Understanding the Five Love Languages

July 1, 2010 Theresa Fung

A look at how two people, who genuinely love each other, can have a rocky relationship if they’re not speaking their spouse’s love language. More on my relationships blog.

He thinks he’s showing you love by buying you flowers. You think flowers are better left in the garden and just want him to help you fix the kitchen sink. In love language terms, he may as well be speaking Swahili to you. While his efforts at romance are admirable, he’s wasting his money on gifts while he really should be engaging in acts of service.

One of the most useful wedding presents I received is the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. While the book’s Christian overtones may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the book is filled with real examples of couples with problems and practical advice on how to make sure you and your partner are communicating effectively.

The Five Love Languages Are:

  1. Quality Time – giving your undivided attention, and spending some “real” quality time together.
  2. Words of Affirmation – using words and compliments to express love.
  3. Gifts – receiving visual symbols of affection with thoughtful and meaningful messages (not to be confused with the gold-digger).
  4. Acts of Service – expressing love by doing things for your spouse such as household chores.
  5. Physical Touch – hugs, kisses, holding hands, and of course sex.

The book examines how two people who genuinely love one another can have a rocky relationship if they are not speaking their spouse’s primary love language. Our upbringings play a huge role in shaping our main love language. Couples often have different love languages, or ways of feeling loved, and may need to learn a love language that is foreign to them in order to connect with their partner.

I grew up in a household where expressing affection through words happened as frequently as a solar eclipse; in our house, you did things (Acts of Service) to show you cared. As luck would have it, my husband’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation. So, I have to work on paying him more compliments and he has to put away the dishes, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, and pretty much anything else I ask of him. Sorry, hon.

Determining Your Spouse’s Love Language

For some, your partner’s primary love language may be glaringly obvious, and for others you may need to dig a bit deeper. If you are unsure of your spouse’s primary love language, try paying attention to the things he/she asks of you and make a list—you might uncover some interesting patterns. Or better yet, just ask your partner what makes him/her feel most loved.

Speaking Your Spouse’s Love Language

If your partner’s primary love language is:

Quality Time – set aside time each day (even 20 minutes) where you can be alone without distractions.
Words of Affirmation – try to give your spouse one compliment a day, and write a nice letter.
Gifts – try making a gift; nothing says “I love you” more than something handmade (no matter how crappy it turns out).
Acts of Service – make a list of the things your spouse has asked of you and do them without being told.
Physical Touch – try holding hands and giving massages.

Check out Gary Chapman’s website The 5 Love Languages for more helpful resources such as quizzes on how to determine your own love language and that of your partner.

APA Reference
Fung, T. (2010, July 1). Understanding the Five Love Languages, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Theresa Fung

Hir Urgl
July, 8 2010 at 9:02 pm

Super, I realize you nailed it! Thanks for good writing.

Simon Barjona
July, 8 2010 at 4:19 am

I have read this wonderful book (The 5 languages of Love) and i am the moment using it to teach the singles in my church. i recommend it to all including married couples. thanx

Theresa Fung
July, 5 2010 at 5:35 am

Kathy, thanks for sharing your story and insights. I'm glad to hear that you've found the book to be helpful for the most part.

kathy erb
July, 4 2010 at 4:53 pm

I too have read the book by Gary Chapman, (actually had the book and gave it to my pastor for her library). I have often referred it to others in my life. It is a fantastic book to refer others to. I believe in it. Unfortunately in my situation, my common-law boyfriend grew up sexually abused and has not been in therapy so has not healed from it. It is hurting our relationship altho I am trying so hard to bear with him, being a christian and myself being physically/mentally abused, have some understanding of how cruel his past has been. Especially since he has told me some of his past in bits and pieces.
I highly recommend "The 5 languages of love" to everyone.

Theresa Fung
July, 3 2010 at 12:00 pm

Karen and Kicess - I hope this helps out a bit with your husbands! At the very least with my husband and I, the book helped us understand each other a bit better, and understand the reasons why we did (or didn't) do things.
Susan - yes, our views on love are definitely shaped by our upbringing/culture/family, etc. But I also think that everyone can change their outlook on love as well with a little bit of work :)

July, 3 2010 at 12:55 am

Oh yes, that was love in a nutshell. That bit about the two nuts not making it because they speak two different languages struck me as so SO important. In the old traditional families, where the wife went to live with the husband, she got more than an inkling of the language they spoke. If she came away, she could always use it to take a dig or to jig with him. These days, people are discovering it by the day. That's if they have daylight together! Now with globalisation, these problems are going to take on new nuances. The language of love is so culture specific/ region specific/ family specific/ don't you think ?
Thanks. Susan

July, 2 2010 at 11:39 am

What an opportune theme for me...I was just trying to explain this
to my husband of 10 years and he couldn't understand why for me the way he shows love gets completely wsted as he seems to miss how much more I would appreciate being loved by spending quality time together and shown physical affection...maybe this book will help him.thanks

July, 2 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Theresa,
I saw your blog in the newsletter. I love the idea behind the unlocked life. When depression isn't knocking me down, I'm pretty good in dealing with negativity and I try and stay away from negative people. But when I'm in the throws of depression, it's hard to keep your chin up.
I'm printing out this post and sharing it with my husband. Maybe we'll work on it this long weekend :) Take care, Karen

Theresa Fung
July, 2 2010 at 9:09 am

Thanks Patricia - I'm glad you liked it.

July, 2 2010 at 5:32 am

Very interesting blog, with very helpful tips. Welcome to HealthyPlace!

Leave a reply