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  • Writer's pictureHenriette Johnsen

Do you speak any love languages?

As a couple's therapist working with couples of all ages and genders, across many cultures, religions, and nationalities, I recognise that to be succesful in couplehood, you need to have an understanding of yourself and your partner, of how each of you affect the other, and what patterns have emerged between you.

Childhood experiences, attachment styles, and traumas play a huge role in how we conduct ourselves as well as how we perceive our partner's words and actions. Often, this happens on a subconscious level; and as such, our past experiences have potential to wreck havoc in our most important relationships.

In 1992, Gary Chapman published his hugely succesfull book "The five Love Languages" which has sold more than 20 millions copies in more than 50 languages - in itself impressive and a clear sign that few things are as important to us than our romantic relationships. Chapman's work isn't founded in research, but his own experiences as a priest and marriage counsellor.

In my experience, speaking and understanding each other's love languages cannot solve all matters between romantic partners. Chapman, himself, also states they aren't exhaustive, but a framework, a place to start. Nonetheless, as love is often in the little things, there's no doubt, that it can be valuable to be mindful of your own love language(s) as well as that/those of your partner.

So what are Chapman's five languages of love?

  • Words of affirmation People with this love language appreciate overtly spoken or written declarations of love, affection, support, encouragement, and praise.

  • Quality time This love language is about spending un-interrupted, fully focused quality time together with your loved one. IRL, this means time with no phones, tv, other electronic divices, or other distractions.

  • Acts of service Some say it's in our actions, rather than our words: these people belong to this catagory of love languages where practical tasks like taking out the rubbish, mowing the lawn, or picking up the kids are seen/perceived as acts of love.

  • Gifts People with this type of love language love giving and receiving little gifts and tokens of love. It's not necessarily about the monetary value of the gift; it's more about it's symbolic value and meaning.

  • Physical touch This love language is spoken through touch, hugs, kisses, gentle strokes, holding hands, cuddles, and, obviously, love making.

Below is a chart of how to give and receive these different love languages!

Additional love languages

Over the years, others have not only critised Chapman's love language, they have also added a few to the list, like:

  • Emotional People with this preference find it important that their loved one is able to support them through high and lows in life; that they are able to remain emotionally connected even when things are emotionally challenging, perhaps even scary.

  • Financial This love language is spoken via making your financial resources available to your partner, by being generous and treating your partner as well as providing financial security.

  • Intellectual For people with an intellectual love language, it's important to be respected for their intellect, to have meaningful discussions of matters important to them, as well as to have their opinions valued and respected.

What use can we have from knowing love languages?

The thinking behind the concept of love languages is that we all adhere to one or more of these, but that to each of us, some are more pronounced than others.

Regardless of the number of love languages and their names, we can all learn more about our partners by remaining curious to what's important to them as well as how they like to express themselves. Furthermore, it's valuable to understand and work with your own as well as your partner's attachment style; if either or both of you are insecurely attached, it can be profoundly difficult to trust that it's safe to express and receive acts and words of love and affection even if that's what you are craving more than anything.

You might already have an inkling of your preferred love language(s); if not or you are curious to learn more, here's the link for an online test. The Good Expat Life is in no way affiliated with the test provider and disclaims all responsibility for the test and the outcome of taking such. Always remember, that tests are tests, just that, with their own limitations; and as such, they should not be taken as the ultimate truth.

If you are curious and committed to trying to apply your knowledge of love languages to your romantic relationship, you don't have to dive in the deep end from day one, but try dipping your toes in the water and notice how it's received. It may be useful to have a conversation with your partner about your findings and preferences - remember to be curious about your partner's as well.

Good luck with applying this knowledge to your relationship. If you are dealing with more serious matters in your romantic relationship or feel disconnected from each other, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) can be helpful. Check out my website to see how I can help you.

Chart of love languages



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