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What Are the Five Love Languages?

By Olivia Guy-Evans, published March 16, 2022

by Saul Mcleod, PhD

five love languages

The theory of 5 Love Languages was proposed by Gary Chapman in 1992. Chapman, who worked as a counsellor found that couples were not feeling loved despite their partners believing they were doing all the right things for them.

He found that patterns emerged in what his clients wanted from their partners. Five consistent patterns were found, which then became what he termed as the 5 Love Languages.

These are ‘words of affirmation’, ‘quality time’, ‘physical touch’, ‘acts of service’, and ‘receiving gifts.’

Chapman concluded that people don’t give and receive love in the same ways, that everyone has a primary love language which is one that speaks to us most deeply.

Essentially, Chapman found that his client’s partners may have been expressing love, but it was not in a meaningful way to their partners. They may have been receiving an expression of love that is not connected to their love language.

By finding out people’s love languages and the love language of their partner, Chapman suggests that this can help people ensure that they both truly feel loved.

Chapman explains that falling in love is a ‘temporary emotional high’ and that after the initial emotional obsession has died down, partners must put in the effort to pursue what he terms ‘real love’.

He stated that after time in a relationship, couples may forget how to have meaningful connections with their partners. However, through understanding and practising their partner’s love language, they can rectify and revive these relationships.

All 5 love languages are equally important, but people differ on the ones they prefer. Some people may appreciate all 5 whilst others may actively dislike one or more.

Chapman suggested several methods in his 1992 book for discovering people’s love languages. He developed the Five Love Languages Profile, which is an online scale (found here:

Alternatively, individuals can ask themselves some of the following questions:

  • ‘What does your partner do or not do that hurts deeply?’

  • ‘What have you requested that your partner do more often?’

  • ‘How do you regularly express love to your partner?’

  • ‘What would your ideal partner be like?’

These types of questions allow people to see what is important to them and to pinpoint the desired ways they wish to receive love.

Although Chapman’s book was written in 1992, it has continued to help couples today.

The types of love languages

Words of affirmation

Someone whose love language is words of affirmation have a preference for love being expressed through spoken words, praise, or appreciation.

They enjoy kind words and encouragement, uplifting quotes, love notes left by their partner or appreciative text messages.

People who prefer this love language may feel negatively affected by unkind words and may be overly sensitive to criticism from their partner.

A partner of someone who prefers words of affirmation may consider giving compliments, showing an interest shown in something their partner is talking about, and react positively to something their partner has accomplished.

They may say ‘I love you’, ‘I’m proud of you’, and ‘I appreciate you’ to connect with their partner on a deeper level.

Quality time

If someone’s love language is quality time, they really appreciate love and affection being expressed through undivided attention from their partner.

This is not just being in close proximity to their partner often, but the quality of the closeness.

This can include making eye contact, actively listening, staying present and focused on partners. This can also include quality conversations such as sharing thoughts, experiences, feelings, and desires in a deeply personal, welcoming, and uninterrupted context.

If a partner of someone who has this love language is always on their phone during their time together, is condescending, interrupts, or dismisses their partner when they share their feelings, this can make their partner feel unloved.

Instead, being considerate and engaging in supportive listening will make them feel loved. Quality time can also involve couples engaging in activities or hobbies together that show enjoyment of each other’s company.

Physical touch

Those whose primary love language is physical touch feel the most love and appreciation through physical affection.

This does not just have to be sexual intimacy, but can include holding hands, hugs, arm and face touches, and putting an arm around your partner whilst in public or watching a movie.

Physical touch can communicate comfort to a partner who is upset, as well as communicating happiness or praise when a partner is celebrating.

Simply put, people who prefer physical touch want to feel connected to their partner physically and it may be important for them to feel physically close to their partner every day.

Acts of service

If someone’s primary love language is acts of service, they may want love expressed to them through their partner helping them out.

This can include their partner doing unexpected, nice things for their partner, working on special projects together, completing chores, and helping with errands.

These usually take form in the partner doing more than their normal share of responsibilities to relieve pressure or stress from their partner. People with this love language may really appreciate when their partner does something which they may not particularly enjoy just to make their partner’s lives easier.

Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for their partner may communicate to their partner that their feelings do not matter.

Doing nice and helpful things instead of just talking about doing them can communicate a deeper level of love to their partner.

Receiving gifts

The final love language is receiving gifts. Those with this as their primary love language do not necessarily expect large or expensive gifts but appreciate the thought behind them. If a partner goes out of their way to get them a gift during the course of their day, this communicates to their partner that they were thinking about them.

People with this love language treasure not only the gift itself but also the time and effort the gift giver put into getting the gift. Gifts could be physical items or even the gift of the partner themselves such as going to surprise them when they do not expect it.

Partners who appreciate receiving gifts may find they remember every gift they have received because they made such an impact on them.

How understanding love languages can help relationships

Promotes empathy and selflessness

Through using and being committed to understanding another’s love language, this encourages people to learn to focus on their partner’s needs rather than their own.

Selflessness can be promoted through knowing a person’s love language via time, effort, understanding and emotional openness. This also encourages partners to step outside of themselves and look at what makes another person feel significant.

Being able to view things from someone else’s perspective can promote empathy. If people are able to empathise with their partner, then they are likely to understand another’s love language and why their partner’s may be different from their own.

Creating empathy for another person can also increase emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people often put others needs before their own as well as being considerate of others perspectives, experiences, and emotions.

Creates more meaningful actions

When couples start to understand and use each other’s love languages more often, the thing they do not only become more intentional but also more meaningful.

By focusing on actions that are known to be more valuable to their partner, time is not being wasted on actions that their partner does not appreciate as much.

Encourages self-awareness

Through becoming more knowledgeable about how their own and their partner’s love language works can promote self-awareness.

People can become more considerate about how they are communicating to their partner, understand what they should or should not do, and make a conscious effort to improve their relationship.

Helps with personal growth

Personal growth can stem from someone being focused on something or someone outside of themselves. Being focused on someone else’s love language can force people to grow and change for the better, to the benefit of their relationship.

The five love languages can also encourage people to love others in ways which they may not have considered before or that are outside of their comfort zone.

Stronger relationships

Through putting in time and effort and creating meaningful activities with a partner can strengthen relationships. As they learn more about each other, the intimacy levels, security levels and happiness of couples should be increased.

Chapman used an analogy of ‘emotional love tanks’ to describe the levels of a couple's relationships. He stated that low or empty love tanks can cause romantic withdrawal or falling out of love, harsh interactions, or inappropriate behaviours.

Couples with full love tanks, who speak in each other’s love languages, are able to deal with conflict and cope with their differences. Problems can arise when partners do not know their partner’s love languages or how to use them so the love tank can empty over time.

However, understanding and learning to use each other’s love languages are necessary for filling the love tank and strengthening relationships.

Are the love languages valid?

Chapman states that the 5 love languages are a universal construct which can be found in various countries. Karandashev (2015) argues that love is indeed universal, but it can manifest differently according to different cultures.

For instance, physical touch such as hugging can be an expression of love in some cultures, but in others it can be seen as sexual expression.

Chapman’s theory was based on his own experiences as a counsellor and lacks scientific rigor, especially as there is not much research on the 5 love languages.

One study by Egbert and Polk (2006) tested this validity on students. The results showed that the common love languages expressed by the students matched those expressed by Chapman, this study being the first empirical support of the theory.

Likewise, Surijah and Septiarly (2016) aimed to validate the theory. The five love languages scale seemed to show a promising reliability score and there were found to be 17 items on the scale which were valid.

One study on the love languages found that a partner’s perception that their partner was using their preferred love language well increased their feelings of love and relationship satisfactions.

This was the case for both heterosexual and homosexual couples (Hughes & Camden, 2020). Surprisingly, they also found that women who perceived their partners were using their preferred love language well reported greater feelings of love compared to men.

This perhaps suggests that the love languages are more effective in improving the relationship from a woman's perspective.

Some issues with the theory are that some people may misuse the love languages, becoming competitive with their partner. Some may keep track of how many actions they have completed for their partner's love language compared to how many their partner has done, which can put more of a strain on the relationship.

This can also lead to putting more pressure on couples if some want their partners to consistently express their love language. The love languages should also not be seen as the main cure for a deteriorating relationship.

This theory may not be able to fix other relationship problems that may exist, and some couples may need further relationship guidance from professionals. The love languages should thus be seen as one tool of many to aid communication.

The original model of the love languages written in the 1990s was focused on heterosexual married couples, Chapman often using ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’ when describing the partners.

This can be frustrating for those in homosexual relationships who are wishing to learn about the theory, but they are being excluded.

However, the tools can be used by anyone if they are willing to overlook the heteronormative nature of the theory, as Hughes and Camden (2020) in their research found that homosexual couples benefitted from the love languages as much as heterosexual couples.

Lastly, the original works often described situations and gave advice which adhere to outdated gender stereotypes.

In a 1995 article by Chapman, some quotes included: ‘Isn’t it sweet when everyday your wife has the breakfast table set with scrumptious food so you can get a good meal before you go to work…’, and ‘How about sending him food for lunch, or buying her new pots for her kitchen?’.

These gender stereotypes can make it frustrating for women to read and they may dismiss the theory altogether. Taking the outdated views out of consideration, the updated love language rating scales do not appear to be gender specific and should be applicable to anyone in any type of relationship.

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About the Author

Olivia Guy-Evans obtained her undergraduate degree in Educational Psychology at Edge Hill University in 2015. She then received her master’s degree in Psychology of Education from the University of Bristol in 2019. Olivia has been working as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities in Bristol for the last four years.

How to reference this article:

Guy-Evans, O. (2022, March 16. What Are the Five Love Languages? Simply Psychology.

APA Style References

Fitzgerald, J. (2019, January 22). The difference between depression and sadness. Medical News Today.

Chapman, G. (1995). The five languages of love. Chicago: Northfield.

Chapman, G. D. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Northfield Publishing.

Egbert, N., & Polk, D. (2006). Speaking the language of relational maintenance: A validity test of Chapman's Five Love Languages. Communication Research Reports, 23(1), 19-26.

Gordon, S. (2021, October 24). What Are the Five Love Languages? Very Well Mind.

Hughes, J. L., & Camden, A. A. (2020). Using Chapman's Five Love Languages Theory to Predict Love and Relationship Satisfaction. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 25.

Karandashev, V. (2015). A cultural perspective on romantic love. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 5(4), 2.

Surijah, E. A., & Septiarly, Y. L. (2016). Construct validation of five love languages. Anima Indonesian Psychological Journal, 31(2), 65-76.

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