Health & wellbeing

An introduction to love languages

13 Feb 2023 | Written by Jennifer Cromar

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, The Joy Club member Jen Cromar provides this comprehensive introduction to love languages and how they can be useful in relationships…

Have you heard of them? 

Can you remember what they are? As I write I put one hand out and count the love languages… here they are, in no particular order… 

  • physical touch, 
  • acts of service, 
  • words of affirmation, 
  • gift giving,
  • quality time. 

In time for Valentine’s day, here is your introduction to love languages. Please keep on reading if you are single as you can give yourself this love.

Love languages were first put into the world by counsellor Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages: how to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. He noticed in his counselling practice when working with couples that partners would miss the other person’s needs. The book has 4.5 stars on Amazon from 71,214 reviews. The original book, published in 1992, was a New York Times best seller 2009 to 2013. It has definitely stood the test of time. I know the colour of the book spine (purple) so I can get it easily off the shelf in my therapy room. I buy spare copies to give to clients or friends. 

Even though the title of the book is focused on your mate, love languages can be used in many relationships, friendships, and familial relationships. Since publication there have been books especially focused on family relationships and for single people. 

Chapman says each person has a primary and a secondary love language, but all are important.

Which two are most important to you?

  1. Physical touch: healthy touch, sexual touch, caring touch. Holding hands, hand on shoulder, kiss, hug. We can be touch starved, especially during covid times. Touch releases oxytocin which is essential for happiness and bonding. 
  2. Acts of service: helping someone, doing jobs that need to be done, cooking dinner, cleaning, shopping, taking out the rubbish, making a cup of tea.
  3. Words of affirmation: compliments, praise, “I love you”, “you are so gifted/beautiful/strong/clever”, “I love spending time with you”, “you’re my favourite person” said with sincerity and not in a manipulative way. 
  4. Gift giving: giving a gift the person loves without an expectation of something in return. 
  5. Quality time: proactively interacting with another person, listening, understanding, not going on your phone, being present.

To discover another persons love language we can observe the way they express love, listening to what annoys them about other people in their life, or simply show them the list and ask them! 

Chapman says, and this is the crucial bit, that until we have awareness of these love languages we generally give the love language we want instead of what the other person needs. For example, a mother may cook delicious meals for a teenage child as cooking the meal (act of service) is how she shows love. However, the daughter may want to be heard, seen and understood (quality time), so the cooking of the meal does not lead to real connection. In return the daughter may be trying to give quality time when the mother wants acts of service (help). They miss each other’s needs. 

Another example, a husband may cook a meal, do the washing, do the laundry but he is left confused as to why their partner is not happy. Their partner does not feel loved, they are longing to HEAR “I love you”. They may say “I love you” to him, but he does not value it much, but when they do an act of service he feels loved. 

As I said at the start you do not need to be in a relationship with another to get these needs met AND if you are in a relationship remember your partner cannot meet all your needs. We can give ourselves quality time by going on a “date” alone, to an art gallery or somewhere that nurtures your soul. Like Miley Cyrus says in her new song ‘Flowers’: “I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, talk to myself for hours ‘bout things you don’t understand… I can take myself dancing, I can hold my own hand, I can love me better than you can”. Talking to yourself for hours could be writing in a journal. Holding your own hand could be keeping yourself brave with good inner talk. 

There was a recent radical revision of the love languages by ‘The Holistic Psychologist’ aka Nicola Perla. Here they are:

  • Understanding your partner’s trauma
  • Nervous system awareness
  • Commitment to each other’s freedom
  • Knowing when your ego’s are speaking
  • Non-judgement and non-interference

Have a look on instagram to find out more. She explains in detail how to help your relationships. 

Let me know what you think about love languages. Have they helped you? How are you feeling about Valentine’s Day? Treat yourself to something that brings joy.

Share your thoughts on love languages in the comments below…

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