With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is on the brain. Even if you do not have a significant other, you have most likely experienced love within a relationship with another person, like your parent, sibling, friend, or a family member.
How do you know someone loves you? What does that look like? How do you show your love to someone else?
People express and receive love in a variety of ways. Dr. Gary Chapman outlines five ways to express and experience love that he has termed “love languages.” Dr. Chapman theorizes that individuals tend to have a primary and secondary love language and often give love in the way they prefer to receive love. By asking a few questions and making some observations, it is possible to figure out your own and another person’s love language.
?Words of affirmation
This love language uses words to affirm and validate others. Finding the right words and being genuine is important here. It’s nice to reflect and comment on how a partner or someone else you love enriches the lives of others or has accomplished something. Acknowledge the little things as well as the grand gestures. Use words that are heart-felt, encouraging, supportive, and thankful. You can convey your affirmations through spoken word, a text message, an email, or a handwritten letter or note. Some examples might include:
- “I really appreciate you doing the laundry today.”
- “I love you so much.”
- “I admire the way you…”
- “You’re doing great! Don’t give up.”
- “Thank you for listening.”
- “I don’t know what I would do without you.”
This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. An important aspect of this is togetherness. Try to make eye contact when talking, don’t interrupt, and don’t multi-task as the other person is needing your attention. Be intentional about the time you spend with one another and make plans each week to spend quality time together. It could entail:
- Having a conversation with the TV off
- Going on a trip or adventure together
- Having dinner together
- Doing a fun activity together, like bowling, painting, or hiking
- Having coffee together in the morning
?Acts of service
For these people, actions speak louder than words. Performing a service or completing a task or chore for another person will be greatly appreciated. It’s important to recognize and complete an act of service that you know your partner would like for you to do. This shouldn’t feel like manipulation or slavery, but freely given out of love for the other person. Some examples of acts of service include:
- Mowing the lawn
- Cooking a meal
- Changing the baby’s diaper
- Taking out the garbage
- Running errands
To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Physical touch is not always about sex or what goes on in the bedroom, although it can be a part of it. It could mean holding hands, kissing when one person leaves or arrives home, or giving a massage. An important aspect of this love language is to know what your partner feels is safe and appropriate. Affectionate physical touch could look like:
- Hugs or kisses
- A foot or shoulder massage
- Stroking their hair
- Holding the person in your arms
For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. Contrary to what you might think, this love language is not about materialism. The receiver wants to know that you put effort and thought into the gift. The perfect gift can convey that you really know, understand, and care for your partner. A missed anniversary, thoughtless gift, or absence of everyday gestures can be very disappointing for someone with this love language. Gifts can be tangible representations and reminders of love. You don’t have to spend any or a lot of money on these gifts. Examples of this include:
- Buying that book your partner has been wanting
- A homemade card or present
- Make birthdays and holidays a big deal
- Return from a trip with a souvenir
- Be on the lookout for small gifts
It is not important for you and your partner to have the same love language. What is most important is that you recognize what each person’s love language is and give love in the way your partner appreciates most, even if it is different than yours. Get in tune with your significant other or someone else you love – pay attention to what they seem to appreciate most, what they complain about, and ask questions.
To find out your own or your partner’s love language, check out the website and take the free quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Or refer to Dr. Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages.
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By Chelsea Kline
Chelsea Kline is a second-year graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and a minor in Family Studies. She is trained in level two Gottman couples therapy and trauma-informed therapy. Chelsea is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and enjoys going to the movies, being outdoors, and lounging around at home with her cats in her free time.