FYI, It's Totally Possible To Have Two Love Languages

Sarah Fielding
Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images
Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images

From Women's Health

Have you ever talked with a friend about relationships and been shocked to hear how different what they want from a partner is than you? It’s easy to fall into the idea that everyone expresses and receives love in similar ways but, in reality, individuals have distinct desires, wants, and needs from life, and others. The five love languages clearly demonstrate these unique characteristics.

First introduced by marriage counselor Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages, they “provide an easy way to curate a conversation about meeting one another's needs in a relationship,” says Indigo Stray Conger, licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist. “Over time, couples can feel that they are both making a sincere effort to show love to their partner, yet somehow end up missing each other and feeling distant.” Each encompasses a specific way a person may need to express or receive love. Though some people may fall completely into one category, a person can also strongly identify with two of the love languages. One can determine how someone likes to receive love, for example, while the other might speak to how a person likes to show love.

The idea behind identifying your love language (and your partner's) is for them to help romantic partners better understand each other and maintain healthy relationships—though they can be utilized for all thoughtful connections in your life. “I believe it has applicability to friendships and work relationships too in terms of how to do things for people that they will value and appreciate, and also how to communicate your own needs for nurturance and support, romantic or not,” says Judy Ho, PhD, licensed clinical neuropsychologist.

In that spirit, it's worth learning what your love language is so you can better identify what actions make you feel special—and identifying what your partner's is so that you can cater to it. Read on for all the details.

Words Of Affirmation

As the saying typically goes, "It's not about what you say but what you do"—but that's not so true for people whose love language is words of affirmation. Those who "speak" this language feel most connected to their partner or others after hearing after a few kind words. “In this case, words matter," says Carolina Pataky, PhD, a relationship and sex therapist and co-founder of the Love Discovery Institute. "A person who speaks the language of affirmation connects deeply to their partner’s words."

This love language is all about recognition. If you have a partner who thrives on words of affirmation, they don't necessarily want to be showered with compliments so much as they want to hear you say "thank you" for taking care of the dishes after dinner—or "I appreciate you" when they wake up early to walk the dog. These acknowledgements are how your partner knows for certain that you see the value they bring into the relationship, says Pataky.

Acts Of Service

For anyone with acts of service as their love language, actions speak louder than words. “For people this love language resonates with, words and gifts might seem empty,” says Conger. “What proves more important is a partner putting forth the effort to make life a little easier and sweeter. Cooking a meal, running an errand without being asked, remembering to take care of the small details of life in a way that shows their beloved they are seen and loved.” Doing things you anticipate your partner wants or needs demonstrates how much you value and care for them.

Receiving Gifts

Despite the name, this love language isn't reserved for the greedy. “Many perceive this language as materialistic­—when that isn’t the case,” says Pataky. “Through gifts, you are able to say: you’re on my mind and in my heart, even when we are apart.”

No diamond necklaces required here. Catering to this love language can be as simple as picking up flowers on your way home or getting an extra pint of their favorite ice cream. “Thoughtful gifts, not necessarily elaborate ones, that demonstrate time and energy went into it is the essential ingredient of this love language,” says Ho. “They don’t need extravagance, but they want to have these tokens, and they often save these tokens to review and reflect on later." Well, unless it's edible.

Quality Time

If your partner or loved one identifies with this love language, carving out time to spend with only them will be a biggie. But it's about more than sitting next to each other on the couch. “Many times, individuals feel as though they spend countless hours with their partner and don't understand why they're partner remains unsatisfied,” says Pataky. Quality time is about having your partner's full focus and attention, meaning ditching distractions during date night or breakfast convos is a must.

Leave your phone on the "Do Not Disturb" setting, and don't flip through the channels while your S.O. tells you about their day—be present for them, Pataky stresses. This means asking your partner how they feel now that the stressful week they'd mentioned is over, and actively listening when they respond. Being there for them is how they know you care.

Physical Touch

While it's easy to assume what this one means, no, the love language physical touch is not just about sex. In fact, Conger explains people who identify with this language may not have a higher libido than those who don't. “But they do feel most connected when touch is involved,” she says. “Often, a partner who values physical touch would like long, lingering hugs or cuddling close more than other ways of showing love.” Do you always want to hold your partner's hand when you walk? Do you always want to snuggle up close to them? Do you feel loved more strongly when they're by your side? If this resonates, then this love language is probably yours.

How To Figure Out What Your Love Language Is

Now that you know what each of the five love languages entail, it's time to figure out what yours is. Odds are most, if not all, of the languages contain something that resonates with you, but when it comes to selecting just one, focus on which aspects you find most important.

“It centers around thinking about what you have appreciated the most when your current or past partners tried to do something nice for you,” says Ho. “What made you feel the most loved, and which behaviors did not mean that much to you?” She emphasizes that knowing what your love language doesn't consist of is just as important. So if it's easier to weed out the gestures you weren't so into, figuring out your love language that way is fine too.

Another way to hone in on your love language is by going over your principles. “Values are the ideals that we want to stand by in our lives and what we want to represent to others,” continues Ho. “If you value community, you may care more about acts of service that deepen and strengthen the bond between you and your partner. If you value integrity, you may be a person who cares more about words of affirmation because a person's word is like gold to you.”

If you’re single, use your newfound knowledge to strengthen your connection with loved ones. It can also be a guide when you're looking for a partner. If you’re in a relationship, once you have a sense of your own love language, make moves to learn your partner’s love language. And don't shy away from straight-up asking them what you can do to make them feel all fuzzy and tingly inside.

Keep in mind that, no matter how compatible you are, you and your partner may have different love languages. Understanding how each of you needs to be loved and cared for can go a long way to strengthening your relationship. “A common mistake that many people make is to show love to their partners in the way that they themselves would like to be loved,” says Conger. “Or to assume that because their beloved shows love with gifts that they would like to receive gifts in return. In fact, they might prefer spending time together.”

As with anything that requires you to look within yourself, learning and exploring your love language will provide you with better insight into yourself and what you need from those who love you.

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