What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Think about a someone in your life (past or present) that you have/had romantic feelings for.  What did that person do for you that made you feel particularly special?  For some people, their partner bought them “just because” flowers…for others, it’s a long embrace after not seeing one another all day.  Everyone will likely have a different answer to this–which is the beauty of relationships and the diversity of what people want…and need.  People, in all relationships, show love through their love language.  A love language depicts how you want to be shown that you’re valued and appreciated; in so many words, a love language is how you want to be loved.  


By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT

There are 5 Different Love Languages

Words of Affirmation

This language uses words to affirm other people

  • How to speak this love language: Encourage, affirm, appreciate, listen activity, send an unexpected note or card
  • Things to avoid: Non-constructive criticism, not recognizing or appreciating effort
Quality Time

This requires giving someone undivided attention

  • How to speak this love language: Uninterrupted and focused conversations, meaningful one-on-one interactions, create special moments together, go on a weekend getaway together
  • Things to avoid: Distractions when spending time together (eg: cell phones, televisions, etc.), long stints without one-on-one time
Receiving Gifts

For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.

  • How to speak this love language: Speak purposefully and thoughtfully, express gratitude when receiving a gift, give a meaningful gift, remember that small gestures matter
  • Things to avoid: Forget special occasions  
Acts of Service 

For people who’s love language is acts of service–think of the phrase “actions speak louder than words”.  

  • How to speak this love language: Show your partner that you’re with them and partnered with them–use phrases such as “I’ll help…” or “Let’s do this together…”, make them breakfast in bed and help with various chores
  • Things to avoid: Lack follow-through on tasks (both big & small), making requests of others a higher priority  
Physical Touch

To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch

  • How to speak this love language: use body language and tough to emphasize love, hug, hold hands, kiss, making intimacy a thoughtful priority
  • Things to avoid: Physical neglect, long stints without intimacy, receiving affection coldly  

It is important to know what you and your partner’s love languages are (they may be different, by the way) because it allows you to communicate to your partner that you care about them and are speaking to their needs.  Because the way we want to be loved seems most familiar and makes most sense to us, people most often try to give love using their love language–which is not always what is needed.  The following example will make all of this make more sense.  

I know of a couple–it is a husband and wife.  The wife’s love language is receiving gifts.  This does NOT mean that in order for her to feel loved or special, that her husband is required to purchase her gifts all the time, by the way.  Rather, if her husband happens to surprise her with a gift–whether it’s a book she’s been wanting or a massage–it’s going to be meaningful to her and she will feel special and loved that her husband thought of her and gave her something.  Her husband’s love language, on the other hand, is words of affirmation.  Recently, the wife purchased her husband a sports jersey for his favorite football team.  Because that is her love language, she was under the assumption that that gift would be a great gesture to say “I love you”.  While the husband appreciated the gift, it just felt like any other day…just with the addition of a new clothing item because she was trying to show love by loving her husband with her love language.  She ultimately realized that in order for him to feel special and loved, her husband needed to hear something affirming eg: “You are a really great partner and parent and I appreciate you”.  From her perspective, she assumed he should be aware of those things already–so it did not feel necessary to share those things with him.  That’s simply because that’s not how she needs to be loved, though.

I already mentioned this, but it seems necessary to do this again.  If you’re with someone and their love language is “receiving gifts” for example–it does NOT mean that you will have to purchase them gifts all the time to show them affection; it’s the same with quality time–if your love language is quality time–it doesn’t mean that absolutely every interaction you have with your significant other is mandated to be undivided attention towards one another.  After all, people who have quality time as their love language also really appreciate receiving gifts and physical touch, too (and vice versa).  

It’s really quite simple.  If you are aware of what your partner’s love language is, it will allow you to be more attuned to them and you’ll be able to show them in a way that’s meaningful to them that you love and care about them.  In the above example with the husband and wife, keep in mind that the wife just assumed her husband knew that he was a great partner and parent.  It may feel insignificant to you, but keep in mind, this is not about you.  This is entirely about your partner and what they need to feel significance and belonging from you.  

While my focus has been on romantic partners, it’s important to note that this speaks volumes for all genuine, interpersonal relationships people have.  Love languages can be applied to your friends, family, and colleagues, too.  Check out the love languages quiz here and see what your love language is.  Be mindful of the fact that your love language can (and does) change–so it’s a great idea to revisit the quiz from time to time!  

Love can be expressed and received in all five languages.  However, if you don’t speak a person’s primary love language that person will not feel loved, even though you may be speaking the other four.  Once you are speaking his or her primary love language fluently, then you can sprinkle in the other four and they will be like icing on the cake.  – Gary Chapman