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What is my Love Language (and why does it matter?)


We all love in different ways. Love feels differently to us each physically in our bodies, in the way we experience the emotions of love, and in our conceptualization of what makes up loving behavior.


We each prefer to give and receive love in different ways too. It’s important to have awareness about your own preferences regarding how you give & receive love so that your needs can be met.


And it’s equally important to know how your partners and friends and family and others you care about prefer to give & receive love too, so that you can help meet their needs. The love languages are not just for romantic relationships. All connections are much smoother when we understand how each other prefer to give and receive love and care.


In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman described 5 categories of how love can be shown and received. These broad areas offer a nice framework to understand ourselves and others but are by no means comprehensive or definitive. But it’s a great place to start! You can take his quiz here to identify your preferred language.


Below are the descriptions of the 5 categories (you can also call these love personalities if you prefer). Many of us like several or all of these love displays, but often we are more heavily impacted by one or two.


Included with each love language below are some specific ideas for you. These can help you know yourself better and enable you to ask for your needs more effectively:


  • What can make me feel loved

  • Things I can ask others for

  • What others do that can make me feel hurt



The 5 Love Languages


1.Words of Affirmation – I really feel cared about when...Others say or write things that help me feel appreciated, strong, capable, loved, attractive, confident, and like I matter.


What can make me feel loved -

  • Compliments – You look great in that. Your hair looks really nice today.

  • Praise - You did a nice job mowing the lawn. That meal was delicious. You picked out a really thoughtful gift for our friend.

  • Appreciation - Thank you for taking out the trash. Thank you for being so understanding.

  • Encouragement – Your work presentation is going to be terrific. You are doing so great on your exercise plan.


Things I can ask others for -

  • Tangible things like love letters or cards or poetry.

  • A playlist of meaningful songs.

  • Texts or memes to build me up.

  • Phone calls.

  • Pep-talks


What others do that can make me feel hurt -

  • Be silent,

  • not notice my efforts,

  • be critical or poke at my weaker areas,

  • not apologize when hurtful words were said


2. Receiving Gifts – I really feel cared about when...Others give me meaningful objects and I know they were thinking of me and that I matter to them.


What can make me feel loved -

  • Meaningful objects, mementos or tokens that show I was thought of.

  • Remembering my favorite things like treats, places to eat, songs, flowers, sports teams, shows, bands.

  • Sending me a random picture of something that made a person think of me.

  • Thoughtful gifts with extra research or effort behind them.


Things I can ask others for:

  • A special token or celebration for my birthday or occasions that matter to me

  • To pick up my favorite treat on a bad day.

  • To go to my favorite places together

  • To remember the dates or items that matter to me.

  • To surprise me.

  • To bring me a souvenir


What others do that can make me feel hurt:

  • Forgetting my birthday or other special occasions.

  • Not putting a lot of thought into gift items (buying something just to buy it).

  • Not paying attention when I talk about things I want to experience or have.


3. Acts of Service – I really feel cared about when...Others do things (or offer to do things) that make my life easier or less stressful.


What can make me feel loved -

  • Someone helping with tasks or chores

  • Doing anything that will make my day or life more positively or smoothly.

  • Doing a chore or task for me that they know I don’t like doing.

  • Doing something for me that they know I will like or appreciate.

  • Offering to help, even if I don’t accept it.


Things I can ask others for

  • Help with completing a specific task like grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, laundry, paying bills, walking the dog.

  • Support in getting things done together.

  • Time off from “adulting” to have time for myself.


What others do that can make me feel hurt

  • Promise to help and then not follow-through.

  • Refuse to help.

  • Prioritize doing things for other people instead of me.

  • Downplay the importance of my requests for help.

  • Needing a lot of reminders to do something.


4. Quality time - I really feel cared about when...Others spend time with me, talk with me, listen to me and give me their full attention.


What can make me feel loved

  • Being fully present and really engaged in our time together, not multitasking

  • Setting aside time to share an activity or conversation without being distracted by the phone or interruptions

  • Prioritizing regular time or dates together

  • Running errands together


Things I can ask others for:

  • Date night or friend time with no phones.

  • A getaway weekend trip.

  • Taking a walk together, cooking together, sitting on the couch with the TV off just catching up.


What others do that can make me feel hurt

  • Be distracted when we are together.

  • Go for long periods without spending 1:1 time together.

  • Regularly prioritize other people or work or activities over me.

  • Cancel our plans.


5. Physical touch - I really feel cared about when...Others offer physical closeness in caring ways.


What can make me feel loved:

  • Nonverbal expressions of care

  • Initiating or participating in sitting close to me

  • consistent eye contact

  • holding hands

  • hugging

  • caressing me

  • kissing

  • sexual intimacy

  • cuddling

  • playing with my hair or massaging my scalp

  • rubbing my feet

  • offering your hand when I’m upset


Things I can ask others for:

  • Hugs

  • to be physically in the same location

  • a massage

  • sexual intimacy or cuddling

  • non-romantically: ask to spend time with others’ pets/kids


What others do that can make me feel hurt

  • Avoid being around me

  • reject my requests for physical closeness

  • avoid initiating physical closeness

  • physical aggression

  • threaten or abuse me


It’s not uncommon to feel loved by several or all of these language types. For most of us, we have a primary love language that seems to really meet a deep need. Often this is related to how love was shown (or withheld) when we were growing up.


For example, if a parent gave you thoughtful gifts or purchased things for you and that was the primary way you felt attended to, you may desire the Receiving Gifts love display in your adult relationships. Or if you had a very critical parent growing up, perhaps Words of Affirmation are most important to you because it helps heal that wound from the constant criticism in your upbringing.


As you consider your love language and how you can better express your needs to others, keep in mind that others will have their own specific language and needs. I often see in relationships that Partner A shows love to Partner B in Partner A's own language, rather than in Partner B's language. Because this is a mismatch, Partner B ends up not feeling the love that Partner A is trying to show. And Partner A can feel unappreciated for their effort!


Communication about needs and unmet needs is key in all types of relationships, especially when it comes to the way you prefer to give and receive love and care. Who are you thinking of as you read this post and what might change if you started a conversation with them about love languages?


The book link is an affiliate link and if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission.

© 2017 Heather M. McKenzie, Therapist LCMHC PLLC

(919) 744-8335

heather@mckenziecounseling.org

all areas of North Carolina, United States​