We’ve been told since we were children “all of us are unique like snowflakes”, but what exactly does that mean? We know we can be introverted or extroverted, or anywhere along that scale. We all have different interests, careers, skills, and ways we see the world. We have all had our own struggles and triumphs, our own experiences of love and heartbreak.
Love, though, we’re told, is supposed to be the most natural feeling in the world. A “when you know, you know” type of emotion that just sort of happens and doesn’t always translate as unique because we’re taught to recognize it by Hallmark card descriptions and bad holiday movies. That’s because love is universal in its existence, but not always in its actions. Love itself is constant, but it’s unique in how it translates from person to person.
This idea is what got me on the hunt for information surrounding “The Five Love Languages” - a popular explanation into how each of us gives and receives love, and how that might steer the success of relationships. In writing this article I did some low-key research in the field of my friends and family - there was a minimal amount of “I’ve never heard of that”, a good amount of scoffing, and a healthy amount of “I know mine! Mine is ‘acts of service!’ So all this to say I figured it was worth looking deeper into.
A psychotherapist out of Detroit wrote in a 2019 article for MIC that they use the love languages as a tool for their work with client couples.
“I don’t consider it to be an evidence-based practice,” this Dr. Stefani Goerlick, practising psychotherapist, says. “I have found that 8 times out of 10, whatever the issues are that my client-couples bring to the table, they are rooted in a fundamental misalignment in how each partner gives and receives love.” Goerlick used the five languages as a framework for couples to learn how to communicate their needs to their partner (Duncan, 2019).
There is varying research-based evidence on the effectiveness of understanding your partner’s love languages. They all pretty much boil down to: knowing your love language is only important if your partner is willing to change their behaviour to understand your language better, and use it as a tool to better communicate with you. So basically your relationship working out is entirely up to you - which is kind of the point anyway. Hopefully that’s not news to anyone.
Here’s a breakdown in case you want to reflect or start scrutinizing your partner:
Words of Affirmation
If your love language is words of affirmation, you enjoy hearing “I love you”, words of encouragement, and compliments. A cute note left on the bathroom mirror or an out-of-the-blue text message just to say “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you” may be all you need to get you through a tough day.
Simply setting aside time with undivided attention is enough to show someone with this love language that you care. It’s all about quality over quantity. Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and just be present and engaged when trying to show the quality time-speaker in your life that they are loved.
Image: Country Living
Physical affection by way of hand-holding, frequent hugs, or subtle body contact is the way to show someone with Physical Touch as their primary love language that they are loved. It isn’t all about sex, as love languages can transcend all types of relationships, not strictly intimate ones. They simply want to feel close to their partner.
Acts of Service
If you’ve ever known they were the one because they vacuumed your car for you without telling you, or made you dinner unexpectedly when they knew you had a stressful day at work, then this may be your love language. You adore when people do sweet little things for you and you often find yourself doing these gestures for them in return because it makes you happy.
“It’s the thought that counts" is the unofficial motto for these love languag-ers. They don’t necessarily care about the price tag or even the practicality of the gift, but the thoughtfulness and the time taken shows them how much they mean to you. A gift could also be a thoroughly planned outing or event, or a symbolic gift about some small thing that happened in the past that was clearly important to them.
An important thing to note is that understanding your own or your partner’s love language doesn’t reflect your compatibility with each other. Again, it’s the willingness to understand each other’s language that decides whether this is an effective tool for your relationship. So with all this research in mind, and my intense questioning of friends and relatives and forcing them to consider how they want to feel loved, I’ve come to the conclusion that in the end, the reason you should care about the love languages is not necessarily to understand your partner’s language, but instead recognize that your partner is making an effort to show you that they love you.
Sure, if you want more quality time with them, or perhaps this past Valentine’s Day they dropped the ball on gifts, you could nudge them in the right direction. Telling them what you want from a relationship is just a good communication tip anyway. All this to say I’m definitely deeper down the rabbit hole than expected, and this is more a rambling of a late-night writer considering relationship dynamics than someone trying to draw too many conclusions. Take it as you will, and focus on how you want to be loved and look for someone who can interpret that.