The 5 Love Languages—And How To Use Them To Strengthen Your Relationship – Forbes

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If you’ve looked into improving your relationship with your partner, chances are you’ve heard of the five love languages. The theory— published in 1992 by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts—proposes that people experience love differently. Dr. Chapman identifies five categories through which people receive and express love, including words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.
Here, experts discuss how to use the five love languages to strengthen your bond.

Practicing your partner’s language—and vice versa—can help you to grow closer as a couple, according to Dr. Chapman’s theory. “When we know how we experience love and also understand the ways that our partner experiences love, it helps us create a meaningful, healthy, authentic connection,” says Avigail Lev, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and certified mediator at Bay Area CBT Center in Oakland and San Francisco, California.
Through Dr. Chapman’s clinical work as a couples counselor, he noticed that partners often misunderstood each other’s needs, not because they weren’t trying to connect—rather, they had different ways of experiencing and receiving love. According to Dr. Lev, Dr. Chapman hypothesized that teaching couples to express their love in ways that resonated with each individual would lead to more harmonious relationships, she adds. Within her own practice, “learning each other’s love languages increases connection and feelings of closeness between partners,” she says.
People often reported not feeling loved, despite their partner’s attempts to express it, adds Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner and founder of Take Root Therapy in Los Angeles. “[Dr.] Chapman found that patterns emerged in what his clients wanted from their partners, and he named these patterns the five love languages.”
Below are the five love languages according to Dr. Chapman, plus ideas for expressing them to your partner.
This love language consists of encouraging, positive words and verbal or written acknowledgments of love and care, says Lurie. Think: Compliments and words of encouragement. They can be as simple as “I love you,” or more intricate; for example, “I love you and appreciate how much you care for the people in your life,” or “I am grateful for you.”
If actions speak louder than words is your mantra, your love language may be acts of service, says Dr. Lev. For those with this love language, a helping hand makes them feel cared for, and doing something to lighten their load will go a long way. Try unloading the dishwasher, filling their gas tank, scheduling an appointment or offering to pick up dinner on the way home.
It’s the thought that counts, not the price of the gift, says Lurie. People with this love language appreciate receiving a visual symbol of their partner’s affection—especially one that’s been carefully selected by the giver. Gifting your partner their favorite author’s new book or framing the receipt from your first date are both meaningful ideas for those with this love language, says Lurie.
With this love language, what you long for most is your partner’s undivided attention, says Dr. Lev. Someone whose love language is quality time feels most appreciated when others are present, attentive and mindful. That means making your partner feel like they’re a priority by turning the phone off, not engaging in distractions, making eye contact, sitting close and using active listening skills to engage with your partner, she explains.
Do you feel comfortable and secure when you’re physically connected to your partner? If so, physical touch might be your primary love language, says Lurie. Members of this group read body language very closely and need the intimacy of touch to feel affirmed and bonded, she explains. Actions include making an active effort to cuddle, hold hands, kiss and hug regularly.
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The popular ethical principle the “golden rule” tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated, says Lurie. But when we relate to our partners through our own lenses, we assume that they experience love as we do, she says. “We are projecting our own wants and needs onto them. This creates distance and disconnection,” explains Dr. Lev.“It doesn’t create the space for our partner to feel truly seen, understood and loved in a way that is meaningful to them.”
Instead of treating others how we want to be treated, the five love languages encourage us to treat them how they want to be treated, explains Lurie. “Different people give and receive love differently,” she says. “If our objective is to show care in our relationships, doing so in a way that is specifically meaningful to them will allow them to receive our love.” It also has the potential to reduce frustration and increase connection in any relationship.
Tending to our partner’s love language has the following benefits, according to Dr. Lev:
To identify your love language, start with Dr. Chapman’s online quiz, Lurie recommends. It can also be helpful to take an inventory of your past and current relationships, whether romantic, platonic and/or familial, asking yourself when you have felt most loved and why. “Identifying the patterns in how you received care in these relationships could shed light on what helps you feel cared for and seen,” says Lurie.
Dr. Lev also suggests practicing each love language with your partner to explore how they make you feel. For example, you might ask your partner to surprise you with a random gift, to run an errand for you or to share a few words of appreciation for you. Then, reflect on what action makes you feel most connected, rating how each of these makes you feel from zero to 100, Dr. Lev says.
It’s important to note that love languages are not set in stone—rather, they are malleable, says Dr. Lev. Most people have more than one love language, and they can also change and shift over time. That’s because our needs and wants are constantly shifting, and the way we experience, receive and give love can change, too.
Our love language can change in response to our age, time in our life or in response to trauma, says Dr. Lev. Or, it can evolve the more we learn, grow and understand ourselves. While you may identify a primary love language, you may also determine that you have a secondary or tertiary love language. And some people may resonate with all of them, adds Lurie.
“As we experience life, different components of our personalities may change or come into focus, which is likely also true regarding our love language,” she says.
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Heidi Borst is a freelance journalist, healthcare content writer and certified nutrition coach with a love of all things health and wellness. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping, MSN, Yahoo and more. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Borst is a lifelong runner and general fitness enthusiast who is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of sleep and self-care.
Deborah Courtney is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in New York. She integrates evidence-based, trauma-informed treatments with spiritual healing approaches to honor the connection between mind, body and spirit. Specifically, she utilizes eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR), somatic experiencing (SE), ego state therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and reiki. She’s featured in various media forms promoting holistic mental health and wellness and is a speaker on the topics of trauma, holistic mental health treatment, self-care and mindfulness. Courtney’s other endeavors include creating the EMDR Journey Game, an internationally sold trauma treatment tool, and running her socially- and emotionally-minded day school for children in upstate New York. She’s excited to soon release an online learning platform to make holistic mental health education accessible to a mass audience.


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