Dr. Gary Chapman developed the idea of love languages after spending years of counseling couples and noticing a common theme in relationships. His book on the topic - The Five Love Languages - describes five basic ways in which people express their love to others. Understanding our own preferred love language and that of our significant other can help with determining the root of conflicts and allow you to connect on a deeper level.
The five love languages and examples of each are:
Acts of Service: run an errand, cook a meal, finish a household chore.
Gifts: thoughtful and meaningful gifts of any size, without an occasion.
Physical Touch: hug, kiss, hold hands, cuddle.
Quality Time: give your partner undivided attention, go on a date, play a board game.
Words of Affirmation: compliments, encouragement, praise, and giving thanks.
Each person will typically prefer a combination of these five, but will probably value one more than the others. And usually, we love others in the same way that we like to receive love. We think, "If it's the best for me, it must be the best for others!" This can often cause conflict in relationships when couples have different love languages, and thus, have different expectations of the type of love they want to receive.
For example, you may value words of affirmation and want your loved one to verbalize their affection. You likely do a great job at this yourself, and make it a point to speak kind words to your partner. They, on the other hand, may gravitate towards physical touch as their love language. Instead of speaking, they want to show their affection. To them, this is their way of showing deep love. You may perceive their lack of words and primary focus on physical touch as shallow. If you were to pull away and want to talk, your loved one may see this withdrawal of physical touch as hurtful.
By knowing your love language and the language of your loved one (take the quiz here!), you can resolve a common root of conflict and deepen your relationship. In order to do this, you must be open with your preferences and diligent in learning how to speak the other person's love language. It may not come natural, just as learning new linguistic languages isn't natural; but you can practice, learn, and become more fluent in all 5 love languages. The beautiful thing is this can also be used in all types of relationships - family, friends, coworkers.
While love languages are helpful, be careful it doesn't become a snare in your relationship. Stressing them too much can lead to competition. This isn’t about keeping tabs on how badly or how well your partner is expressing love languages. Be patient with your loved one and make sure to focus more on the love you give than the love you receive.