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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In The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman shows you how to love your partner better and create a deeper emotional connection in your relationship. But how do you answer the question, “What is my love language?”
Your love language is either Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. To find your love language, follow three easy steps: reflect on your desires, reflect on your sore spots, and reflect on how you treat your partner.
Below, find details on how to answer “What is my love language?”
What Is My Love Language?: Why It’s Important to Know
A common question is, “What is my love language?” Understanding what love language you speak is just as important as knowing your partner’s language for the relationship to remain loving and happy. Even if your partner’s love tank is full, if yours is not, a happy relationship will be hard to maintain.
You may find it easy to identify your language and that of your partner. Or, you may feel you speak more than one, and narrowing it down to a primary language may be hard.
For instance, many people use the gauge of sexual desire to determine their primary language. For men, sexual desire is more biological. For women, sexual desire tends toward a more emotional sensation. Either origin may cause a person to assume their love language is or is not physical touch.
However, a strong libido does not necessarily indicate a preference for touch. If you or your partner is very sexually active but can take or leave other forms of touch, Physical Touch is not the primary love language. Likewise, if you or your spouse is not overly interested in sexual intimacy but feels love most through subtle touches, Physical Touch may be the primary language.
When you find your love language and adjust behavior to speak that language accordingly, you will begin to understand how to fill each other’s tanks.
Three Questions to Find Your Love Language
To find your love language is sometimes as easy as looking back at your life and relationship. Here are three key ways to figure out what your love language is.
1. Reflect on what you desire most or what makes you feel most loved
What you frequently want from your partner represents your need to feel loved in a particular way.
- If you are always seeking approval or recognition for who you are or what you do, you may speak Words of Affirmation.
- If you frequently initiate evening walks, Quality Time may be your primary language.
- If you keep and cherish small gifts, you may speak the language of Receiving Gifts.
- If you feel overwhelming love when your partner brings home takeout, Acts of Service is probably your language.
- If you melt when your partner touches you randomly, you probably speak Physical Touch.
2. Reflect on the ways in which you feel hurt or unloved
- If little criticisms or jabs wound you and stay with you, your language may be Words of Affirmation.
- If you were disappointed when your partner didn’t bring you a gift from their business trip, you may speak Receiving Gifts.
- If you wish your partner kissed you more, you may speak Physical Touch.
- If you feel lonely, even when your partner is around, Quality Time may be your love language.
- If you resent always being in charge of dinner or bedtime for the kids, you may speak Acts of Service.
Similarly, to find your partner’s language, recall moments when your partner was upset or hurt by your actions or lack of action.
3. Reflect on the way you treat your partner
The things you do to show love for your partner indicate a feeling that love is best expressed in those ways. How you show your partner love can expose how you want to receive love.
- Consistently helping with chores or performing little acts that help unburden your partner likely means you place Acts of Service at the top of the list.
- If you rarely touch your partner, you likely don’t hold Physical Touch in high regard for expressing love.
- If you are quick to compliment your partner or provide encouraging words about their life or actions, Words of Affirmation may be your language.
- If you always bring home flowers or your partner’s favorite wine, you may feel that Receiving Gifts is the ultimate expression of love.
- If you hire a babysitter once a week so you can have a date night with your partner, Quality Time is likely a priority.
Likewise, think about the ways in which your partner expresses love to you.
These tips can help you answer this question: What is my love language? Once you find your love language, you can start communicating with your partner about how to speak it.
Barriers to Finding Your Love Language
There are circumstances that make it hard to find your love language.
- If you’ve been happy and living with a full tank for a while, you may not be able to distinguish why. Your partner has made you feel loved for a long time, and there is no particular instance that stands out.
- If your love tank has been empty for a long time, you may not be sure what makes you feel loved. You may feel desperate for love in more than one way. The time since you’ve felt loved has blurred any memory of what it was like the last time your tank was full.
When asking, “What is my love language?”, reflecting on the period of time when you were falling in love may provide clues that help you find your love language.
- Memories of behaviors or actions that bring warmth to your heart are indicators of how you like to be loved.
- If you miss the way your partner used to put their arm around you, you may desire more physical touch.
- If you smile when thinking about the picnics you used to have in the park, you may be wishing for more quality time.
- Remember when you began to feel love fade.
- If you stopped feeling beautiful or handsome as a result of no longer receiving that compliment, your tank would likely fill if you were to receive that compliment again.
Imagining your perfect relationship can help you find your love language as well. In a perfect world, do you see yourself on vacation, hiking, making dinner together, watching as your partner tucks in the children, or holding each other in bed? Whatever you see can point to the type of love you want to feel.
Making a list of the five languages in the order you suspect their importance to be can also help you find your love language. Do the same for your partner.
Another thing to do with your partner is regularly check the level of your love tanks. A few nights a week, ask each other what level your love tank is on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, ask each other what you might do to improve it that evening.
- Not only will you get an idea of the types of things you and your partner desire, but you will also begin to act in a way that communicates love effectively and fills your tanks.
- You may find you and your partner have many requests, but the requests that fall into the same category the most will likely be your love languages.
Inappropriate Use of Love Languages
Once you answer “What is my love language?” and find your partner’s love language, it’s important to know how to speak and use them. Understanding your partner’s love language is a powerful tool. If you use the elements involved against them or for your benefit at their expense, you are not expressing love. Once you discover your partner’s primary language, remembering to use it solely to fill the love tank is vital.
- Complimenting your Words of Affirmation partner to soften them up or get them to do something for you is manipulative.
- For instance, telling your partner they’re better with money so you don’t have to take responsibility for your finances is an action that benefits you, not them.
- Withholding touch from your Physical Touch partner as punishment is hurtful and potentially damaging.
- If your partner’s language is Acts of Service and you only do your laundry out of spite, you are communicating a lack of love in the most cruel way.
Manipulation isn’t the only crime against the love languages. If you are aware of your partner’s primary language and do nothing to change your behavior, it is the same as saying you don’t care enough to love them fully or properly.
- For example, if you know your partner speaks the language of Receiving Gifts and you give them something you picked up at the airport without much thought, you are intentionally draining their love tank.
If your intention is to fully love your partner, make sure your actions express that desire. Once you’ve answered “What is my love language?”, you can take steps toward making sure both your love tank and your partner’s love tank are full.
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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