When it comes to relationships, not all gestures of love are perceived the same by everyone. So in 1992, author and counselor Gary Chapman came up with a rubric for interpersonal communication that has since become a blueprint for couples looking to strengthen their bonds. His bestselling book, The Five Love Languages, details the five modes of communication that most people use to both give and receive love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
These different communication styles are what distinguishes someone who feels cared for when their partner takes out the trash or helps cook dinner from someone who most enjoys receiving flowers or heartfelt compliments. All are valid forms of expressing care for someone, but not all gestures will land the same depending upon the recipient’s preferred love language.
As Chapman’s book explains, problems often arise in relationships when one person either doesn’t register their own needs or when they don’t fully understand their partner’s preferred love language. Getting to know more about each language, then, is a key component to a healthy, happy relationship. Below, we’ve rounded up quotes for all five love languages, to help you better understand how you both give and receive love.
Words of Affirmation
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach.”
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning
For individuals who identify words of affirmation as their primary love language, verbal acknowledgements of affection and attention are vital to their relationship satisfaction. This can range between anything from a simple “I love you” to “thank you for doing that” to “you’re such a great listener.” Those who receive these compliments feel seen and appreciated, and those who deliver these words are expressing their love for their partners in the best way they know how.
Acts of Service
"Familiar acts are beautiful through love."
— Percy Bysshe Shelley
The phrase “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind for folks who delight in acts of service as their love language. These people feel that small daily actions convey more than any grand soliloquy ever could. Acts of service can include everything from making coffee for your partner in the morning to putting gas in the tank when you notice the meter is running low. These gestures aren’t always grand, but they go a long way to show a partner that you care enough to pay attention to the little things that can help make their days just a bit easier, brighter, and better.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.
— Juliet, in William Shakespeare’s "Romeo & Juliet"
Gifts are an age-old way for one individual to convey affection for another. In romantic relationships, gift-giving is a key love language for some; both giving and receiving as visual representations of love play a big part in many couples’s relationships. Giving a gift to someone means that you’ve spent time, effort, and thoughts on a loved one, regardless of the actual cash value of the present: A handmade card or flowers picked from a garden can hold just as much meaning as an expensive piece of jewelry or extravagant meal. The key to an effective gift, of course, is making sure that the object reflects the recipient’s values, and not just your own.
Somebody loves you if they don’t mind the quiet. They don’t mind running errands with you or cleaning your apartment while blasting some annoying music. There’s no pressure, no need to fill the silences. It’s a damn dream when you find someone you can do nothing with. Whether you’re skydiving together or sitting at home and doing different things, it’s always comfortable. That is f***ing love.
— Ryan O’Connell, author
Sometimes the best way to show someone that you care is to simply show up. For some couples, spending hours together just relaxing — maybe binging a new series, or reading side by side, or going on walks together — is what helps to affirm their relationship. Quality time is a love language that has less to do with explicit declarations of love and more to do with just spending intentional time and attention with the ones you care about most. Eye contact, active listening, and positive body language are all a part of quality time; in other words, just being in the same room with someone while being distracted by the phone or other screens isn’t exactly honoring the “quality” aspect of quality time together.
I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
— Maya Angelou
Many of the markers of love that we learn when we’re young manifest themselves in the love language of physical touch: hugging, kissing, holding hands, cuddling, and yes, even sex. Individuals who consider physical touch to be their primary love language crave affirmation through small gestures that indicate desirability, comfort, security, or all of the above. An important caveat here is that physical touch is a love language that has consent baked into its core; an unwanted touch could very easily send someone bolting off in the opposite direction. People who consider physical touch to be a part of their love lexicon might also reach out to put a hand on someone’s shoulder when they seem to be distressed, or offer up a hug to show support and express empathy. In other words, physical touch — or any of the love languages — does not always have to be linked to romantic love.
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