The Five Love Languages: Everything You Need To Know

Odds are, you've heard of love languages by now. Whether you're an expert on the five different love languages or casually familiar with them, knowing more about them and how they apply to you and your loved ones can seriously improve your relationships. As you learn more about love languages, you'll probably find better ways to show love to a friend or uncover ways someone has been loving you that you didn't pick up on. 

The five love languages are quality time, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, and gifts. If you need some help determining what your love language is, there are a few ways to go about it. You might be able to read that list of love languages and know immediately which ones resonate most with you.

If you need further guidance nailing it down, you could always take an online quiz. It's also a good idea to take a mental inventory of relationships in your life, past and present. How have you felt most loved by others in the past? Or, what's something you've wanted from previous partners or friends that would have made you feel more loved by them? Let's talk all about the five love languages and everything you should know to help you better love (and be loved by) the loved ones in your life.

Physical touch

Physical touch is just what it sounds like — touch between two people. This love language is often mistaken as being exclusive or particular to sexual intimacy, but it's not. When you want to show a friend or spouse you love them, is your instinct to hug them? Maybe when you're listening to a friend tell you about a difficult experience, you barely notice when you reach for their hand. Perhaps when you're going through a rough time, all you want is a hug from someone you love. These displays of physical affection might signify that your love language is touch.

Physical touch can be a tricky love language; after all, you never want to encroach on someone's personal space, and you never know what kind of trauma touch can hold for someone. A good rule of thumb is to hold off on showing physical touch until you've established a relationship with someone and know you're comfortable around each other. From there, you can ask a friend if it's okay to hug them or put an arm around them in situations where it seems appropriate.

Quality time

Do you feel especially touched when a loved one schedules time to be with you? Does it make your day when a friend drops by unexpectedly for a quick lunch or chat over coffee? Do you become anxious or even resentful when a loved one hasn't made an effort to spend time with you in a while? If you answered yes to one or more, your top love language may be quality time.

Spending time with the people in your life is a necessary part of building close relationships. How are you supposed to get to know someone if you never hang out with them? But quality time means more to some than others, and knowing how it ranks among the other love languages for you (and your loved ones) can help improve your relationships even further — or even help you understand why some relationships haven't been working well.

If you have a friend who's constantly traveling and bringing you gifts but rarely spending time with you, it could feel like a "fake" friendship when they're actually showing you they love you by giving you gifts. If you know your love language is quality time, finding friends who also see quality time as important is helpful. 

Acts of service

How do you know if acts of service is a top love language for you or your partner? This love language is focused on the practical things you can do for someone to show them that you love them. It doesn't mean bending over backward to make all their wishes come true or doing all the chores around the house for them (that would get exhausting pretty fast). Rather, having acts of service as a top language means that the little actions and small displays of love really mean a lot to you. 

If your loved one prefers acts of service, they'll be touched by the littlest things, from bringing them a cup of coffee in the morning to helping with dishes after dinner. They won't expect you to do any of this for them, which makes it extra special — receiving without having asked is delightful to them. Acts of service is also a great love language both of you can express together and pay forward to your community by volunteering at a local shelter or donating your time and energy to a local cause you care about. 

Words of affirmation

If you have screenshots of loving texts on your phone or remember the moments your loved ones have verbally expressed affection and appreciation for you, you probably love words of affirmation. Your top love language might also be words of affirmation if you can tell when your loved ones' words are genuine or not. You probably feel close to people by having open and authentic conversations with them; anything less may feel like a snub. 

If this sounds like you (or your partner), then the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," definitely doesn't apply. Words, especially when they come from people you love, have the power to heal and affirm you, but they can also really hurt.

That's why it's especially important to speak carefully and with intention to the people in your life who value words of affirmation. They'll know if you're saying something just to say it, so be genuine with what you tell them, and don't just give them lip service to appease them. Beyond that, if you tell them you love them and use words to genuinely affirm them, your relationship will go a long way. 


Last but not least is the love language of gift-giving. Like the other four love languages, gift-giving probably plays a role in all our relationships to some extent, even if you only give (or receive) presents on the expected days. But to some of us, giving and receiving gifts hold a lot more weight than it does for others. For these people, even the smallest trinkets mean the world, especially when they're unexpected. If this sounds like you, gifts might be your top love language. 

If gift-giving is a top love language for someone you're close to, you might find that they surprise you with lots of small things. Don't worry, though — you don't need to max out your credit card to show them you love them. Maybe you're in a gift shop and see something little that reminds you of them.

When they receive it, it'll mean the world to them, not even because of what it is, but because they know you were thinking of them when you got it. The sentiment behind handmade gifts also means a lot to those who hold gifts as a top love language, and gifts that come as an unexpected surprise will really help them feel just how much you love them. 

Knowing your love language will help you receive love

Self-awareness is an important aspect of every relationship, and not least when it comes to love languages. Knowing your own love language can help you receive love better from your loved ones. You'll not only be able to have conversations with them about what makes you feel the most loved, but you'll also be able to identify displays of love that you may not normally resonate with. 

If you know your love language is physical touch, you can tell your partner that it means a lot to you when they hold your hand while you're out or that hugs really comfort you when you're sad. If physical touch isn't one of their top love languages, it doesn't necessarily mean they've been holding back because they don't want it; it may mean that showing affection through touch isn't instinctual to them. It could help your relationship a lot for them to know how you feel most loved. 

You'll also want to know which love languages hold little weight for you. If you have a friend who's always offering to help with little things, but the gestures seem kind of out of place to you, it could just be that acts of service don't mean as much to you. Knowing this about yourself, and recognizing that your friend probably shows love through acts of service, can help you feel loved by them even if that particular love language doesn't rank high for you. 

Knowing your loved ones' love languages will help you give love

Equally as important as knowing your own love language is knowing which love language(s) apply to the important people in your life. After all, love is a two-way street, and it's just as important to make sure your people feel loved by you as you feel loved by them. Who knows, you may find that there are ways you can love your friends and family better. Or, maybe it will help you identify some of the ways you've been trying to show them love that hasn't been working.

Finding out your partner's, friend's, or family member's love language could be as simple as having a conversation with them. Odds are, they've already heard of the five love languages, and they may already know which ones apply to them and which do not. If they're unfamiliar with the love languages, what better time to introduce them?

You could take an online quiz together to figure out your love languages, or they may be able to tell just by reading descriptions. Once you know their love languages, you'll be able to show your love in ways that will be especially meaningful to them. And when they know yours, they'll be able to tell when you're loving them, even if it's in a way that may not resonate strongly with them.

Not everyone will feel loved by every love language

Sadly, even though none of the love languages are bad, not everyone will feel loved by every display of love. If you're feeling a strange disconnect in a relationship — even though you've been trying to show the other person how much you care — it might be time to check in on their love languages. It's also important to be aware of which love languages may be detrimental to certain relationships.

Past experiences really come into play here, which is why it's important to communicate openly with the people close to you. For example, a loved one with a past history of abuse may be very triggered by displays of physical touch, which can be challenging for you if that's your top love language. Someone who's been in a manipulative relationship may find themselves strangely put off by gifts, especially if gift-giving was used to pacify them in the past.

Similarly, acts of service may make someone feel like you expect something from them in return. Quality time could feel suffocating, and words of affirmation could feel like simple lip service. If you want to maintain strong relationships with your loved ones, it's important to know not only how they receive love but also how your displays of love could unintentionally be harmful to them.

You and your partner can have different love languages

You might be sitting there thinking to yourself: "My relationship is doomed!" After all, your top love language is acts of service, and your partner's love language is gift-giving. Not only that, but acts of service matter very little to your partner, and you couldn't care less how many gifts you receive. Don't worry! It's perfectly normal (and healthy, even) for you and your significant other to have different love languages. 

If you and your partner have different love languages, look at it as an opportunity to expand your horizons and show (and receive) love in ways you haven't before. Maybe you're having this discussion with your partner right now, and you're finding out that acts of service is a big love language for them. They'll probably be delighted when they come home one day to find you made them dinner or whipped up a batch of their favorite brownie recipe. In short, when you and your partner have different love languages, look at it as an opportunity to grow deeper in your relationship by loving them in new ways — we're sure they'll appreciate it.

Your love language can change over time

As with many aspects of our lives, our love languages can actually change over time. As an easy example, let's consider the top love language of probably every single child you know: gift-giving. Kids feel incredibly loved by gift-giving, partly because gifts are a very concrete, physical display of love, while the others are more abstract and less easily comprehended by young children. However, as kids age, you'll probably see their love language change as they identify other important ways to feel loved in relationships.

Your love language can also change throughout adulthood, depending on your life experiences and who you surround yourself with. If you just had a baby, physical touch might spring to the top of your love language list as you can't stop showering your little bundle of joy with kisses.

As you age and your physical health starts to decline, you may feel increasingly loved by the acts of service you receive when your loved ones step in to help with things that may be harder for you to do on your own. As you notice your love language changing, keep open communication about it with the people who are close to you so they're not shocked when a display of love doesn't seem to have the same impact on you as it once did.

Love languages can help you empathize with others

Being familiar with your loved ones' love languages can help you show empathy when they're struggling. Not only can you love them in a way you know they'll receive well, but you may also be able to understand what hurt them in the first place (whether you were the cause or not). Plus, you could help validate their feelings and make them feel less alone in their pain.

Maybe a friend is upset at another friend who hasn't been around very much but always sends little text messages that, unfortunately, fall on deaf ears. Your knowledge of the love languages can help bring some valuable clarity and insight to the situation. You can validate your friend's feelings — after all, you can probably tell that their top love language is quality time.

You could also explain to them that the other friend in question probably loves words of affirmation and is trying to use those to show love to your friend, despite not hanging out with them. Your friend will probably leave feeling much better once they know that their feelings have really valid reasoning behind them and that the other friend does actually love them. 

Conversely, love languages can be used to manipulate

Unfortunately, as beautiful as the theory of love languages is, it can also be used as a manipulative device. Psychology Today says this may especially be the case if you're in a relationship with a narcissist. How do you know if a partner is manipulating you? Consider why they're showing you a certain love language. Are they genuinely empathetic and trying to make you feel better, or are they trying to keep you close, pacify, and convince you everything is alright?

Consider this scenario: You and your partner get into an argument one night over something small, like who should unload the dishwasher. They immediately get defensive and blow the issue out of proportion, bringing up everything else they do in the relationship and not considering your feelings or point of view in the argument.

The next day, they shower you with gifts, hugs, and kisses but don't really bring up (or apologize for) the argument last night, and you can tell they're using displays of love to distract you from underlying issues in a relationship. Of course, we'll all use love languages to make up after a fight on occasion; it's when the fight goes unaddressed and the love seems disingenuous that you should really take notice.

Love languages can make your displays of love more intentional

Finally, knowing which love languages apply to your loved ones can make your displays of love even more intentional and meaningful. If gift-giving is at the bottom of your love language list, but you know your partner loves receiving gifts, it'll mean everything to them when you give them one unannounced (especially when they know gift-giving doesn't do much for you). Intentionally loving the important people in your life in the way they want to receive love — and not just how you'd like to receive love — will only strengthen the bond of your relationship. 

The next time you want to do something special for a friend, partner, or loved one, have a conversation about love languages first. You might find you've been loving them in all the right ways or even the not-so-right ones. Either way, you'll likely leave with newfound knowledge of what gestures really mean the world to them, and they'll know the same about you — a recipe for a great, long-lasting relationship!