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The Five Love Languages Are for Everyone, Including You

A modern, inclusive perspective on a traditional theory.

Key points

  • The book "The Five Love Languages" proposes a simple and straightforward way to enhance a romantic relationship or marriage.
  • Love languages often fluctuate over time and across circumstances.
  • LGBTQ+ folks, racially/religiously diverse couples, and ethically non-monogamous partners can benefit from love languages, too.

Want a quick and easy way to improve your relationship overnight? Learn to speak one another's love languages.

Jakob Owens/Unsplash
Source: Jakob Owens/Unsplash

You’ve probably heard of The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman1. It’s one of my favorite books which I frequently discuss with my college students, teach in workshops, and recommend to coaching clients. I’m such a fan that I gave it a little shout-out in my TEDxColumbus talk on relationships and sex education.

Research on the efficacy of love languages is minimal and mixed2,3,4 yet it’s one of the best-selling relationship titles of all time, is regularly used by couples therapists worldwide, and has quickly become part of our daily vernacular — albeit sometimes used incorrectly (no Jessica, tacos are not your love language).

The Five Love Languages proposes a simple and straightforward way to enhance your romantic relationship or marriage. The message is timeless, but admittedly, the delivery is dated. Originally published in 1992, the book has religious undertones and is written in a style that caters to an older, more traditional generation. I recently attended a seminar on The Five Love Languages led by Gary Chapman and walked away feeling inspired to spread this message across more diverse communities that may not feel like it’s relevant to them.

Anna Selle/Unsplash
Source: Anna Selle/Unsplash

The truth is, people across all ages, races/ethnicities, spiritual beliefs, gender, and sexual identities can benefit from Dr. Chapman’s unique wisdom gained through years of counseling couples. It’s an excellent tool for navigating ethically non-monogamous relationships, too.

Here’s a quick refresher on the five love languages:

Words of Affirmation

Communication is key for this love language. "I love you" is nice, but genuine compliments, acknowledgment, gratitude, and telling a partner all the things you admire about them are important gestures for those who value words of affirmation. The sentiment can be expressed verbally or in writing and is ideally repeated more than once.

Acts of Service

Talk is cheap. Those who value this love language want you to show them you love them through your actions. Helping out with housework, offering to run errands, having dinner ready when they get home from work, or taking their car to the shop for repairs are some examples of acts of service. Even simply saying "What can I do to make your day brighter?" will be well-received.

Quality Time

Partners who value this love language are less interested in what you do, as long as you’re doing it together. Time spent with one another (without distractions!) is a key expression of love for these folks, maybe through shared hobbies, a special date night, hanging out with friends, or lounging on the couch bingeing Netflix.

Gifts

Sentimental objects carry great meaning for those who value this love language. A little memento from a trip, no-reason flowers on the kitchen counter, love notes scribbled on Post-its, or a romantic massage are meaningful gifts to partners. They don’t need to be fancy or expensive; they just have to show you were thinking about them.

Physical Touch

Decades of research confirm the healing power of human touch. Especially among romantic partners, physical acts such as holding hands, snuggling, hello and goodbye kisses, and sexual intimacy play an important role in their emotional connection. Those who value this love language seek closeness and affection as a demonstration of love.

Noorulabdeen Ahmad/Unsplash
Source: Noorulabdeen Ahmad/Unsplash

Simple, right? You can probably identify your love language and maybe even your partner’s just from reading those descriptions. If you're still not sure, take the quiz. The key is to remember to communicate to your partner in their love language, not yours (it’s their job to communicate to you in your love language!).

Keep in mind: Love languages often fluctuate over time and across circumstances, so it’s helpful to check in once in a while to see what your partner needs most from you right now. Of course, the happiest and healthiest relationships incorporate all five love languages, so try to find ways to weave them all into your daily life together.

Another perk of love languages is that they not only work in our romantic relationships but also with friends, family, colleagues, and beyond. It’s a brilliant approach to interpersonal skills, broadly speaking. Love languages are relevant across diverse identities and relationship structures too, including LGBTQ+ folks, racially and religiously diverse communities, and multi-partner relationships.

Curious to learn more about The Five Love Languages? Grab a copy of the book, but read between the lines — it can (and will) work for you too.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Ana Hess for her creative contribution.

References

(1) Chapman, G. (2009). The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

(2) Egbert, N., & Polk, D. (2006). Speaking the language of relational maintenance: A validity test of Chapman's Five Love Languages. Communication Research Reports, 23(1), 19-26.

(3) Cook, M., Pasley, J., Pellarin, E., Medow, K., Baltz, M., & Buhman-Wiggs, A. (2013). Construct validation of the five love languages. Journal of Psychological Inquiry, 18(2), 50-61.

(4) Bunt, S., & Hazelwood, Z. J. (2017). Walking the walk, talking the talk: Love languages, self‐regulation, and relationship satisfaction. Personal Relationships, 24(2), 280-290.

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