Why Love Languages Are the Keys to Relationship Success

Plus, how to identify them IRL.

Hump Day Different Love Languages
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Welcome to Hump Day, where award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sexiest questions—unjudged and unfiltered. Today's topic: What are the five different love languages, and how can I understand my partner's style?

Have a quandary? Email us anonymously at HumpDay@instyle.com.


My girlfriend keeps telling me that I am not understanding her love language. I keep hearing people talking about different love languages. What is this and how do I learn my wife’s love language? — Not Speaking Her Language


According to Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, authors of The Five Love Languages, everyone expresses and receives love in different ways. Seldom do we pick partners have the same love language, but in order for couples to feel loved and understood, they must learn each other’s languages. 

The 5 Love Languages

There are five ways we speak and understand emotional love: 

  1. Words of affirmation. Verbal compliments, words of appreciation, and encouraging words are the tools of this love language. Words of affirmation are most effective when they are not generic. The litmus test that I always use is, could you give this same compliment to the barista at Starbucks that made your coffee? If it could be given to a random stranger, it’s probably not the most effective words of affirmation. For example, “Good job!” is totally generic, and could be said to anyone. On the other hand, “I heard the way you handled that phone call with your mother, and I was so impressed with your patience and kindness. I have really noticed how you have grown in this area of your life and I have so much respect for your sensitivity with her.”
  2. Quality time. This love language comes in the form of undivided attention, eye contact, and quality conversation, which means discussions where both people share their experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a positive manner. Quality time does not count if you spend it looking on your phone, focused on social media, or are emotionally unavailable during the experience. 
  3. Gifts. If gifts are your partner’s love language, they serve as visual symbols of love. The cost doesn’t matter, unless it is consistently out of line with the giver’s financial abilities. The partner of a millionaire who gives $1 gifts over and over will not feel validation of love and worth, but the partner of the struggling student who spends a dollar on a gift is likely to feel special. The gift being thoughtful and chosen based on knowledge about your partner’s interests, passions, and taste are particularly meaningful.
  4. Acts of service. This means doing things you know your partner would like you to do to please her. You are showing her your love by serving her. These acts can be anything from the mundane, like cleaning out the cat’s litter box, to romantic, like serving breakfast in bed, depending on your partner. These kinds of acts require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. They should be based on things that would please her, not on things it would necessarily please you.
  5. Physical touch. This goes way beyond sex. Holding hands, kissing, hugging, massages, spooning, and affectionate gestures are just a few of the ways you can connect with your partner if this is her love language. A lot of the time people assume that if they like sex a lot, physical touch is their love language. But physical touch is not just about sex. It’s predominantly about all the other ways that lovers touch and are affectionate with each other. 

How Do I Learn Our Different Love Languages?

Probably the quickest way to discover what your love language is and that of your girlfriend is to take the test on the Love Language website that was created by the authors of the book. A great way to do that is to sit together and take the quiz so that both of you can talk about the findings together. It’s great for you to learn your love language as well.

Typically, we have different love languages from our partners, so it is often a challenge for us to meet their needs. We tend to do what we think we would want done for us, which is not the best way to help our partner feel connected to. Understanding her love language, and her understanding yours, is a great way for the two of you to nurture the relationship and improve the bond.

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