Physical Touch: Everything from holding hands to kissing, from an arm around the shoulder to sex, holds big emotional power for people who speak this language. “Affirming touches, like putting a hand on your partner’s leg while driving, are huge signs of love for some people,” says Dr. Chapman.
Maybe you know right away which category you fall into, or maybe you’re not sure. Here are a few ways to figure it out:
“Ask yourself: How do I express love and appreciation to others?” says Dr. Chapman. Is it with a big hug or a pat on the back? With a thank you note? By taking someone out to lunch for a long conversation and catch-up? Each one of these speaks to a different love language.
Another approach is to contemplate what your spouse complains about most often. Maybe they say, “I have to initiate all of our physical intimacy.” Or, “You went on a trip and didn’t bring me a gift!” Or, “We never spend any time together.” Their complaints help identify not only which love language they may primarily speak, but also which ones you don’t. “Our partners give us valuable information when they criticize or complain,” says Dr. Chapman.
Once you identify your love language, communicating it to your partner (and finding out what his or her language is) is key. Then it’s a matter of learning each other’s languages. “That’s a choice you make,” says Dr. Chapman. “And it isn’t always easy.” If you grew up in a home without affirming words and your spouse needs to hear those words to feel loved, for example, there’s a learning curve. But starting small—with simple sentences of appreciation like, “Thank you for getting the oil changed today”— can lead to big rewards in the love department.
Exploring how these languages work isn’t only important in romantic relationships. Think about all of the people you have connections with—siblings, parents, in-laws. Consider their love languages and how you can better translate warm feelings to them and appreciate the way they’re trying to share love with you. “You can identify these languages with everyone in your life,” says Dr. Chapman. “If it feels hard at first, it’s important to remember why you’re doing it: Because you want these people to feel your love.”
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