There are a myriad of ways to express love—from diamond earrings to poetry to a timely pat on the back. Everyone has different ways of showing how they feel, and it’s valuable to know not only your own methods of demonstrating love, but also how others close to you do it.
Dr. Gary Chapman had been counseling couples for 15 years when he realized that he was hearing the same story time and again. “One partner would say some version of, ‘My spouse doesn’t love me,’ ” he says. “The other would say, ‘I do! I don’t know how else to prove it.’ ” When love doesn’t come in the form you’re familiar with (or the form that you desire), it can feel like it’s absent, but Dr. Chapman says that’s often not the case. “Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t meant that the love’s not there and it’s not genuine,” he says.
In combing through years of client notes, Dr. Chapman began asking himself, When someone says, “I don’t feel loved,” what is it that they want? Through that research, he came up with five categories and called them the Five Love Languages, each one being a way in which people express and receive love. His book, "The 5 Love Languages," has sold over seven million copies in English and has been translated in over 40 foreign countries. “We all have a primary love language,” says Dr. Chapman, adding that if one partner doesn’t speak the other’s primary language, there is invariably a miscommunication of love. “You can be sincere in expressing love but still miss each other emotionally if you’re speaking in different primary languages.”
So what’s your native tongue? The Five Languages of Love are:
Words of Affirmation: You use words to affirm your feelings. That doesn’t mean you’re a poet—it can be as simple as being in the habit of telling someone when they look nice, or when you appreciate something they did for you. “You may speak it, write it or sing it, but your love language is one of words,” says Dr. Chapman.
Acts of Service: You cook a meal for your partner. Wash dishes. Vacuum. Walk the dog. Anything you know the other person would like you to do. This is the “actions speak louder than words” language.
Receiving Gifts: This universal expression of love that runs through all cultures is very important to some people. “It’s not about the size of the gift,” says Dr. Chapman. “It really is the thought that counts, as long as the thought results in a tangible gift for your partner.”
Quality Time: Sitting on the couch watching TV together doesn’t count, even if you’re streaming a full season of "Mad Men" and exchanging glances about Don Draper’s hijinks. “Quality time means undivided attention—eye contact, listening, interacting,” says Dr. Chapman. Put the magazine down. Close the laptop. Hide your phone.
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