What the Receiving Gifts Love Language Means for a Relationship

Wife making a surprise giving a present to her husband at home

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In 1992, author Gary Chapman revolutionized the way many of us view love with his #1 New York Times best-selling book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. In the book, he developed the theory that there are five primary ways romantic partners give and receive love, and that we all speak certain languages better than other languages in our romantic lives.

A Brief Overview of Chapman’s Five Love Languages

Before digging into the love language of receiving gifts, specifically, let’s first review all five of Chapman’s languages. They’re as follows:

  • Physical Touch, which means that we show and receive love through affirmative touching such as holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and even sex.
  • Quality Time, which means we need to spend meaningful time with our partner to feel loved. This quality time can range from chatting over dinner to going for a long walk.
  • Acts of Service, which translates to showing and feeling love through helpful service, such as cooking a meal or cleaning out the car.
  • Words of Affirmation, which means that more than anything we feel loved or show our love through verbal praise, compliments, and expressions of love.
  • Gift Giving, which means we “speak” our love through presents ranging from small tokens to surprise deliveries.

“Approaching relationships from the love language perspective is really productive. By learning how to ‘speak’ each other’s love language, you’re ensuring both people in a relationship feel supported and seen,” says Mark Williams, a licensed mental health counselor and relationship coach.

It’s possible, and even likely, that you and your partner don’t speak the same love languages, so learning how to speak their preferred language becomes even more important. In fact, Chapman argues that it can improve your understanding of each other, prevent arguments, and foster deeper love.

The Receiving Gifts Love Language

If you’re here, then either you know or suspect that one of your partner’s strongest love languages is the act of giving and receiving gifts. Or perhaps gifts are your love language and you’re simply looking for a better way to communicate your needs to your partner. Whatever the case, we’re breaking it all down for you.

Of all the love languages, the act of gift giving is arguably the most often misconstrued. To some, it can seem greedy or as if the recipient is fixated on things versus love itself. That’s not the case.

“If you or your partner’s love language is gifts, that means you feel loved [or that you’re demonstrating love] with a tangible item,” says Williams. “Whether that item is a tiny trinket from a thrift store, or a 50-foot sailboat is inconsequential. Either convey the same message: I was thinking about you when I saw this. You’re always on my mind.”

In that sense, Williams explains that the true meaning of gift giving isn’t extravagance, it’s sentimentality. A person who feels loved through these items might cherish the gift, however small, more than another who speaks a different love language. Every time they see it, it will serve as a reminder that they are loved.

Determining If Your Partner’s Love Language Is Gifts

“We often speak the love language to our partners that we ourselves want to receive. Meaning, if your partner buys you an album two days after you talk about how much you love a new band, or gets you a subscription to a magazine they think you’d like, it’s likely that their love language is gift giving,” says Williams.

Another good way to know if your partner's love language is gifts is by gauging their reaction to presents. Williams says if they feel embarrassed when presented with a gift, it’s likely not their love language. If they’re highly enthusiastic, if they put the item on display, wear it every day, or gush to their friends about it, they likely feel very loved by the gesture.

The most surefire way to find out if your partner’s love language is gifts, though, is to ask them.

How to Satisfy Your Partner’s Gift-Giving Language

If speaking the gifts love language doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s still important to try learning the language since it’s the one your partner speaks.

“Just like you put a filter on an Instagram post, look at things in your daily life through the lens of ‘gift giving,’” suggests Williams. “If you pass a bakery every day on the way home from work, look at it through the lens of ‘My partner really feels loved when I bring them gifts’ and stop in for a pastry before heading home. They don’t have to be big purchases, and they don’t have to be all the time. They’re just little reminders that they’re always on your mind, and the tangible evidence to prove it.”

Similarly, if your partner’s love language is gifts, then there are things you should avoid doing in order to prevent deep hurt. For example, if someone’s love language is “words of affirmations,” then hurling an insult will wound that person more than it might another. Similarly, if someone’s love language is physical touch and you withheld affection for days your partner would feel dejected.

“The dark side of knowing each other’s love languages is that you also become equipped with the knowledge of how you might hurt your partner,” says Williams. In the case of someone who speaks gifts as their love language, "not getting them a gift on an anniversary or special occasion would be acutely hurtful to them, as would approaching the gift-giving as more a chore than an opportunity.”

In that sense, it's just as important to be aware that certain behaviors might impact your partner more deeply than others.

A Word From Verywell

Though the majority of us have one or two dominant love languages, each of us technically speaks all five languages to some degree. It’s ideal that we speak all five languages to our romantic partners—physical affection, quality time, acts of service, kind words, and gifts—while simply making sure to prioritize their preferred language.

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