Peter Pearson

Has it ever dawned on you that your partner may not experience love the same way you do? If you have been together a while, you may have figured this out by now. Lest there be any doubt, a great question to ask your partner is, what’s your love language?

When you ask about love languages, you might get a deer in the headlights look, so be prepared to explain what you mean. The term “love language” is a phrase first coined by Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book called The Five Love Languages. In the book, Dr. Chapman describes how he realized that the clients in his marriage counseling practice were often at odds in their relationships not because they didn’t love each other or weren’t trying, but because they expressed and experienced love for each other differently. It was as if they were speaking different languages.

Chapman put these eye-opening concepts into his book for people around the globe. Since that time he has sold millions of copies and helped a lot of relationships, one aha moment at a time.

Love Languages

So what are the five languages of love? Here is a description of each to help you figure out what are your favorites and also so you can discover which ones make your partner feel especially cared for.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation acknowledge effort, deeds, and accomplishments. It could be words like, “I’m proud of the way you handled the situation”, or “your help made all the difference”, or even words of praise such as, “you look amazing tonight!” For the person that thrives on this love language, remember to use words of appreciation to fill their cup.

Quality Time

Quality time is about spending uninterrupted time together enjoying each other’s company. I highly recommend putting your phone aside if this is your partner’s favorite love language. Carving time out of your busy schedules to have date night, morning coffee, or an activity together, such as a bike ride, are ways to say I love you with quality time.


When a person’s favorite love language is gifts, it doesn’t mean that the person is materialistic. Receiving gifts is special to the person because they feel that their loved one was keeping them in mind. When returning from a trip, or even, just because, giving a small gift or picking up fresh flowers really lets them know you care. Also, be sure to remember birthdays and other special occasions if your partner’s favorite love language is gifts.

Acts of Service

Acts of service is about practical ways of giving help. For example, “Hey honey, let me grab the groceries and you can sit and relax.” Or knocking out some extra chores that you know your partner will want done is another great way to say I love you. Even though it may seem unromantic to you if this is not your love language, think in terms of practical to-dos if your partner feels loved by acts of service. Haven’t you ever heard how, for some people, cleaning the kitchen is a wonderful form of foreplay?

Physical Affection

Some people feel most loved by the language of touch. This can include displays of affection as well as sexual intimacy. Holding hands, a hug or sexual activities say, I love you, for the person whose favorite love language is physical affection. Even small gestures such as sitting close, holding hands, or a welcome home kiss can go a long way to let your partner feel your love. If this is your partner’s favorite, take your time and don’t rush past these acts of connection.

Lost in Translation

Now that you understand how people have different ways of experiencing love, can you see how things can get confusing when people in relationships don’t know the answer to, “What is your love language?” For example, say you are feeling loving and move in for a hug because physical affection is your love language. But your partner walks right past your open arms and gives you a scowl. As it turns out, you never emptied the overflowing trash and acts of service is your partner’s love language. Or, perhaps you forgot to pick up the flowers your spouse keeps hinting at. Instead, you suggest you spend quality time together and go hear some music. She turns you down flat and goes to bed early.

A Beautiful Friendship

In each of the above scenarios, feelings get bruised and often no one knows why. Someone is giving and it’s not being received. After a while, partners stop giving and things really start to break down. Instead, people can begin to “speak” each other’s favorite love language and they can reawaken the spark. Paraphrasing Rick in the classic movie, Casablanca, this could bring about a new beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For more relationship improvement you might be interested in a downloadable program called Soothing Moments. This one-hour audio and printable transcript by Pete Pearson and Ellyn Bader teaches you how to repair your relationship and get back on track with your partner after something has happened that made you feel angry or hurt. Click Soothing Moments for more information or to order.

Meg Luce, MFT, is a psychotherapist who provides relationship counseling services for individuals, couples and parents. Her approach is caring, compassionate and nonjudgmental. She collaborates with clients in a safe environment to promote the changes that they wish to make and believes that all people have the ability to grow, change and resolve relationship conflicts. To learn more about Meg please visit her blog at



A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.

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Judy Mariuz
Judy Mariuz
1 year ago

Thank you for this insightful article. Looking forward to having a conversation with my boyfriend about our respective love languages!

Sarah Ludington
Sarah Ludington
1 year ago

Thank you Meg! I shared this with a new couple and built the whole session on the conversation it inspired.

Christine A. Shelton LMFT 38626
Christine A. Shelton LMFT 38626
1 year ago

Super, great article Meg! More couples would benefit by learning their significant other’s love language.

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