How do you want to be loved? How does that match up with how your partner shows you love?
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is one of the most widely read relationship books ever published with 11 million+ readers. The basic premise of the uber-popular “love languages” is that each of us has a way we prefer to experience and express love (Egbert & Polk, 2006).
Those preferences fall into five categories:
- Quality time (e.g., time spent focused on each other, intently listening)
- Physical touch (e.g., holding hands, hugs, intercourse)
- Words of affirmation (e.g., appreciation and compliments)
- Acts of service (e.g., help and support, doing errands and tasks)
- Gifts (e.g., symbols of affection like presents, flowers)
We all show and appreciate love in any of the five “languages” at different times. However, Chapman suggests we have a dominant preference. For example, if you enjoy physical touch, but feel especially connected when your partner expresses appreciation, your “love language” is words of affirmation. It’s also likely that you use words of affirmation as your primary way of showing your partner you love them.
According to Chapman, when partners’ love languages align, they should enjoy a better relationship. That is, the particular language you both “speak” (e.g., time, touch, words etc.) isn’t most important. Rather, what actually matters is that you’re both on the same page (e.g., both prefer service). If you’re mismatched, understanding each other becomes more difficult, and problems arise. But if you share your partner’s love language, you should experience a smoother and higher quality relationship.
In a recent study, researchers tested this by gathering data from 100 sexually active heterosexual couples, representing 31 different nationalities (Mostova et al., 2022). Each couple member indicated their love language, as well as how they expressed love to their partner. From that, researchers determined the partner’s love language match. If your preference for quality time was a five out of five and your partner indicated that their expression of love via quality time was also a five out of five, you were a perfect match. However, if your preference was five out of five, but your partner only fulfilled that as a one out of five, you would be mismatched.
Did Love Language Match Matter?
First, here’s how the love languages ranked (from most to least common): 1) quality time, 2) physical touch, 3) acts of service, 4) words of affirmation, and 5) receiving gifts.
That’s interesting, but researchers ultimately wanted to see who had better relationships. In short, matching mattered. When partners shared the same love language, they also reported higher sexual satisfaction (i.e., enjoying the techniques their partner uses, not being bored, etc.). and higher relationship satisfaction (i.e., their partner meets their expectations).
What Helped Couples Match?
Because being matched helped relationships, the researchers also wanted to see what might facilitate love language alignment. They found that men with greater empathy and ability to take perspective had better alignment with their partner.
Finally, they found that relationship length was not related to love language matching, suggesting that couples aren’t generally becoming more matched over time (perhaps because they aren’t aware of its potential importance).
Importantly, although this study suggests that love languages matter, other research has been inconclusive. Thus, the best take-home message is that love languages offer a different way of looking at your love life, as well as a way to better understand yourself and your partner. The better understanding you have, the more you and your partner can get on the same page, which should benefit your relationship.
Originally posted on Psychology Today