You can probably think of many ways to show how much you love someone, and many more ways to feel loved. However, sometimes our preferred ways of giving and receiving love don’t match up with those of the people closest to us. If we take for granted what “acting in a loving way” means without really thinking about it, we can end up confused and unhappy without really knowing why.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, an American relationships therapist, was published in 1995. It was followed by other books which expanded on the idea. Chapman says that there are five specific ways people give and experience love.
The ways he has identified are:
- Words of affirmation (praise, compliments, appreciation)
- Acts of service (doing a specific thing for someone)
- Receiving gifts (symbolic of affection)
- Quality time (attention free from distraction)
- Physical touch (holding hands, cuddling, sex)
Chapman believes that everyone has one preferred (primary) love language, and a a secondary one. He bases his ideas on his experience of counselling couples, rather than specific research. However, the idea is popular even without any scientific backing because it is straightforward and makes sense. These love languages don’t just apply to romantic relationships, non-romantic love can be expressed and given in similar ways.
So how do you know what your love language is? Or that of your partner, friend, sibling?
You can take a quiz on Chapman’s website – you can either sign up and have it calculate the scores for you, or download a pdf of the quiz which does not require sign up. You can choose from different quizzes depending on your current circumstances.
However, while quizzes might be interesting and useful, they are generalised. You can also gain this insight into yourself just by considering the acts of love that caused you to be happiest, giving or receiving. What comes to mind when you think of “love”? How do those around you show love, and do those actions help you feel good? What do you wish you had more of?
Obvious as it sounds, communication really is key in relationships. Do you talk about love and your relationships with those around you? How do they feel loved by you? What would you like to do more of? Is there anything you would like to receive more of? What would they like more of from you? What do they like to do most? Have you made any assumptions about what each of you likes to give and receive?
There is also communication with yourself. How do you care for yourself? Have you assumed what you “should” be doing, or taken on what others have told you, and is it right for you?
How do you love?