A Labor of Love — What Are the Different Love Languages?

For many, one of the first experiences you'll ever have is the feeling of your mother's skin against yours. The practice of placing a newborn on their mother's chest — called skin-to-skin contact — kickstarts a nurturing bond that lasts a lifetime.

As an infant, you craved love and affection, from physical closeness with a parent to hearing praise from a sibling. As you grew, your surroundings and experiences shaped how you continued to seek love.

Your method of accepting love is called your love language. Not everyone speaks the same language, though, which can cause a communication breakdown. So what are the different love languages? Understanding may help strengthen your relationships. 

All You Need Is Love

If you're looking to get technical, experts have done plenty of research on the science of love. They'll tell you it breaks down into three categories — lust, attraction, and attachment — that are all driven by biochemistry.

But love is more than a cocktail of hormones served up by the brain. It's a universal experience that can be hard to define, and often you know it when it hits you.

When you truly love someone, you accept them as they are without caveat, go to great lengths to make them happy, and feel deeply attached to them. Sometimes you may feel like you're doing all you can to express your love, but your partner just isn't getting the memo.

That's when knowing about love languages comes in.

What Are the Love Languages? 

So, what are the different types of love languages? And how many love languages are there? If you've been bracing yourself for a laundry list of terms to memorize, don't worry. There are only five:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service

It seems simple, right?

The concept of the five love languages was developed by counselor and author Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote a book on the subject in 1992. Even all these years later, his ideas still resonate with couples today.

Everyone can relate to a few or even all of these languages, although one shines through more than the others. When you know your significant other's primary love language, you're better equipped to meet their needs.

How to figure out your love language is relatively straightforward. Speaking with your partner, however, can be a little trickier.

Beyond Words

Each love language has its nuances, but once you get them down, you'll be well on your way to supporting your partner. Here's a handy overview to get you acquainted.

Is Sex a Love Language?

love languages physical touch

Physical Touch

People who speak this language desire physical touch. Everything from a warm hug and hand-holding to a quick knee-squeeze is reassuring and comforting to them.

Intentionally touching a consenting partner who speaks this love language is key to showing them you care. They need consistent physical intimacy in the form of kisses, cuddling, and, oh yes — sex. You can also:

  • Offer to give them a back or neck rub
  • Place a hand on their knee while driving
  • Snuggle on the couch during a movie
  • Hold their hand or touch their arm while you chat
  • Caress their back as you walk by

Words of Affirmation

love language words of affirmation

Understood to be the most common love language, this one belongs to those who crave spoken acknowledgments of affection. If hearing your partner say they love you or receive compliments makes you feel warm and fuzzy, this is your language.

If your partner speaks this language, you'll need to listen to them and often communicate actively. Use social media, texting, phone calls, and good old-fashioned paper and pen to your benefit. Try:

  • Giving them a card to show your appreciation
  • Sending loving texts throughout the day
  • Offering tons of authentic encouragement
  • Surprising them with unexpected notes of affection
  • Complimenting them on their appearance

Acts of Service

acts of service - language of love

If you've ever dated someone who's said, "actions speak louder than words," this is their love language. When you go out of your way to make their life easier, people with this style feel affirmed, loved, and appreciated.

You can show a partner who speaks this love language you care by:

  • Doing the household chores so they can relax
  • Making them dinner when they've had a long day
  • Filling up their gas tank or washing their car
  • Bringing them breakfast in bed or making them coffee
  • Doting on them when they feel unwell

Quality Time

quality time language of love

For folks with this style, uninterrupted time spent together trumps everything else. If you're dating someone who speaks this language, you'll have to make spending time together with a top priority.

Fully show up and provide your undivided attention during these periods. That means putting the phone away, ignoring distractions like television, and not thinking about your grocery list while they're talking.

Being emotionally and physically available shows your partner you adore them. Here are a few more actions you can take:

  • Make eye contact during conversations
  • Practice active listening
  • Take a daily walk together
  • Plan frequent date nights or staycations
  • Enjoy a self-care day together
  • Catch up over dinner without distractions

Giving Gifts

Giving Gifts giving love

Everyone is familiar with gift-giving. It is the love language of those who appreciate visual tokens of affection. You don't have to empty your bank account if you see someone with this love language. Often, thoughtful and straightforward gifts are enough to make them feel adored.

That's because people who speak this language appreciate the symbolism behind the gift, the care it took to select it, and the intimate knowledge you've gathered to get something that speaks to them. You can:

  • Bring home a thoughtful souvenir from a trip you took without them
  • Surprise them with flowers or their favorite snack
  • Keep notes on things they mention wanting in passing for gift ideas
  • Check-in with their friends and family to learn about interests you may not be familiar with
  • Treat them to something that will help them de-stress, like bath bombs or a plush robe

Make It Your Own

When you start asking yourself, "what is my love language?" it can be tempting to expect your partner to read your mind and speak your language fluently.

You can also rely too much on your partner's love language, using it as a quick fix, an excuse for not showing affection in other ways, or even as a cover for toxic behavior

The truth is, love languages evolve and change over time, and speaking your partner's doesn't solve underlying issues.

When you prioritize finding your love language and your partner's, you're only taking the first step. You have to build on the foundation you create using love languages to connect and grow together.

Giving your significant other a thoughtful gift doesn't mean you shouldn't ever praise them or spend quality time together. On its own, each language can be weak, but when you combine them in a personalized way that speaks to your partner, that's when you win.

Now You're Speaking My Language

Can you have more than one love language? Of course — but you'll likely always have a primary one you value the most. The same is true for the ones you love. Knowing your love languages is an excellent building block, but it won't solve all your problems.

Remember that relationships are living, breathing things that take constant work. If you're willing to put in the effort on your journey to understand each other better, nothing will get lost in translation.


SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT. (January 2021). The Unicef United Kingdom. 

Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship. (August 2017). Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

What Are The 5 Love Languages? Everything You Need To Know. (October 2020). MindBodyGreen.

This Is The Most Common Of The 5 Love Languages. (July 2018). HuffPost.

6 Problems With The Love Languages, From A Couples Therapist. (December 2020). MindBodyGreen. 

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