The 5 languages of love that help long-term couples understand each other more

Posted by
Anna Brech

Hone this lexicon to find resonance with your partner.

Keeping the wick burning on a long-term relationship is no hot air balloon ride. In fact, that glowing ember of attraction that first drew you together needs all the oxygen it can get to survive.  But forget grandstanding of a Pretty Woman ilk: what any couple really needs to thrive is a clear understanding of how one another perceive love. 

According to US marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lastswe each have our own vocabulary for recognising affection.

language of love

In his New York Times bestseller, Chapman explains that the love language we “speak” determines how we express and interpret love. The therapist picked up on this nuance of perception after years of giving advice to couples frustrated by the fact that they just couldn’t understand one another – no matter how hard they tried.

Chapman’s theory posits that you can be as kind and lovely as you like to your partner – but if you’re not speaking their language, it’ll fall on deaf ears.

If you 'get’ how they view love, however, and react accordingly, they’ll feel immediately happy and contented.

Everyone has a primary and secondary love language to make them feel appreciated, Chapman believes.

And his concept works. Don’t be fooled by the cheesy cover; Chapman’s book has sold over five million copies since it was first published 25 years ago, and has its own dedicated website

Here are the five different languages, as reported via Reader’s Digest:

Acts of service


This understanding of love features the phrase “let me do that for you” at its heart. If your other half speaks this language, they’ll appreciate actual, tangible offers of help that works to lift their burden in some way. For example, cooking a dinner and then cleaning up afterwards, sorting out council tax forms or getting that car door lock fixed.

It doesn’t sound that romantic, but if your partner is an act of services person, this kind of gesture will speak volumes.

Physical touch


This isn’t just about sex but any act of physical affection, from hugs to kissing and spooning in bed (we imagine).

Apparently, “people who speak the physical touch language need to feel connected to their partner in a physical way. Holding hands is their favourite thing in the world”.

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If this is your partner, you should “never hold back from touch” in day-to-day life together.

Words of affirmation


Unsurprisingly, men and women who speak this language never tire of hearing “I love you”.

For these people, little tokens of affection are very important, while criticism hits hard.

They’re the kind of partners who treasure old cards with sentimental messages. They don’t need long and complex soliloquies, but casual reminders of how you feel – a romantic text here, a compliment there – on a daily basis.

Quality time


Lovers who speak this language require “uninterrupted attention from their other half. No distractions, no phones or Kindles. TV turned off”. In other words, they won’t feel happy with a “date” that involves you scrolling away on WhatsApp with half an eye on Celebrity Love Island.

If your partner is a quality time person, the most appealing thing you can do is kick everyone else out for some unhampered time alone together; just the two of you.

Receiving gifts


Well, we all love presents – preferably the kind that involve one-way tickets to the Maldives, amirite

But apparently, the “receiving gifts” language of love is not about a shameless desire for goodies, but rather the thought that’s invested in those delights.

“When they see that their partner took time out of their day to choose something to make them smile, the gift-lover feels genuinely loved,” Chapman explains.

Not for this person a discount price of choccies picked up at the service station.

Instead, woo them with a bunch of hand-picked flowers or go old-school with a compilation CD and personalised cover. Win.

Images: iStock


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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