What Are the Five Love Languages?

Illustration of woman holding a rose with hearts containing visuals representing the five love languages

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

The love languages describe five ways that people receive and express love in a relationship. Knowing your partner's love language and letting them know yours can help you both feel loved and appreciated.

Nearly everyone wants to show their partner that they care about them. Yet many people struggle to do it in a way that speaks to their loved one's heart. If you find that this describes your situation, you may want to learn more about the five love languages, which were described by author and pastor Gary Chapman.

What Are the Five Love Languages?

Chapman's book "The 5 Love Languages" was first published in 1992. Before writing the book, Chapman began to notice patterns in couples he was counseling. He realized that the couples were misunderstanding each other's needs.

That led him to come up with five love languages, or ways that people in relationships express love. They are:

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation is about expressing affection through spoken words, praise, or appreciation. When this is someone's primary love language, they enjoy kind words and encouragement as well as uplifting quotes, love notes, and cute text messages. You can make this person's day by complimenting them or pointing out what they do well.

Quality Time

Someone with this love language wants undivided attention. They feel loved if you are present and focused on them when you are together. This means putting down the cell phone, turning off the tablet, making eye contact, and actively listening.

People with this love language are looking for quality over quantity.

Physical Touch

A person with physical touch as their primary love language feels loved through physical affection. Aside from sex, they feel loved when their partner holds their hand, touches their arm, or gives them a massage at the end of the day, for example. This person's idea of a perfect date might include cuddling on the couch with a glass of wine and a good movie. They simply want to be close to their partner physically.

Acts of Service

For acts of service, a person feels loved and appreciated when someone does nice things for them, such as:

  • Helping with the dishes
  • Running errands
  • Vacuuming
  • Putting gas in the car

They love when people do little things for them and often can be found doing these acts of service for others.

Receiving Gifts

Gift-giving is symbolic of love and affection for someone with this love language. They treasure not only the gift itself but also the time and effort the gift-giver put into it.

People with receiving gifts as their primary love language do not necessarily expect large or expensive gifts; it's more what is behind the gift that appeals to them.

When you take the time to pick out a gift specifically for them, it tells them you really know them. People with this love language can often remember every little gift they have received from their loved ones because it makes such an impact on them.

How to Identify Your Love Language

If or when you're in a relationship, do you feel more loved when your partner:

  • Tells you, "I love you," or praises something you did?
  • Surprises you with a meaningful gift?
  • Plans a trip for just the two of you?
  • Runs the errands or does the laundry?
  • Holds your hand while you're walking?

Answering these questions could give you a hint as to what your love language might be. You could also try to recall what sorts of things you ask for in a relationship or consider how you express love to your partner. Chapman also offers an online 30-question quiz to help you determine your dominant type.

Your partner's love language may not be the same as yours. When couples have different primary love languages, there are bound to be misunderstandings. However, if your partner learns to speak your love language, they often feel loved and appreciated and ultimately happier in the relationship.

How Love Languages Benefit Relationships

We all express and receive love differently. Understanding those differences can have a serious impact on your relationship. According to Chapman, this exercise is one of the simplest ways to improve your relationships. Here are some other ways it could be beneficial.

Promotes Selflessness

When you are committed to learning someone else's love language, you are focused on their needs rather than your own. This is the central premise of Chapman's theory. Couples should work to learn their partner's love language rather than trying to convince their partner to learn theirs. Ideally, both people will want to express love in a way that is meaningful to the other.

The entire purpose of exploring your love languages together is to learn how to love your partner in a way that is meaningful to them.

Creates Empathy

As you learn more about how your partner experiences love, you learn to empathize with them. It helps you step outside of yourself for a moment and take a look at what makes another person feel significant and loved.

When couples are committed to learning and using the love languages, they increase their emotional intelligence and learn how to put someone else's needs above their own. Instead of speaking their own love language to their partner, they learn how to speak in a language that their partner understands.

Maintains Intimacy

If couples regularly talk about what keeps their love tanks full, this creates more understanding—and ultimately intimacy—in their relationship. They not only learn more about one another, but they also connect in deeper and more meaningful ways. When this happens, their relationship feels more intimate.

A 2016 review published in the Global Journal of Health Science concluded that improving communication skills can aid intimacy in a marriage.

Aids Personal Growth

When you focus on something or someone outside of yourself, it can lead to personal growth. Loving your partner in ways that may be outside your comfort zone forces you to grow and change, and to look outside yourself.

Shares Love in Meaningful Ways

When couples start speaking one another's love language, the things they do for each other become more intentional and also more meaningful. Part of this has to do with the fact that they are saying "I love you" in ways that make sense to their partner. When they do that, their partners feel content and happy.

Love Languages in Everyday Life

According to Chapman, love languages also apply to relationships between parents and children, co-workers, and even friends. For example, your child may have words of affirmation as their primary love language, and so they'd like to hear verbal praise or, "I love you." A co-worker may feel more appreciated in one way over another.

Your love language can also change occasionally. For instance, if you had a bad day at work, you may prefer a hug from your partner rather than an encouraging word.

The key is to regularly communicate and ask what your partner needs to keep their love tank full. Then, put this into practice.

Criticisms of the Love Language Theory

Though love languages help many people learn how to communicate better with their partners, there are limitations to the theory and how people apply it to their relationships.

Many People Misuse the Languages

Some people get a bit competitive about using love languages, which can actually add strain to a relationship. For instance, partners might start keeping track of all the times they use their partner's love language and compare it to how many times their partner used theirs.

While love languages can be a way to open up communication and compassion, they shouldn't be used as a game or a weapon against your partner. Some people may continue to use their own language (instead of their partner's) to show that they care—and that's OK.

The idea isn't that you can't be in a relationship with anyone who doesn't share your love language. Instead, try to be understanding and open; you can recognize and appreciate your partner’s actions even if they don’t perfectly match with your own language.

They Don't Fix Other Relationship Problems

The five love languages won't fix all of your relationship issues; they are simply one tool of many you can use to help communicate with your partner.

Research shows that couples who use each other's love languages feel the happiest within their relationships when they also usedself-regulation tools to handle their own emotions. While the love languages were a tool, the couples' accountability for their emotions and behavioral changes contributed the most to their overall happiness.

Your love language can change as well—it's important to accept and expect that you and your partner's love languages may change over time, especially during life stressors or major changes like having children.

They May Lead to Pressure on Partners

Many people talk about love languages as they're used within committed relationships or marriage. It's important to remember that learning and understanding your own love language is an important tool for you to practice self-love.

You want to avoid putting too much pressure on your partner to consistently express your love language to you.

One study found that the biggest obstacle for couples who were using each other's love languages was that, oftentimes, the recipient didn't even recognize that their partner was trying to use their love language. So it's crucial that the recipient recognizes their partner's efforts, even if they don't exactly meet expectations.

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They Perpetuate Heteronormativity

Chapman’s original model focuses on heterosexual couples even though the theory can apply to any partnership regardless of their sexual orientation. If you're reading "The 5 Love Languages" and you aren't in a heterosexual relationship or you aren't heteronormative, it might feel frustrating to be excluded from the text.

A Word From Verywell

Once you and your partner know each other's love language, you both can benefit. Speaking your partner's love language may take a little bit of effort and intention, especially if it is different from yours. Remember, healthy relationships aren't born, they're developed through attention and effort.

The good news is that you can enhance your relationship by learning your partner's love language and putting it into practice. And, if you both are committed to loving one another in the ways that speak to you both, you will find yourself not only deeper in love, but also in a happy and fulfilling relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the love languages of children?

    In 1997, Gary Chapman wrote a book with Ross Campbell, MD, about how the five love languages can apply to children as well. In it, he describes methods of observing which love language your child may resonate with. There is also a quiz that a parent can take on behalf of their child. It is available on the Five Love Languages website.

  • How can I tell my partner's love language?

    The easiest way to determine your partner's love language is to have them take the quiz. You could also consider what they ask for or do most in a relationship. Do they frequently bring you thoughtful gifts? Or tell you they love you? This could be a hint as to what their love language might be.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. 5 Love Languages. Frequently asked questions.

  3. Hughes JL, Camden AA. Using Chapman’s five love languages theory to predict love and relationship satisfaction. PsiChiJournal. 2020;25(3):234-244. doi:10.24839/2325-7342.jn25.3.234

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  5. Campbell R, Chapman G. The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively. Moody Publishers.

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