Learning to Love: The Five Love Languages

We all know that being loved is a very basic human need.

We also know that there are many diverse ways that people choose to offer that love.

In the family setting there are multiple theories of how to love children; from the adage of “spare the rod and spoil the child” to “anything goes.”

There is empowering love, smothering love, co-dependent love, jealous love and you-must-earn-my-love modes of loving, to name a few.

Dr. Gary Chapman a minister, counselor, author and popular speaker has developed a theory in which he proposes that there are Five Love Languages. Dr. Chapman believes that each of us has a preference on how we want to be loved. He has identified five love languages that he believes reflect the five most basic preferences for love.

Before we explore Chapman’s Five Love Languages, I would like to remind you that while I think Dr. Chapman’s list of five is certainly valid, we need not be limited by his list. After you read through the list and explore more on your own, you may discover that none of the five on Chapman’s list fits your preference.

The point of sharing his list is simply to get you thinking and reflecting and becoming more aware of your “how to be loved” preference and the Love Language preferences of those in your life. 

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman, in his book, “The Five Love Languages,” maintains that each of us prefers how we want to be loved. Chapman refers to that preference as our primary Love Language, so as not to exclude other ways of experiencing love.

The human condition is such that we assume that how I prefer to be loved is the way my spouse, parents, offspring, siblings, friends want to be loved. Chapman says not necessarily.

Chapman has identified five different ways that individuals prefer to be loved.

1 Receiving Words of Affirmation

“That shade of blue looks great on you.”
“The house looks marvelous, thank you.” 
“Thanks for taking Craig to soccer practice.”
“Thanks for inviting my dad to the baseball game.”

If you grew up in a home where you did not hear many words of affirmation, you may not realize how important affirmation may be to those in your life.

2 Quality Time

By Quality Time we mean giving another person your undivided attention.

This is getting more difficult to do today because of all the external noise around us. With the arrival of handheld phones and email and texts, people are gradually losing the ability to listen to anyone with undivided attention. Add that to the ubiquitous blaring televisions in every waiting area from the car repair shop to the physician’s office and the question becomes, is quality time even an option anymore? Yes, but it takes a lot of effort.

Quality time is not something you can multitask. You must be willing to give the other person your undivided attention – a cherished gift.

3 Receiving Gifts

For many people, receiving a gift is clearly an expression of love.

Surely children look forward to gifts. They count the days to Christmas and their birthdays, dropping hints along the way.

Many adults find receiving gifts an important way for you to say to them, “I love you.” But as Chapman would maintain, not everyone experiences receiving actual gifts as the “preferred” Love Language. Perhaps your 10-year-old really would just like you to toss the ball with them or attend their dance recital. Maybe your elderly parent would enjoy a relaxed visit, or having brunch with you, or enjoying a concert with you. Maybe your partner would enjoy a conversation between the two of you without the television on or checking your emails or texts.

4 Acts of Service, or a simple translation, “Helping Out”

Again, because we most likely grew up being loved the way our parents opted to love us, we may not be aware that a little help with my “to do” list can go a long way to “making me feel loved.”

I would also add the joy of a couple, a family, a group of friends embarking on an opportunity to aid others. Recently my spouse and I were asked to take a turn in taking a gentleman who struggles with Alzheimer’s on an outing in order to allow his wife some respite. Because reaching out to others is probably my preferred Love Language it meant a lot to me that Jerry was willing to join me. For me, it is a reminder that love always moves us out of ourselves.

5 Physical Touch

We know that Physical Touch is essential in communicating emotional love.

Infants and babies who are held and nurtured thrive. That need for physical touch does not end when we become adults. It remains clearly a need. While Physical Touch – “love touches,” to use a Chapman term – is essential for all of us, it is clearly the preferred Love Language for many. Please don’t miss it for those in your life.

“People have different ways of expressing love. It doesn’t mean the love is worth any less.”

Karen White, Dreams of Falling,” p. 125

For more information on “The Five Love Languages:”

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
by Gary Chapman

5 Love Languages: Learn Your Love Language

2 thoughts on “Learning to Love: The Five Love Languages”

  1. In response to and refelecting on the 5 Love Languages, I would say that being listened to is one of the biggest ways in which I feel loved. Someone doing things together with me is another. I like to help out people by taking them a meal now and then. A friend who is a mother of three had surgery recently and it was a joy taking her and her family the meal mostly because it was prepared by my husband and me…..we did it together. The same is true with any task that needs to be done. I do my best to reciprocate these little acts of love.


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