5 Ways to Love: The Best Strategy to Build Strong Relationships

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What are the 5 ways to love? What are the 5 types of love languages? How can knowing about the 5 ways to love help heal your relationship?

The 5 ways to love are the 5 types of “languages” through which we express love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. These 5 ways to love were introduced by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.

Learn how to use these 5 types of love languages to love your partner better and create a deeper emotional connection in your relationship.

What Happens to Love?

Before we look at the 5 ways to love, let’s look at why we might need to know about them.

All relationships, even the best ones, will experience a decline in the euphoria of first falling in love. The period of being in love can last up to two years. The loss of that love high may leave some feeling like they’ve failed or the relationship was not meant to be. But maintaining a loving relationship is vastly different than falling in love. This is why you need to know about the 5 ways to love.

We each have a love tank. Our love tanks are similar to gas tanks, in that, we operate best in a relationship when our love tanks are full

When you are falling in love, the object of your affection is all-consuming. You want to stay in that warm and exciting space with them, and you go out of your way to do things for them or support them. You do this so they know you are falling for them and want them to be in your life. When you are falling in love, everything the other person does feels magical and fills your tank.

When that initial burst of love begins to fade, you and your partner revert to the people you were before the relationship. Only now, you must find a way to be you within the long-term relationship. The focus tends to turn from their happiness to your own, and your measure for it stems from your expectations of what a loving relationship should look like. This reality can leave you and them feeling unloved when those expectations aren’t met, draining your tanks. 

How to Rebuild Relationships with the 5 Ways to Love

The problem lies in the way you each understand love. There are five types of love languages each person speaks: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Each of the 5 types of love languages corresponds to the types of actions or behaviors that make someone feel the most loved.

Likely, you speak a different language than your partner. Communicating love through different languages is like trying to have a conversation in English with someone who only speaks Italian. Once you learn which of the 5 types of love languages your partner speaks, you can start to address them through that language and fill up their love tanks

1st Way to Love: Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are words or phrases you say to your partner to make them feel good about who they are and what they do. These words can be compliments, words of encouragement, remarks that express kindness, or those that signify your faith in them. This is the first of 5 ways to love.

  • For the person whose love language is Words of Affirmation, a compliment about their appearance or what they do for the family will fill their tank. 
  • Telling your partner you appreciate them in your life will make them feel loved. 
  • Supporting their hopes and dreams by saying, “I believe in you” or “You’re so talented, you can do whatever you want,” will bolster them and give them courage.
  • Asking for their help in a way that stresses their skills or the benefit it would bring to your life can make them feel trusted and appreciated.

2nd Way to Love: Quality Time

Quality Time is time dedicated solely for the purpose of being with your partner without distractions. A person with this language wants to simply be with their loved one. The activity is secondary to the actual act of being together. Time may mean actively engaging in meaningful conversation, participating in an activity that they like, even if you don’t, or having dinner together without watching TV or using electronic devices. This is the second of 5 ways to love.

  • An evening walk together, whether talking or not, can make your partner feel loved.
  • Taking a cooking class or biking together can express a willingness to be with your partner, which translates into a full tank.
  • Listening to your partner talk about their day and asking questions to understand how they feel will let them know you care and are willing to be there for them.
  • Talking about your past or fears with your partner will tell them you want them to be part of your life completely. 

3rd Way to Love: Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts represents the act of giving a gift as a symbol of love. A gift equates to thought, and to a person with this love language, that thought is felt as love. The type of gift is less important than the effort to procure it and the desire to give it. This is the third of 5 ways to love.

  • A small present brought back from a business trip makes your partner feel special because you were thinking of them.
  • A diamond bracelet will elicit the same response as a crocheted scarf. The feeling will still be of being loved enough to receive something from you.
  • Sometimes, your mere presence is the gift your partner needs.
    • If they are in crisis, being there as a shoulder, sounding board, or comforting presence is enough to represent your love for them.
    • Prioritizing a request for your presence over work or previous plans shows them how much their feelings matter. 

4th Way to Love: Acts of Service

Acts of Service are things done to make life easier for your partner. Whether you act to remove a burden from their life, help out, or provide space for them to do something else, these acts of service will tell a partner with this language that they and their time are respected. This is the fourth of 5 ways to love.

  • Not all acts are created equal. Understanding which acts will serve your partner best means understanding their life enough to know how to help and their expectations enough to know what they want done for them.
    • If your partner frequently complains about a certain task at home, pitching in to remove that task from their day is an act of love.
    • If you know your partner hates walking the dog at night, taking over that duty will fill their tank.
    • If your partner wants more time to themselves, taking the kids out one night a week will speak volumes of love.

5th Way to Love: Physical Touch

Physical Touch signifies a person who feels love most through intimate contact. Touches can be large or small and intimate or casual. The most important thing to learn about a partner who speaks this language is their specific preference for touch. This is the fifth of 5 ways to love.

  • A hand on the shoulder may be desired more than a kiss on the neck. 
  • Physical intimacy may express love more than holding hands, or vice versa. 
  • Touching someone in a way they don’t like is a negative touch, a violation, or abuse.
    • This action does not communicate love. 
  • There are endless ways of expressing love through touch.
  • Have fun learning what sort of touches your partner likes.

Who Speaks Which of the 5 Ways to Love

Determining which of the 5 ways to love to use is not always easy. Figuring out which language your partner speaks can be even harder. There are a few clues that might help you understand you and your partner’s languages better.

Think about what you desire most from your partner or the ways in which you feel most loved

  • Often, what you tend to want the most reflects the way you believe love is best expressed. 
  • Are you always vying for compliments? Do you like to hug or hold hands more than anything else? Do you wish your partner would help out more around the house? Do you long for a date night?

Think about what makes you feel hurt or unloved

  • The ways in which we feel dejected or rejected can speak to the ways in which we want to be loved.
  • Do you feel crushed if your partner insults you? Do you feel resentful of the amount of time your partner spends at work? Does it bother you when your partner leaves without kissing you goodbye? Does a general gift leave you feeling empty?

Think about how you show love to your partner

  • The ways in which we make an effort to show love also speaks to how we feel love is best communicated?
  • Do you often do little things to make your partner’s day better? Do you find ways to touch your partner to show you care? Do you tell your partner how wonderful they are on a frequent basis? Do you like to surprise your partner with small tokens of love?

Thinking about your partner in similar terms can provide an understanding of their language. What do they ask for the most? What do they frequently complain about? What do they do most often to show you love?

Consider speaking in one language for a week to five weeks to see how your partner reacts. The bigger the reaction, the more likely they speak that language. This is the power of knowing the 5 ways to love.

The 5 Ways to Love Are a Choice

Deciding to learn and act accordingly within your partner’s love language is a choice. If their language differs from yours, the effort required in that choice may be great.

  • You may feel uncomfortable giving compliments.
  • You may feel resentful of needing to find gifts. 
  • You may feel too busy to make time for your partner.

But if the goal is to make your partner feel secure, confident, and loved, speaking the right language will make that happen

  • Keep a list of words or phrases that make your partner happy.
  • Think about their reactions to gifts they’ve received in the past.
  • Adjust your schedule to allow for at least a few minutes a week of dedicated time.
  • Communicate with your partner about how you can help make their life easier.
  • Start with small touches and move on to more significant touches after becoming more comfortable and receiving approval. 
  • Take classes in massage or cooking. 
  • Make a list of things your partner does that you respect and let them know it.

There is no one way to express love or fill your tanks. But if both people in a relationship can make the effort, your tanks will begin to fill. Love can be rebuilt at any stage in a relationship. And once you have full love tanks, the chances of it lasting and staying positive are great.

Now see how well you understand the 5 ways to love and the 5 types of love languages with the following quiz.

Quiz: Which of the 5 Ways to Love Is It?

You and your partner have two small children. You stay at home with the kids while your partner works in the afternoons. By the time they come home, you have dinner ready, the laundry done, the children bathed, and the house clean. After you do the dishes and put the kids to bed, your partner wants to talk about their day, but you want to relax and enjoy the quiet. They are hurt by your lack of attention, and you are annoyed by their lack of appreciation and understanding. What are your and your partner’s primary love languages?

  • You are both Words of Affirmation.
  • You are Quality Time, they are Words of Affirmation.
  • You are Words of Affirmation, they are Quality Time.
  • You are Acts of Service, they are Physical Touch.

—-

When you and your partner fight, you go round and round with the same arguments. You say, “You never do anything I ask.” They say, “You’re always on the phone or texting.” What are your primary love languages?

  • You are Words of Affirmation, they are Physical Touch.
  • You are Receiving Gifts, they are Words of Affirmation.
  • You are Quality Time, they are Receiving Gifts.
  • You are Acts of Service, they are Quality Time.

—-

You still have a sweater your partner gave you when you were first dating. You love the way it feels on your skin. What is your love language?

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

Now go apply the 5 ways to love in your relationships.

5 Ways to Love: The Best Strategy to Build Strong Relationships

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "The 5 Love Languages" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full The 5 Love Languages summary:

  • How to figure out what your love language is, and what your partner's is
  • Why arguments happen in relationships, and how to stop them
  • How to speak the right love language, even if it's not yours
Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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