Here's How Knowing Your Love Language Can Strengthen Your Marriage
You might be familiar with your partner's zodiac sign, enneagram type or Myers Briggs personality—but do you know their love language? The concept of love languages spans deeper than a simple personality quiz. Knowing your love language is essential for understanding how you need to receive love to be satisfied. And, vice versa, knowing your partner's love language is crucial for giving love in a way that's impactful. In fact, understanding (and speaking) your partner's love language is essential for having a successful relationship. But, what are the love languages, and how can they be used in daily practice? We tapped the experts to share everything you need to know about using the love languages to strengthen your marriage.
What are the Five Love Languages?
The idea of love languages originated from The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman. Inspired by his career as a marriage counselor, Chapman categorized five ways romantic partners give and receive love. And, while it's important to know your own, it's more effective to know your partner's. "In adult romantic relationships, knowing the love language concept will help you understand the reality that what makes one person feel loved will not make another person feel loved," Chapman tells The Knot. "If you want to meet your partner's emotional need for love, it is essential to know—and choose to speak—their primary love language."
A short quiz can help you determine your primary love language. We break down all five below.
Words of Affirmation
If your love language is words of affirmation, you value hearing your partner express their love. This includes frequent "I love you's," compliments, encouragement, and frequent digital communication when you're apart from each other. Listening to your partner express their gratitude and love for you makes you feel appreciated and understood.
Be aware of how you speak your love. If this is your partner's love language, they'll appreciate receiving unprovoked compliments, having honest discussions about your relationship, and texting when not together.
The physical touch love language is rather straightforward. If this is your love language, you feel fulfilled when you receive affection from your S.O. This includes all kinds of physical touch, from hand holding in public to cuddling at home and having a fulfilling sex life. Physical intimacy is a core factor in any relationship, but it's of the utmost importance to those with this love language.
Physical touch can be a powerful representation of your love. When communicated consensually, physical touch will show your partner that you value their needs.
Those who prefer quality time cherish the opportunity to enjoy each other's company uninterrupted. To please someone with this love language, be conscious that they receive your undivided attention (read: turn off the TV, put your phone down and eliminate other distractions). Those with quality time as their love language prefer eye contact, active listening and having their partner's full attention when they're together.
According to Chapman, gifts are "visual symbols of love." It's simple: If your love language is receiving gifts, you feel valued when your partner surprises you with tokens of their appreciation. This goes beyond the holidays too—you like when your S.O. picks up something small because it reminded them of you. This act proves that they intentionally bought something because they knew it would make you happy.
It's important to note that the cost of the gift doesn't impact the value. If your S.O. has this love language, don't stress about buying them the greatest and most expensive gifts. It's the thought that counts, like buying their favorite lunch on a busy day or picking up a new mug for their nightly cup of tea.
Acts of Service
Not to be confused with receiving gifts, those who prefer acts of service like having small tasks done for them. If this is your love language, you appreciate when your partner takes the time to do things that make your life easier (like taking out the trash when it piles up or handling dinner plans while you work late). You believe actions speak louder than words, and you feel most appreciated when your partner does things that actively help you.
If your partner prefers acts of service, take note of small tasks that you can help with. If your S.O. hates unloading the dishwasher, take it upon yourself to empty it every night before bed. Or, if they always start their day with a cup of coffee, start brewing a pot when you wake up. Not only will this show that you care, it also indicates that you pay attention to what matters most to them.
How Knowing Your Love Languages Can Strengthen Your Marriage
So, you know your own language, as well as your partner's. Now what? To benefit from knowing your partner's love language, it's important to learn how to speak it. As a result, the impacts to your relationship will be invaluable. We tapped the experts to break down exactly how understanding your love languages will strengthen your relationship.
It Establishes an Emotional Connection
Knowing your partner's love language can create a strong emotional connection no matter the stage of your relationship, whether you're newly dating or have been married for years. "It's important to understand each other's emotional needs, as well as how we express love to those closest to us," says Jemma Ahmed, Head of Insights for Bumble. "This makes your significant other feel loved and cared for, which is foundational to a healthy relationship."
You can strengthen your emotional connection by paying attention to what your partner needs, rather than focusing on what you're lacking. When done as a joint effort, you and your S.O. will give each other what you need for a fulfilling relationship. "We are self-focused by nature, and tend to think about our own need for love," explains Chapman. "As a result, you may feel that your partner is not meeting your emotional needs. This self-centered approach to life will not lead to a healthy relationship."
Instead, Chapman suggests prioritizing the emotional needs of your partner to create a lasting bond. "True love seeks the wellbeing of the other person," he explains. "This is where knowing and speaking your partner's love language helps you effectively communicate love in a way that is meaningful to them. When they feel loved by you, they are drawn to you emotionally."
It Can Help You Return to the "Honeymoon Phase"
The "honeymoon phase" is a theoretical time in the beginning of a relationship when everything feels exciting, passionate and fresh. This phase is often said to last between six months to a year. But you can always return to the honeymoon phase, no matter the stage of your relationship. Speaking your partner's love language can bring back the early feelings of exhilaration and joy.
"Speaking your partner's love language is especially important when you come down from the highly euphoric stage that we typically call 'falling in love,'" Chapman explains. "After this stage fades, you must be much more intentional in learning how to express love in a way that is meaningful to the other person."
Speaking your partner's love language shows that you've taken the time to understand what love looks like to them, whether it's putting your arm around them in public or giving them a sincere, unprovoked compliment. As a result, this attention to detail will keep the spark alive long into your relationship.
It Promotes Healthy Communication
One of the biggest benefits of knowing your love language is that it can strengthen your communication skills with your partner. Once you've determined how you like to receive love, use that knowledge to guide a constructive conversation about how your relationship can improve. "Knowing your own love language helps you understand why you may be feeling unloved by your partner, even though they may sincerely love you," says Chapman. "Use this to have open communication with them, which can lead to changed behavior."
If your love language is quality time, for example, explain to your partner how their undivided attention makes you feel fulfilled. Ask to set aside time for date night every week without distractions so that you can focus only on each other. It's important to remember that your S.O. can't read your mind. The only way they can speak your love language is if you explain what it is and how you'd like them to interpret it. Then, be sure to direct the conversation to their needs as well.
"Start by modeling communication of your own needs to gently and openly invite your partner to talk about their needs," suggests Haesue Jo, licensed marriage and family therapist and Clinical Operations Manager at BetterHelp. "Discuss what things you can do for the other that help you both feel loved, understood and validated."
Conflict mediation, a key factor of healthy communication, is another added benefit from knowing your partner's love language. "Partners who are versed in the concept of love languages are able to recover from conflict quicker", says Jennifer Lauren Arceneaux, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. "When someone knows how their partner expresses an apology, they'll often be more receptive to their repair efforts."
It Can Lead to Long-Term Satisfaction
It's no secret that successful marriages require work from both partners. In order to have a satisfying long-term relationship, both people must commit to its success. While you might know each other's love languages, it's important to check in frequently and make sure your partner is receiving love in a way that's meaningful.
"As much as you might feel in tune with your partner, things can quickly change and leave you feeling out of sync with each other," advises Jo. Actively speaking your partner's love language can help put your relationship back on track.
Familiarizing yourself with your own love language will also help you notice how your partner is actively trying to express love in a way that's appropriate for you. "The more you understand the different ways people show love, the more likely you are to notice those gestures and feel loved," Ahmed adds.
When you and your partner commit to speaking each other's love languages, you'll learn more about your relationship and deepen your emotional connection. In turn, your relationship will be exponentially stronger because of the work you put in together.
To learn more about the love languages, read The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.