Love: the universal language…sorta.

Ah, love—that warm, magical feeling you get when you cozy up in your partner’s arms and everything feels perfect.

Wait, that didn’t sound right. Let’s try again:

Love—that warm, magical feeling you get when you lift your phone and see a “good morning, beautiful” text.

Ugh, gross. One more time:

Love—that warm, magical feeling you get when you come home and the dishes are cleaned, the bed is made, and laundry is done.

Okay, none of these sound like love to me. Do I not know what love is? Have I never experienced it? Am I incapable of loving someone or someone loving me?

If you’re having an extensential love crisis like me, listen up:

What are the five love languages?

According to the author of The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five distinct ways each of us responds to love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

Why learn the five love languages? Glad you asked.

Understanding not only how you receive love, but also how you partner, friends, or family, receives love can reveal a lot about your relationship.

For example, if you feel most loved and connected to your friends through meaningful conversations, but your friend expresses their love for you by ordering gifts off your Amazon wishlist, you might feel disconnected from your friend, while they think you’re unappreciative.

That misinterpretation of love is why understanding each love language is so important.

With that being said, let’s break each language down:

1. Words of affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words.

Individuals with this love language feel the most connected to their loved ones when they’re being told their appreciated, accepted, and cared for.

No, this doesn’t mean they’re fishing for compliments 24/7; words of affirmation lovers appreciate simple things like a “thank you” or hearing “this made me think of you.”

How to love with words of affirmation:

  • Say what you feel! If you appreciated what your loved one did, share it. If you think your partner looks great today, let them know. This is a simple way to show your appreciation for them.
  • Write a note or letter. Receiving a handwritten note from someone they love when it’s not their birthday is sure to make any words of affirmation lover blush.
  • Don’t fake it. Because these lovers connect with words so much, they can tell when you’re faking it. Don’t just say something to fill the void— be authentic with your feelings.

2. Acts of service

“More than Words,” by Extreme is the acts of service anthem.

Those who identify with acts of service appreciate when someone goes that extra mile to make their life a little easier. Filling up their gas tank or doing the dishes will serve as the ultimate “I love you.”

Don’t be mistaken, this doesn’t mean you’re a servant or that you need to conform to gender roles. Acts of service simply prove that when times get tough, you’ll be someone your loved one can lean on.

How to love with acts of service:

  • Watch for the little things. Pay attention to when your loved one is stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. When these feelings erupt, offer to take something off their plate.
  • Small acts make a big difference. You don’t need to pull off a grand gesture to prove you care; something as simple as making a cup of coffee for them is just as meaningful.
  • Utilize your strengths. Are you an amazing cook? Fierce wordsmith? The ultimate green thumb? Use these strengths to help or mentor them.

3. Receiving gifts

Receiving gifts is one of the love languages that receives the most judgment.

Despite popular—and very wrong—beliefs, those who love to receive gifts are not materialistic. Gift lovers don’t necessarily care what’s in the present, but rather, they care about the sentiment that went into the present itself.

How to love by giving gifts:

  • Forget the budget. Despite what Michael Scott thinks, sentiment has no price tag—paint a picture, bake some cookies, or create a curated playlist for them.
  • Have an intention. The most meaningful part about a gift is the intention behind it. Ensure that yours is out of love and not obligation.
  • Your time is also a gift. Gifts aren’t always material items; they can be experiences or dates. The time you take to make, pick, or plan a gift is worth just as much as the gift itself.

4. Quality time

Hit the ‘do not disturb’ button and break out the card games, it’s time for some quality time.

Those with this love language feel most connected to their loved ones when they’re spending uninterrupted time with them. This is more than aimlessly watching TikToks for hours; quality time means to give your loved ones your undivided attention.

How to love with quality time:

  • Stay present. Wondering off in thought when your loved one is telling you about their day is a surefire way to provoke them. Active listening is the key to communicating your care.
  • Make it fun! Spending time with the ones you love should be enjoyable. Plan a games night, make a fancy charcuterie board, or play 21 questions over Zoom.
  • Quality over quantity. You don’t need to schedule four hours worth of gazing into each other’s eyes; consider having dinner in a technology-free space. It doesn’t matter how long you connect for, as long as when you do it’s meaningful.

5. Physical touch

Whether it’s a hand on the shoulder or a hug goodbye, any time your loved one gets to feel your embrace, they also feel your love.

Touch can be a symbol of safety, comfort, and appreciation. Physically feeling one another means the world to this individual.

And not to fear, plenty who are in long-distance (or quarantined) relationships find ways to express their love non-physically by wearing each other’s hoodie or purchasing their signature scent.

More ways to love with physical touch:

  • Consent is key! Before touching someone, always communicate and ask what they’re comfortable with. This love language is not permission for unsolicited touching.
  • Don’t overthink it. Physical touch is just that—touch. Sitting side-by-side while watching TV, holding hands on a walk, or a kiss on the cheek is enough to show you care.
  • Turn your emotional feelings into physical ones. If you catch yourself looking at your person and thinking “wow, I love you,” make it a habit to show it, not say it.

From words to touch, each of us loves in different ways. And, although love is a universal language, there are different dialects worth learning to better communicate with one another.

Still confused about what love languages you speak? Lucky for us, Dr. Gary Chapman has created not just a book, but also a quiz to find out!

All this relationship talk got you stressed? Here’s how to maintain a healthy relationship with your loved ones.

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