What Love Language Do You Speak?

I had planned to start a new Just For Fun series today on how emotions are expressed in different languages. But as I started to research the word ‘love’ (in honor of Valentine’s Day), I stumbled on a very interesting book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary D. Chapman. (I know, I know, it’s #2 on the Amazon Bestseller List; but I almost never read non-fiction now that I’m retired, so I hadn’t really looked at it before.)

Dr. Chapman’s five languages of love are:

Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Receiving Gifts
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

house wrapped up as a giftNow that’s a gift! (photo credit: Howard Dickins, Cardiff, Wikimedia Commons)

Chapman contends that our romantic relationships start to erode, especially after marriage, not because we love each other less, but because we’re not always speaking the same language of love. Now this is not a male-female ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ thing, although it often gets misinterpreted as such.

Men say, “Why are women so demanding? My wife (or girlfriend) is always complaining.”

Women say, “Why can’t men get it. All I want is ____________ (fill in the blank with one of the above languages).”

And both genders think it’s because the other gender is clueless and/or incomprehensible.

But all too often, according to Dr. Chapman, what is really going on is that the couple speaks different love languages. He’s buying her gifts while she’s craving quality time. She’s giving him affection when he wants words of affirmation.

And the great thing about this book (books actually, he has a Men’s Edition as well) is that it asks specific questions to help you figure out (a) your preferred love language, (b) your partner’s preferred language, and most important of all, (c) how to change your way of communicating your love so that your partner really ‘hears’ you

Now here’s my take on this. Languages 1, 2 and 5 are not just ways to convey love. They are also about the emotional needs we all are seeking to fulfill in relationships.

One of the things we all need from our friends and lovers is unconditional acceptance. This is what’s conveyed via Words of Affirmation: I love you just the way you are. I think you’re great! I believe in you.

Another critical component of a healthy relationship is emotional intimacy, defined as emotional closeness based on self-disclosure. If we don’t spend Quality Time together, the emotional intimacy will erode.

And we all need Physical Touch. This has been proven by research. Babies and young children can fail to grow physically, and sometimes even die, if they receive no physical affection.

elephants being affectionate

Even elephants are affectionate! (photo credit: Ronald Saunders, Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps Physical Touch is where there is somewhat of a gender divide. Men, especially in their randier younger years, are more likely to associate affection with sex. She gives him a hug in the kitchen. He tries to steer her toward the bedroom, then wonders what happened when she gets mad.

Folks, there is a difference between affection and sexual touch! And everybody needs some of both.

First Lady Nancy Reagan sitting on Mr. T's lap and kissing him on the forehead.

First Lady Nancy Reagan on Mr. T’s lap, kissing him on the forehead, 1983. (public domain)



We need some of this:









couple kissing

(photo credit: GFDL, Wikimedia Commons)



As well as some of this!


Is it hot in here? *fans self*




But back to Dr. Chapman’s books. One of the things I like best about his message is that he doesn’t buy the “well, that’s just not me” excuse. He points out that if you want your mate to feel loved, it is not enough to convey that love in your own way, i.e., language. You HAVE to convey it in the language that is most meaningful to your partner. Or they will not get the message!

This makes all kinds of sense because we can change our behaviors a lot easier than we can change our internalized emotional filters. For example, my husband is great at picking out just the right card, with heartfelt sweet messages inside, and he never forgets a special occasion. (I on the other hand, have been known to produce a last-minute, rather cheesy-looking birthday or Valentine’s card on my computer; need to work on that.)

*leaves computer to add Valentine’s card to grocery list*

Okay, I’m back. I very much appreciate his cards (receiving gifts–his language) and intellectually acknowledge that they are sincere expressions of his love, but I don’t feel as loved by them as I do by his undivided attention over a nice dinner (quality time–my language), or by a nice back rub (physical touch–you already figured that out, I’ll bet 🙂 )

What about you? What is your preferred language of love?

(1) Dr. Chapman also has books about the “languages” children and teens use to communicate. Check them out on Amazon.

(2) Some of the info in this post was obtained from Rubin, G. (2011). Which Love Language Suits You and Your Partner? Retrieved on February 12, 2013, from Psych Central.

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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  • Reply
    shannon esposito
    February 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    My daughter, the psychology major, actually told me to get this book. It’s still sitting on my wishlist, but I’ll move it up. It really is an “aha” moment when you consider you may be giving your partner everything but what they need. Hmmmm…

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      February 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Yup, I went out and bought a few special things for the hubs for Valentine’s Day after reading this book (in addition to a card, lol), because I realized his language is gifts. So he’s getting gifts! A bottle of champagne and flutes with hearts on them, and a masculine-looking big balloon (shh, don’t tell him!)

  • Reply
    CC MacKenzie
    February 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    What a brilliant post!

    Bought it! Quality time together is key to communication. And communication is key to having a successful marriage. As is compromise, don’t sweat the small stuff. It used to be that if I nagged H thought that meant he wasn’t making me happy and that made him tense. Now when I nag (and I know it’s hard to believe, but I do) I always prefix it with, ‘You know I love you to bits but ….. seriously irks me.’ And that’s the truth, I do love him to bits, just not all the time!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      February 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Happy V Day back at ya, Christine! So glad you liked the post.

      “You know I love you to bits…” That is excellent! In psychobabble we call that separating being from behavior: I love you, but your behavior needs a little work. I do hope H appreciates how wonderful you are!

      • Reply
        CC MacKenzie
        February 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm

        Haha! He does, most of the time.

        Great post and I’ve subscribed. Heaven help you!

        • Reply
          Kassandra Lamb
          February 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm

          Cool! Welcome!

  • Reply
    Marcy Kennedy
    February 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I love this book. It’s one my husband and I read as part of our pre-marital counseling. It’s also something we’re still working on. My husband tends to want to give gifts to show love because that’s what his mom drilled into him growing up as the way to show love to his future spouse. (My guess would be that’s her love language.) Not my love language at all. Gifts probably rank lowest on my list (poor guy). I’m an acts of service person. But we’ve only been married two years, and we’re definitely improving as time goes on 🙂

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      February 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      As they say, Marcy, awareness is half the battle. When you know what each other’s love language is, then you can at least try to speak it some of the time.

      I’m kind of an Acts of Service type too. Hubs just came home from work and saw I was doing laundry, so he started folding the clean stuff I’d dumped on the bed, without being asked. Such a sweetie!

  • Reply
    Emma Burcart
    February 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve heard about this book from my step-mom, who is trying to get my dad to read it, too. I can see that they definitely don’t have the same love languages! I also thought it would be good for my former principal to read so that she could see how her employees need recognition, but not having read it I’m not sure if it is a good fit for that. I know myself, and I know that my love language is physical contact. I have a hard time even being friends with people who don’t hug because it makes me feel like they don’t like me. I definitely have to be with a guy who is physical, and not just in the sexual way as you said.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      February 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Hi, Emma, thanks so much for stopping by!

      This author may have a book about languages in the workplace; he has quite a few books out.

      I’m with you on the physical touch. I have trouble with even female friends who are non-touchers. I need my hugs!!

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