a box with a bow!

When figuring out what your love language is, you may think you have two or three. While you may appreciate all of them, there usually is the top one, even if there is a close second. If you’re unsure, think to yourself, “If I don’t get THAT one, I feel deprived,” or, “That's the one I long for, even if the other one(s) is really nice.”

What is your partner’s love language?

The next step is to guess the love language of your partner first before asking. See how well you know each other! This could be very enlightening. If you do already know the other's language, do you speak to them in that language? People tend to forget. A common exchange might be, "How can you think I don't love you, I just gave you that expensive bracelet for your birthday!" The answer might be "Well, I do love the bracelet, but I’d really feel loved if you’d walk in the door and ask what you could do help, like fix dinner, or take the kids off my hands!”

When you don’t make your partner feel loved, you both end up feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged. Snarky comments roll off your tongue. Sparks fly easily. Fights erupt over trivial things. The real source of all the acrimony often lies in the absence of feeling loved and cared for.

Could she just once understand that when she spends the entire evening with the kids, and then on Facebook, I feel unimportant and unappreciated?”

“Do you think he could tell me I look great or that I did a great job hosting that event?”

Do these sentiments sound familiar? A little attention to what actually makes your partner feel loved goes a long way. If bringing your partner a cup of coffee without being asked is what speaks love to them, then you can take some pressure off yourself in trying to find the perfect gift every birthday. This can solve the common frustration of feeling that your partner doesn’t really know you or know what’s important to you.

The power of feeling loved

Couples have fewer problems when each person feels loved by the other. Simply doing or saying what makes the other feel loved quickly changes the entire atmosphere between you. Your tendency to feel defensive dissipates. Arguments just don’t happen as much.

Knowing the love language of your partner is step one. Step two is the important one - speaking to them in their love language. When you speak to them consistently in their love language, it’s amazing what transformation can happen.

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Deborah Fox is a couples and sex therapist. She is passionate about supporting relationships and writes on topics that help couples grow and sustain the emotional connection in their relationships.

Washington, DC

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