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What are love languages and how can you use them to improve your relationship?

Love language is the general term used for the way we express and experience love with our romantic partners. The five love languages are so pervasive today that they’re often used in verbal shorthand: Service, words, time, touch, and gifts.

It may be tempting to take a superficial view of these languages based on these semantic broad strokes, but doing so would rob you of important nuances in what each of these languages really means — and what they can do for your relationship and that all-important communication with your partner.

Here we take a nutshelled look at each of the five love languages and how you can use them to improve your relationship. Keep in mind that this, too, should serve as an introduction to the wider concepts.

For the complete lowdown on the five love languages, how they were created, and how they work, check out The 5 Love Languages, the best-seller written by Dr. Gary Chapman. The book also includes a personality assessment, so you and your partner can find out which love language each of you speaks.

Words of affirmation

This love language is about expressing one’s feelings — and looking for those expressions in return. Although verbal words are the most obvious option, written words through notes or texts work just as well.

They also need not always be deep professions of love, either. Simple compliments or words of encouragement also can be well received by those who speak this love language.

Quality time

Quality time means just that. If you’re watching Netflix on the couch with your sweetheart, that’s not the time to be thumbing your phone or constantly getting up to take calls or check on the pot roast.

For this love language, the key is being present. Let the person know they’re the center of your attention, and it won’t matter whether it’s two hours or two days. Eye contact and careful planning of activities are two other examples of things that can go a long way for someone who cares about quality time. The important thing is making an effort to make time, then making an effort to make it count.

Acts of service

It’s not so much what you do, but why you do it. Your partner was likely to wash their dishes at some point, but your willingness to take on the task speaks volumes to them about how much you care about and are there for them.

These can be little gestures or larger gestures. The point is that you are doing it because you love them. If this is your partner’s love language, you can expect lots of help in all sorts of various ways.

A word of caution: don’t take their acts of service for granted, as that will hurt their feelings over time and make them feel unappreciated. And don’t perform your own acts of service out of a sense of obligation or because you feel you’re “required” to do so. Do so with a selfless heart and your partner will love you for it.

Physical touch

On its face, this may seem like the most intuitive love language. After all, what’s a romantic relationship without physical touch?

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Yes, sex can be a big part of the equation, but this love language doesn’t stop there. Those who speak this love language feel loved when you hold their hands or brush the hair back from their face. A warm hug speaks volumes in this love language.

Keeping your partner close: that’s the essence of this love language.

Receiving gifts

At a glance, this may feel like the opposite of the physical touch love language: someone who’s only interested in gaudy displays and self-enrichment.

It’s impossible to rule out nefarious intentions for every single relationship (and that goes for speakers of all five love languages), but receiving gifts is really just a gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity that will touch your partner’s heart time and time again.

To that end, these gifts do not need to be large or pricey. You don’t need to gift-wrap a car for them every December. Instead, find something you know they like — it could be cooking, it could be sports, it could be anything — and give them a gift accordingly. As they say, it’s the thought that counts.

In many cases, it may feel as if more than one language applies to you. And that’s perfectly fine, though at the end of the day it’s likely that one of the languages will resonate more than the others.

If you plan to introduce this seriously into your relationship, take it seriously, take the test, and see what lessons there are for the two of you to learn. You can learn not only how to better please your partner, but communicate what you prefer as well. Understanding better where each of you is coming from goes a long way toward a stronger, more loving relationship.

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