Sep 24, 2021
We were given the book The 5 Love Languages as a wedding gift 17 years ago, which we immediately dismissed because 1. we were in love and didn't need any help and 2. the purple cover matched my grandmother's lavender-scented everything so we concluded it must be for old people.
At some point, we were "forced" to read it for some couple's group-type thing, and we were blown away at how simple it made things to talk about and how easily it identified some areas where we were missing.
In this blog, we provide a quick description of each of the 5 love languages and some commentary about how they have worked in our relationship and with the many couples we have coached.
1. Acts of Service: For these people, actions speak louder than words.
Some people show love by doing things...Doing work around the house, working extra hours at work, making dinner, keeping the house clean, etc. Others of us just do some of those things because they have to get done.
People with a high desire to give and receive love through acts of service will go out of their way to accomplish tasks to show love and will evaluate how much their spouse loves them by what they do for them.
The place we see this trip couples up is when one spouse is doing the things while the other is wishing they were just sitting together snuggling. An attempt to remove chores from the other or show how much they care will often be missed if partners are not aware of the ways each other give and receive love. In this situation, neither is wrong. If the snuggler knows that the other person prefers acts of service, they could jump up and help to show that they understand and value the effort. After completing the tasks at hand, you can communicate that your desire is to sit together and snuggle...win/win.
2. Receiving Gifts: For some people, receiving a heartfelt gift is what makes them feel most loved.
To be clear this does not mean that a person who gives and receives love through gifts needs or expects a car with a bow on it to appear in the driveway. "Receiving Gifts" people often express to us that a simple, thoughtful thing that shows he/she is thinking about them is very meaningful. It could be a random amazon package showing up at the door with a surprise, grabbing their favorite snack or drink on the way home from work, or being intentional about celebrating special events with a wrapped item.
We have seen some couples thrive here when they realize all they need to do is buy something simple and give it as a gift to their spouse. Others have missed the boat entirely by planning extravagant dates and excursions when really all their spouse wanted was a new pair of shoes they've had their eye on.
I personally scored low on gifts the first time we took the love languages assessment, but I noticed that when we decided to skip Christmas gifts for each other one year, I felt ignored. Admittedly, I was a little ashamed to feel this way as a non-gifts person, but it made me aware that while we have 1 or 2 languages that speak to our hearts most, we cannot ignore the others entirely.
3. Quality Time: This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
Quality time seems like it's couple's love language at first glance, but it is a little more nuanced than that. Obviously, we want to spend time with our partner, but "Quality Time" people feel loved when their partner is intentional about putting down their phone or forgoing an activity that would take time away from each other. Conversely, they have a mental time clock that starts to wane as they spend time apart from their partner. The more time away from each other they spend, the more they need an intentional dose of quality time to restore their feeling of being loved.
Ashley's #1 love language is quality time; which for Ashley has a distinct "dialect." For Ashley, quality time is more than just being in the same room together or being together in a group of people. Ashley wants focused time together with shared experience. At one point in our lives=, we were leading student ministry together and we spent multiple nights per week together. My bucket was full with quality time, but hers was empty because we were never alone together unless we were sleeping next to each other or bumping into each other at the sink while getting ready for bed. I have had to learn that if we are both busy or surrounded by people, I need to be mindful of closing my laptop at night and say no to another night out with friends.
I have had to learn that if we are both busy or surrounded by people, I need to be mindful of closing my laptop at night and say no to another night out with friends.
4. Words of Affirmation: This language uses words to affirm other people.
People who give and receive love through words of affirmation are often very complimentary of their partner and need the same in return. Things like "I am proud of you," "You're a great mom," and even "I like that shirt on you." are great ways to speak love to a person who desires affirmation through words.
Words of Affirmation is #2 on my (Mark's) list. For me, it has a "dialect," as well. Ashley can tell me all she wants that she is proud of me and it will feel the same as if I am in the same room with her but typing away on my keyboard. I desire words of affirmation to be communicated to other people. If she tells her parents or a friend of ours that she is proud of me, it fills my "love tank" for at least a month!
5. Physical Touch: To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate physical touch.
Physical touch does not always mean sexual intimacy. People who give and receive love through physical touch often just need their hand held or a good hug. Sometimes a person who desires to give love through physical touch will see their spouse doing something that they appreciate and go over to show them love and interrupt whatever it is that they were doing to say "I love you" through a hug form behind or back scratch.
My (Mark) #1 love language is physical touch, and lucky for me, Ashley's lowest score is...physical touch (note the sarcasm above). I often tried to communicate love by hugging or touching Ashley's hair, but she regularly responded as if I was an annoying little brother.
The 5 Love Languages does not solve all marriage issues, but it does help us better communicate how well we are feeling loved and how to adjust if we are feeling off. We have seen The 5 Love Languages give couples a neutral framework for communicating their desires rather than resorting to "You always" or "You never."
The good news is, you don't even have to read the book to get good use out of the concept. There is an online quiz you can quickly click through and identify what your top 1 or 2 love languages are. We recommend that both parts of a couple click through to get their results, and then share them with each other.
Our favorite questions to ask when talking about the other person's languages are:
1. What does that mean for you?
2. What can I do to better speak your love language?
3. In what ways do you try to speak to me in your preferred love language(s)?