Picture the scene - a couple is fighting in a movie. One yells ‘‘What do you want from me?!’ and the other replies “I just want you to love me!”
Chances are you’ll have seen this conversation in a dozen different movies - but what exactly do the characters mean?
It might not seem it at first, but this is actually a very difficult question to answer. That’s because love is such a powerful, personal experience that language often struggles to truly capture what we mean when we talk about it.
Love languages help here because they transcend just spoken language. Instead, they cover five key ways in which people communicate their love – and in doing so, offer an insight into the different expectations that people have of their partners. By understanding and mastering these languages, you can move closer to building a connection that stands the test of time.
Why Is Talking About Love So Difficult?
Talking about love is tough because we can never truly understand how another person feels. When the character in our movie says ‘I just want you to love me’, they know what ‘love’ means to them. Perhaps they want to be told ‘I love you’ more often, or for their partner to kiss and hold them, rather than sitting apart. Or maybe they want to spend more time together, and feel like their partner is putting them first.
The issue here is that there are so many options - and it’s easy to assume that your partner sees love in the same way you do, so it’s not necessary to explain exactly what you mean.
Unfortunately, it doesn't often work that way. To your partner, ‘love’ might mean making a gesture, buying a gift, or simply always being on your side. When they do this, they feel that they are showing that they love you - but if what matters to you is being kissed first thing in the morning, and told that you’re loved, then that message can easily be lost
This is where the Five Love Languages come in. Based on ‘The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate’, a 1995 book by Gary Chapman, love languages are key ways that people express affection to their loved ones. Being familiar with what they are, and how to use them, can help you and your partner to understand each other’s needs - and in doing so, build intimacy, and create the foundations for a lasting relationship.
Words of Affirmation
In some ways, this is the simplest language of all. For people who respond to words of affirmation, what matters most is hearing someone express their love in words. When their loved one tells them ‘I love you’, ‘you are beautiful’, ‘I will never let you go’, they feel safe, reassured by their partner’s willingness to be honest about their feelings. The lack of ambiguity over a lover’s meaning when they speak outright can also be a source of comfort for those seeking security in their relationship.
Quality time means time spent together - physically close, and interacting on an emotional, intellectual or intimate level. For most people, this is more than just sitting in front of the TV together after work - it’s time dedicated exclusively to each other. Quality time is especially important in an age where we communicate so often through technology, as a remote connection via text or phone often leaves people feeling unsatisfied, and even unloved.
While presents are a traditional part of romantic relationships, for some people gifts are much more than just a gesture - they’re an expression of love in physical form. By having a symbol of their partner’s love that can be kept and treasured, they feel secure in their commitment and have a tangible object that reminds them they are cared for. In this situation, the value of gifts has nothing to do with their monetary worth - it’s all about the thought behind them; so a carefully chosen item or reminder of a shared experience will always hold more value than an expensive luxury.
Acts of Service
Performing an act of service means doing something, unprompted, that you know your partner will appreciate. Whether it’s doing the washing up, booking a weekend away, or singing a favorite song, these acts show that you know your loved one, that you think about them, and that you’re willing to take action to make them happy.
Physical touch doesn’t just mean sex. It also means hugging, kissing, closeness, and casual intimacy - resting a hand on their leg, touching their back as you walk, even just holding hands. By being physically distant from a partner who values physical touch, you can leave them feeling that you are holding something back - while being close shows that you want to be with them.
Understanding Your Own Love Language
Which of the five love languages sounds most familiar to you? It’s likely that some will have stood out from the list - whether because they’re ones that you use, or are ones that are important to you.
Equally importantly, which ones does your partner use? And which do you think they value the most? In an ideal world, you’ll know the answers to each of these questions – and your actions will match their needs, and vice versa. However, this is often not the case.
Learning how to recognize and use love languages can help to form a closer bond between two people who love each other but don’t always know how to express it. They can help you to understand what your partner wants and needs in order to feel secure in your relationship - as well as helping you to articulate what it takes for you to believe that you are loved in return.
Every individual is different and so are their ways to love. Understanding and recognizing love languages will not only help you to build intimacy but also to forge deeper and more lasting connections with the people you care about the most.