What are the 5 Love Languages? And How Can It Help You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.

What’s Your Attachment Style and How Can It Help to Improve You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

What are Attachment Styles?

In the past few posts, we have been discussing personality traits that are more nature, than nurture. In other words, we have been primarily discussing personality traits we are born with, as opposed to having been influenced by our environment.

Today, we are talking about Attachment Styles which is a theory based on the belief that much of who we are especially in relationships, both strengths and challenges, we have as adults can be connected back to some aspect of our childhood.

“Attachment” refers to the specific way in which we relate to other people.

Attachment Styles are based on research that have shown that the type of relationship we had with our caretakers or primary adult influencers as children have a very strong effect on the kinds of connections and relationships we have adults.

How Can Understanding Your Attachment Style Help You?

Understanding your attachment style is helpful because it can offer insights into why you feel how you feel in relationships now, based on how you felt and developed during your childhood.

It can help you to understand where your emotionally limitations may be and what can be changed to improve all kinds of relationships, including romantic relationships, relationships with friends, children, family, authority figures and so on.

An individual’s attachment style can also be closely connected to self-esteem. Using what you can understand from your attachment style, it’s possible to address certain deficits which can also help with a better sense of self confidence overall.

What are the Main Attachment Styles?

I consider the main four Attachment Styles to be: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Disorganized.

• Secure attachment (approximately 60% of the population) is connected to feeling confident and generally have healthy, close relationships.

Anxious attachment (approximately 15%) may be the source of the need to people-please and at times, being too possessive.

Avoidant attachment (approximately 20%) is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant.

Disorganized attachment (approximately 5%) is associated with being detached and conflicted in relationships, often as a result of having traumatic experiences during childhood.

What Tendencies are Associated with Each Attachment Style?

If you suspect that you might have some anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment tendencies, some difficulties you might encounter are:

Someone with anxious attachment tendencies can be known to have a Preoccupied Personality. Where they can be insecure and critical of themselves, often looking for approval from others. These individuals often are worried that they will ultimately rejected, so even when receiving reassurance, there can still be a deep lack of trust of others.

Those who are avoidant can have dismissive patterns in relationships as adults. They tend to be loners and might consider emotions and relationships to not be as important. They can also be more cognitively-dominant and suppress feelings.

Individuals with disorganized attachment may exhibit tendencies of what’s described as a Fearful-Avoidant Personality. Those with disorganized attachment may have disconnected from their feelings as children, and have likely continued to do the same as adults. It can be a challenge for these individuals to feel a sense of balance within themselves and likely also have difficulty having close and trusting relationship with others.

What can be Done to Develop a More Secure Attachment Style?

As I often say, self-knowledge can be empowering and provide you with a starting point so that you can make better sense of what’s possible for self-improvement.

Moving toward more of a secure attachment style, can not only enhance your romantic relationship, you may also get along better with friends, family, and those you work with.

Some things to keep in mind:

Conduct an inventory. Do you avoid getting close to people? Do you worry about being left out? Most of us have an intuitive sense of areas where we can improve, but it can also be helpful to take a test like the one available on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s website, she is an attachment and trauma expert.

It’s possible to move toward having a more Secure Attachment style.

While adjusting your attachment style will require some effort, it can be helpful to intentionally make sense of your childhood experiences to be able to rewire your brain to feel more secure with yourself and others.

Books that are helpful resources include: Daniel Siegel’s Mindsight or Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

Counselling or therapy with a psychodynamic (a style of therapy where childhood experiences are included in the therapeutic process) therapist can also be helpful if you see troubling patterns in your relationships or you have childhood issues that you want to sort out.