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Love languages: what are they? And what do they mean for your relationships?

Posted by for Relationships

According to popular theory, there are five different types of love language – each of which describe a different way of giving and receiving love. But how can you tell what your love language is? And what does that mean for your relationship? Stylist asked an expert to explain all.

The pandemic has put all of our relationships under a microscope. Whether you’ve moved in with someone for the first time, had to adapt to long-distance or found being together 24/7 during lockdown a challenge, the last 12 months have forced us to examine how we navigate this area of our lives.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that interest in the concept of ‘love languages’ has grown during the pandemic.

You only need to look through the #lovelanguages hashtag on Instagram to see what we’re talking about – nowadays, social media is awash with pastel graphics and illustrated guides explaining the difference between ‘acts of service’ and ‘words of affirmation’.  

The theory, which comes from a 1992 book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, is based on the idea that there are five distinct ‘love languages’ or ways in which we communicate love. According to Chapman, everyone has a primary love language – and it’s this which defines what kind of love we expect from our partners, and how we express affection towards others.

So, what are these love languages? And could knowing our love language help us to navigate our relationships? We asked Michelle Begy, matchmaker and head hunter for Ignite Dating, to talk us through the basics. Here’s what she had to say. 

What are love languages?

Most people will have a primary love language

According to Chapman’s theory, there are five distinct love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts and acts of service.

Although there are plenty of quizzes online designed to help you find out what your love language is, Begy says taking some time to think about your relationship and what you expect from your partner should be enough to help you identify yours.

“When you think about the relationships around you and how you treat those that you care about, you will notice a pattern in the actions that you take and how you feel when you receive those actions towards yourself,” she explains.  

“Although you may portray elements of different love languages in your actions, you will likely have a more prominent one that you fall into.”

With this in mind, we asked Begy to talk us through the five love languages, to give you an idea of what each one might look like. 

The five love languages

Words of affirmation: “When thinking about the different love languages, words of affirmation is probably one of the more well-known ones as it encompasses the verbal words of affection such as, saying ‘I love you’ frequently, paying compliments and often giving words of appreciation or even writing love letters.” 

Quality time: “Those whose love language is quality time revel in the undivided attention that they receive from their partner without distraction. They feel most adored and secure in the relationship when their partner spends time with them and pays attention to what they are doing and saying in that moment.” 

Physical intimacy: “Physical intimacy is something that those with the physical touch love language value deeply in their relationships. They feel loved when they receive physical signs of affection from holding hands and cuddling, through to kissing and sex. This physical intimacy can serve as a powerful emotional connection between partners and affirm their relationship.”

Receiving gifts: “For some people, visual symbols of love in the form of gifts is their preferred love language – this is not linked to the monetary value of the gift but more about the thought process involved in choosing the gift. Those with this love language recognise the value in the gift-giving process and enjoy the symbolism of gifts as both the giver and receiver.”

Acts of service: “Acts of service is the love language of those who believe that actions speak louder than words. This is less focused on feeling adored and more about feeling appreciated and valued by all of the things that you do to make your partner’s life easier.” 

How can knowing your love language impact your relationships?

A couple sat on the sofa talking about their love languages
Knowing your love language can help you to communicate what you want from a relationship.

Depending on what stage in your relationship journey you’re at, knowing your love language can help you to know what you like and decide whether someone is right for you.

“Knowing your love language can be hugely beneficial to your dating journey, as it allows you to understand what it is that you need from a partner and from your relationships and narrow down the pool of potential matches,” Begy explains. 

“For example, if you know that you thrive in a relationship where quality time with your partner is a priority, you can look for those tell-tale signs in a potential partner through their reactions when dating such as, making time to arrange a date or a call and giving you their undivided attention during that moment.”

As your relationship progresses, knowing your and your partner’s love languages can also help you to communicate better and give each other what you need. 

“Knowing both yours and your partner’s primary love language can help create a better understanding of each other’s needs from the relationship,” Begy says. 

“You do not have to sit down and have a conversation about love languages to discover it – you simply need to listen and observe how they treat those around them. 

“If for example, your partner loves showering their family and close friends with gifts, it is likely that they align more with the receiving gifts love language.”

She continues: “By understanding the love language that you and your partner align with, you can nurture that side and regularly speak in the love language that they understand to ensure that they are getting what they need from the relationship.” 

Although knowing your love language may not be the be-all-and-end-all of relationship happiness, it is a great way to understand your needs and communicate those to the person you’re dating, whether you’re in a long-term relationship or have only been on a few dates.

It may not be an exact science, but if talking through the different love languages can help you and your partner to understand each other better, what’s not to love? 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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