Love languages, or love needs, are the most direct way to connect with your partner. When both you and your partner have the love needs met, the two of you will feel a strong sense of love.
There are three sets of personal needs. The love needs are the highest level of personal needs. This means that when the love needs are met, you feel an immediate and direct connection with your partner.
The concept of love languages was popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman in his series of books. Love languages are an effective way to enhance or restore love in a marriage. The positive change in a marriage can be nearly immediate. The main idea behind the 5 love languages is that we like to receive love in a particular way, a language. When we do, we feel the love we so desire.
The problem is that we have a tendency to show love how we like to receive it, but our spouse may need to be shown love with a different language. They have a different set of needs. We need to both tell our spouse what our love need is and learn the love need of our spouse. Once we know their language, we need to speak it and practice it as often as possible.
What is your Love Language? What is your partner's?
As a marriage coach, one of the more common complaints heard from married couples is that one spouse does not feel loved by the other, while the other spouse feels like they are giving everything to their spouse.
There is a serious disconnect. For example, the husband may come home from work, hug and kiss his wife, while telling her that he loves her. He feels he is expressing love to his wife. Meanwhile, she is getting angry that she is not loved. To her, she feels love when he helps out around the house and with the kids, which he is not doing much of. Two or three times a week he is feeling frisky and starts to initiate sex, which he really enjoys and needs in order for him to feel loved. To her, she is not feeling loved and definitely not in the mood for sex. She may even resent his request for sex. She turns him down, making him frustrated and feeling even more unloved. Actions like these starts a cycle where neither spouse is getting what they need, and friction between them builds.
It’s a bad situation and one that can be easily fixed. Often times situations like this escalate with increasing hostility towards one another. The disconnect is that they do not understand a fundamental part of their spouse. That fundamental part is how they need to be loved. It is called a love need, or also popularly known as a love language. There are 5 love needs. When love is expressed to us the way we need to have it expressed to us, we feel cherished. We are in bliss. The more love we feel, the easier it is for us to love another. We need to learn and understand the 5 love needs.
The 5 Love Needs
The 5 love needs are:
- 1Words of Affirmation
- 2Quality Time
- 3Receiving Gifts
- 4Acts of Service
- 5Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation are words that build up your partner. Compliments, encouragement, or appreciation are affirming. Words of affirmation are not flattery, dishonest, or without true intent. They must be from the heart and best made with empathy, knowing your spouse.
If words of affirmation is your spouse’s primary love language, you need to be fully aware, all the time, that words are important. Harsh or negative words can cut to the core. Try to say positive and uplifting things to your spouse several times every day.
Quality time is undivided attention to your spouse. It is not watching TV together. It is not pretending to listen to him while reading a book. It is looking at each other or doing things with each other that reaches a personal and emotional level.
Go to a restaurant for dinner and you can tell those who are dating versus those who are married or just friends. The dating couples are paying close attention to each other. They are looking at each other. They are possibly even holding hands. The typical married couple or friends are looking at their smartphones, the TV’s, or others in the room. Their attention is often not on those who they are with.
Quality time is focused attention. Quality time can mean quality conversations. You can be on vacation sitting on the beach and having a meaningful conversation. Day trips on the weekend is an excellent way to spend quality time. If quality time is your spouse’s primary love language, find out what 3 times of the day they are most open to having time available, and spend quality time with your spouse during those times, every day.
“Gifts are visual symbols of love,” says Dr. Chapman. Symbols have emotional meanings. The cost of the gift means little to those with a primary love language of receiving gifts.
If your spouse likes to receive gifts, you may have to change your attitude about money. It isn’t that you have to spend a lot, but it does mean that you have to learn how to give gifts often. One way to give gifts is to give the gift or yourself. Your time and presence. There are many ways to give gifts. You simply need to find what is of value to your spouse and be creative in giving that value. Handmade gifts can be seen as a tremendous value. Creativity is your best friend.
Acts of Service
Acts of service are things your spouse would like you to do. It can be things like taking out the trash, filling the car gas tank, mowing the lawn, ironing his shirts, shovel the sidewalk before she has to go out, making his favorite meal, or washing the dishes after she cooks. Acts of service should be given freely without grumbling or complaint.
During courtship we often do things for our partner that seem natural. Once married, we fall into the trap of thinking those actions that won our spouse are not needed any more. Spouses often see this as withdrawal or distancing, lack of love, or disapproval of them. What requests has your spouse made of you recently? Confirm with your spouse that those things are important. Make a strong effort to complete those requests often without having to be told repeatedly.
The act of touch is extremely powerful. It is not limited to just one area of the body. “If your spouse’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than holding her as she cries,” says Dr. Chapman. Physical touch is incredibly powerful. Men often have physical touch as a primary love language and channel it through sex. If sex is that powerful for your spouse, learning the art of love making would be a powerful marriage booster.
Physical touch does not mean sex is the only form it can take. Non-sexual touching can be very powerful and meaningful. Holding hands, a hand around the shoulder, or a foot massage can express love deeply. When walking past your spouse, put your hand on them as you walk by. Giving a long, tight hug when you come back from work can show immense love to a person with a primary love language of physical touch.
Knowing Yours and Your Spouse’s Love Language
It is imperative you understand BOTH yours and your spouse’s primary love language.
One way to discover which of the 5 love languages is your primary love language is to think about how you most often express love to others. We often express love to others in the same manner we like to have love given to us. Another way is to think about what you have complained about recently. These complaints can often shine a light on your primary love language. Another way is to make a list of the traits of the ideal spouse. Look at the list and you will likely see a trend following that of the 5 love languages.
Find Your Love Need Coaching Exercise
Here is an excellent exercise that will help you determine your top 2 love needs. It's not necessary to know the order of all five needs. Your top 1 or 2 needs is all you need.
- 1Make a list of the top 10 things that your spouse does, or did, that truly makes you feel loved.
- 2Once you have your 10 items, rank them from 1 to 10, 1 being the most loving action, in the order of how much love you feel from each behavior.
- 3Next to each behavior, write down the love need that behavior represents.
- 4Now compare numbers 1 and 2. Imagine your spouse doing these actions. Which of these two makes you feel the most loved? Place a mark next to that behavior.
- 5Next, compare numbers 2 and 3. Do the same thing as before and place a mark next to the behavior that makes you feel the most loved.
- 6Do this now for 3 and 4, and continue down the list, marking which behavior makes you feel the most love.
- 7When done with all 10, see which love needs has the most marks next to it. That is your primary love language. The 2nd most marked behavior is your 2nd most important love need.
It may be that you have 2 love needs that have very close scores. That is fine. If you do, think deeply about the actions of those love needs and see if one edges out the other. This is an exercise best done by both you and your spouse.
In my coaching programs I go much deeper with this exercise. Knowing the love needs is important, but knowing what to do with them takes the instruction to a next level. That is best done in personal or group coaching.
Please continue learning about your personal needs. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, there are 3 sets of needs. Click here for the next set of personal needs - the emotional needs.