Could learning your ‘love language’ improve your relationship?

Feel like you and your partner are on different pages when it comes to making each other feel loved? There’s a good chance you’re not imagining it.

In the early 1990s, US marriage counsellor Dr Gary Chapman introduced a new concept to the world of intimate relationships – “love languages”.

The idea was that different people express and receive love in different ways – and it proved to be a popular theory.

Nearly 30 years later, Dr Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, has sold more than 12 million copies and has remained on the New York Times’ best-sellers list since 2007.

Sydney sex coach Georgia Grace says she sees a lot of couples who talk about their love language.

“People often refer to it – it’s a short, snappy concept that tends to make a lot of sense to people,” she says.

The question is: Is the concept of love languages worth applying to your own relationship?

What are the 5 love languages?

According to Dr Chapman, the five different love languages are:

Words of affirmation:

If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments from your partner – whether they’re verbalised or written down, about anything from a personality trait to a job well done – mean the world to you.

Acts of service:

For this love language, nothing translates into “I love you” more than hearing “let me do that for you”.

In other words, your partner takes charge of any tasks and chores that will help lighten your load.

Receiving gifts:

It’s the thoughtfulness and effort behind the “gift”, rather than the gift itself, that makes people with this love language feel cared for and appreciated.

It doesn’t have to be valuable; it could be a favourite flower picked from a garden or a simple love note.

Quality time:

Feeling like your partner is really “with” you when they’re with you, is what makes this love language tick.

It may be something as simple as carving out time to have coffee together, as long as it’s free of distractions.

Physical touch:

Hugs, holding hands and thoughtful touches on a regular basis are how people whose love language is physical touch feel like they’re cared about and loved.

A simple quiz will tell you which love language resonates with you best.

Is there really merit in love languages?

Victorian life and relationship coach Megan Luscombe says it’s true that we don’t all experience and show love in the same way.

“So as an introduction to that idea, it’s brilliant, because alongside good communication, acknowledging that we experience love differently is one of the two most important things in a relationship,” she says.

“The thing to remember is that while we’ve been lead to believe that love is a ‘feeling’, in reality love is always action based. And when you’re not receiving the actions that you need from your partner, that’s when you’ll feel disconnected.”

Georgia says that disconnection doesn’t make for a satisfying intimate relationship either.

“Great sex is actually made outside the bedroom,” she says. “So the way you serve and cater to each other’s love languages is really important.”

5 ways to make love languages work in your relationship

Dig deeper to reap the benefits of love languages

“It’s important to know that it’s very top level and once you know your and your partner’s love language, you need to dig deeper,” Megan says.

For example “receiving gifts” doesn’t necessarily mean showering someone with expensive items.

It could simply be picking up your partner’s favourite bottle of wine on the way home on a Friday night.

And likewise “quality time” doesn’t necessarily mean hours – and hours – spent alone together.

Going for a walk together after dinner, free of phones and other devices, might fit the bill nicely.

Don’t make assumptions

“Ask your partner what they need and vice versa,” says Megan.

Break out of your comfort zone

“And then you both need to be prepared to do things that don’t necessarily come naturally to you. It’s all about learning how to love someone based on what they need,” Megan says.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself or your partner

“We change, evolve and grow as people and can also be quite different in different relationships and at different life stages,” Georgia says.

“So while learning your and your partner’s love languages is really useful, it’s important not to adopt hard and fast rules or to decide that just because your partner’s language may be ‘quality time’, for example, they won’t also enjoy ‘physical touch’. Relationships are much more nuanced than that.”

Written by Karen Fittall.