Love languages are a concept for relationships that states each person has a specific way they prefer to feel and express love.

Some people believe each person has a unique way of expressing and receiving love. What love means to one person may be different to another.

Dr. Gary Chapman introduced the concept of love languages to help people express their needs to those they are in relationships with.

While some agree that these love languages are a way to build and maintain relationships, others criticize the ideals behind them.

This article lists and explains the different love languages. It also discusses some criticisms to consider.

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Marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman introduced the concept of the five love languages in 1992 with the release of his book, “The 5 Love Languages: Secrets to Love that Lasts.

With this concept, Dr. Chapman hypothesized that individuals vary in how they prefer to express and receive affection. He also claimed that couples in a romantic relationship have greater relationship quality if they can communicate their feelings in a way that matches their partner’s preferences.

While Dr. Chapman’s book mainly focuses on married relationships between heterosexual couples, its principles can be applied to any type of intimate relationship.

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The chart below provides a quick comparison of the five love languages.

Love languageWhat it is associated withA person’s love language ifHow to show love to a partner
Words of affirmationVerbal expressions of appreciation, encouragement, and love.• They thrive when they receive encouragement from others.
• They like hearing words such as “I love you.”
• They appreciate compliments such as “You look incredible.”
Verbalize love, appreciation, encouragement, and compliments with meaning.
Quality timeGiving a partner undivided attention.They always try to make time for others and may feel disconnected if they feel they do not spend enough time with their partner.• plan date nights
• turn off phones when spending time together • make time to sit and talk about the day
Physical touchFinding connection through appropriate physical touch — this can be both sexual and nonsexual touch.They are “touchy-feely” — they feel love the most when touched or embraced.• be generous with affection
• hold hands
• prioritize sex if it is important to them
Acts of serviceThoughtful and selfless acts that can make the other person’s life easier.They believe actions speak louder than words and feel happy when someone helps without them asking.• take on some of their chores around the house
• make them meals
• draw them a bath
Receiving giftsReceiving tangible tokens of thoughtfulness and love.They most appreciate meaningful gifts and pride themselves in giving thoughtful gifts to others.• buy or make gifts that are personal
• surprise them with gifts outside special occasions
• bring home flowers or their favorite treat

Words of affirmation involve verbal communication that is:

  • encouraging
  • appreciative
  • active
  • affirmative

According to Dr. Michell Rosser-Majors at the University of Arizona, words of affirmation can have more of an effect than just making the person receiving them feel good. These words can help build solid foundations to inspire strong, productive relationships with clear lines of communication.

Dr. Rosser-Majors also notes that words of affirmation can also affect how the brain functions. They state that hearing positive affirmations more than negativity can help activate the motivational centers of the brain. This can lead to a person taking positive actions more often. It can also increase cognitive reasoning and strengthen the frontal lobe.

If an individual has words of affirmation as their primary love language, it can help them feel more loved if their partner makes the effort to verbalize their love and appreciation.

Quality time involves a person giving their partner undivided attention. This means that the couple does things together with focused attention on each other. This time and attention can help create a sense of togetherness.

Another way a couple can experience quality time is to have quality conversations. Dr. Chapman states in his book that quality conversation ideally includes sympathetic language and partners sharing their experiences. He also notes that quality conversation differs from words of affirmation because it focuses on what a person is hearing from their partner rather than what they are saying to them.

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Physical touch is a love language that people often confuse with sex and sexual activities. This can be, and often is, a part of the love language. However, generally, a person with this primary love language is looking for touch that is more than just sexual.

Physical touch can be a powerful way to express love to another person. Nonsexual acts may include:

  • kissing
  • hugging
  • holding hands
  • leaning against them when sitting together
  • walking with an arm around their partner

Experts from the University of Arizona explored the psychology behind physical touch. They found that physical touch with infants plays an important role in their social and behavioral development.

They also found that touch can be an important part of romantic relationships. They note that physical affection has been correlated with overall relationship and partner satisfaction. Tactile physical touch may also help make conflict resolution easier in relationships.

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Acts of service involve a person doing certain things for their partner that they know their partner would appreciate. This may include tasks such as completing household chores that their partner would typically do.

Acts of service may also include other things that can make their partner’s life easier, such as:

  • making them breakfast in bed
  • taking care of children or a relative
  • taking the garbage out

Anything someone considers as a helpful or thoughtful deed is an act of service.

Gift-giving is a fundamental expression across various cultures. Some believe that when a person gives physical gifts to their partner, they are investing in their relationship.

However, it is important to remember that gifts do not always have to cost money. The important thing for many people with gift receiving as a love language is having a tangible symbol of their partner’s love.

While gifts can be extravagant, they can also be simple tokens to let the other person know they are in their thoughts. Examples include:

  • picking up their favorite treat
  • giving them flowers
  • making them a card
  • picking up something for them when traveling apart

How to find your love language

If you are wondering what your love language is, you can take a free quiz on the Love Languages website.

The quiz comprises 30 questions that offer choices of scenarios that mean the most to you. At the end, it reveals your primary love language.

It also offers purchase recommendations to help you learn more about your love language.

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Research from 2022 has found that knowing a partner’s love language and expressing love in the way they prefer can result in higher relationship satisfaction.

However, there are also limitations to the love languages and their research. Most research on the five love languages have studied heterosexual couples. However, one 2020 study that did include same-sex couples found the results of the five love languages appeared to be consistent regardless of sexual orientation. More research is still necessary.

Overall, the five love languages appear to adapt to different cultures. However, some 2018 research has found that culture influences how the method is implemented and the results of the research. Many studies had narrow participant pools, meaning the results may not translate to other cultures and populations.

Generally, the love languages concept may be more effective when viewed as a tool to strengthen relationships rather than as a sole resource.

The five love languages were introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman in 1992. The hypothesis behind them is that individuals vary in how they prefer to express and receive love.

The five love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and gift receiving.

Knowing a partner’s love language may help an individual show the other person love in a way that is more meaningful to them.

Research has shown that love languages can help increase overall relationship satisfaction. However, the research has limitations, and the concept of love languages may be more effective when viewed as a relationship tool rather than a sole resource.