In his bestselling book The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman breaks down the different ways we perceive love and highlights the importance of communicating our love in our partner's specific love language.
According to Chapman, this is the most common love language. Certainly I know in therapy work, Words of Affirmation and validation are an incredibly important part of building strong and beautiful relationships. It is also incredibly powerful to use as a parent.
What Words of Affirmation are really about is acknowledgement. It isn’t just telling someone that they’re “great” or “wonderful”. Although nice to hear, that form of praise is quite generic and may not have a lot of meaning for the person receiving it. Taking the time to really specifically articulate what it is you find great or wonderful about your partner, what you admire, what you notice them doing, who you know them to be as people, this is what allows us to feel deeply *seen* by our loved ones. It is a huge gift and should not be underestimated in its power.
• That was a brave thing you did
• I love how playful you are with the kids
• You have such a big heart
• No matter what, you’re always so kind, not many people are like that
Words of Affirmation are expressive, loving statements to your partner that allows them to feel genuinely *known*.
You may also want to try giving indirect words of affirmation, that is, saying positive things about your partner when they are not present. Eventually, someone will tell them. Also, affirm your partner in front of others when they are present. This is a declaration of your love for all to see.
Another really great way of acknowledging your partner is by writing Words of Affirmation. Written words have the benefit of being read over and over again. A message, email or a handwritten note will be received as a significant act of love by a Words person.
1. Words Of Affirmation
It’s easy to spot a person who has Acts of Service as their love language. They are often organised in a certain area, are always ‘doing’ things, and are the people you can rely on to help you out or get things done.
When in a relationship with someone who is Acts of Service, for them the romance is in the detail. Everyday tasks are where love lives for them. Because Acts of Service people are the doers of the world, doing something for them is going to be extremely meaningful for them.
Acts of Service are made without prompting and with the sole intention of pleasing the other. Whether an act of service makes life easier for your partner or simply fulfils a known desire, your partner’s ‘tank’ will fill with love.
For people whose love language is Words of Affirmation or Physical Touch, sometimes it can be hard to let go of those expressions of love in favour of less exciting things such as taking out the rubbish, clearing the table after dinner, feeding the cat, changing the oil in your partner’s car or fixing the leaky showerhead. But the main message of an Act of Service is forethought and consideration. The thought and action together, when done without resentment, signifies huge love to your partner.
Acts of Service people are often looking for partners in life. People who will stand by their side and get on with the stuff of life. Their To Do list is long and extensive and never ending, and anyone who will come into their life and help them with that list is going to be an enormous ally. That for them is love in action.
2. Acts Of Service
Physical touch is recognised by everyone for its bonding effects, but for the person who speaks the Physical Touch love language, physical touch is the supreme representation of love. With consistent physical contact, this person’s love tank is full. Without touch, this person feels unloved, and the love tank begins to drain.
The act of touching is a sure-fire way of expressing emotional connection, especially for those who speak the Physical Touch love language. You hug your friends when they are upset. You hug and kiss your children to show you love them. You cuddle and are physically intimate with your partner.
The stimulating effect of touch has a wide scope. The body holds tactile receptors throughout, which send signals to the brain through the nerves when activated. The brain transforms these signals into sensations and feelings of comfort, acceptance and calm.
3. Physical Touch
Quality Time is giving someone your undivided attention. It might not mean just sitting on the sofa watching television together. It might mean sitting on the sofa with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention. It's really listening to them. It's enjoying something together. It's prioritising spending time together.
Quality Time is a powerful emotional communicator of love. It communicates: "I love being with you", "What you say matters to me", "We have fun together", "I am present" and "The most valuable thing we have is time and I choose to spend mine with you".
Remember: one medicine does not cure all ills. Just as one love language does not communicate emotionally to all people.
Listen for clues: If you give your spouse affirming words; If you express love by acts of service; If you touch them affectionately; and they still complain, “You don’t ever have time for me. We used to do things together. Now you are always too busy or too tired,” they are telling you that their primary love language is quality time.
4. Quality Time
Oh, the joy experienced when a person who speaks this language receives gifts! I love watching the expressions of friends and family who give such wonderful gifts themselves when it's their turn.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. This love language is about symbolism, and presents small and large, are signifiers of being valued and appreciated. And the meaning of the gift is what matters, not the 'thing' itself.
If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you.
A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be very hurtful – as would the absence of everyday gestures.
Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly. The presence of gifted items or acts of thoughtfulness are experienced as being deeply loved. If your partner's love language is Receiving Gifts showing them this effort as an expression of your love proves to them you are thinking of them and that you really cherish them.
5. Receiving Gifts