The five love languages define the ways people give and receive love. Understanding them can be especially useful if you are in a relationship trying to identify each other’s needs, and what you can do to help the other person feel happy, secure, and fulfilled in the relationship. If you’re wondering what your love language is, use this helpful guide.
The five love languages
The concept of the love languages was created by Dr. Gary Chapman, Ph.D., who explained in his book, The 5 Love Languages, that a person usually has one or two primary love languages, but may change their love languages over time. To determine what your love language might be, first learn the definitions of each and consider what resonates with you most.
How to identify your love language
If you’re trying to identify what your love language is, consider the times in relationships (past and present) when you’ve felt most loved, fulfilled, and secure. What acts, words, or objects made you feel that way? Consider if it was a combination of things. After all, many people have two primary love languages and may consider the other three to be secondary love languages that they still identify, though perhaps to a lesser degree. Consider the following signs to determine which love language(s) may feel best for you.
Your love language might be physical touch if…
You feel most loved and secure in your relationship during moments you and a partner are affectionately touching. Whether that's hugging and kissing, having sex, holding hands while walking down the street — this type of affection feels most validating to you. While you might enjoy a present or a compliment, for example, it doesn't hold the same weight as when your partner does something like give you a long, meaningful, and passionate kiss.
Your love language might be acts of service if…
Feel the most meaningful way your partner can show you love is by performing helpful tasks. It might be your partner cooking dinner for you, spontaneously cleaning the kitchen, or doing a task or chore for you that they know you dread doing — these sorts of favors make you feel deeply cared for and loved. It’s important to you that your partner shows up for you by helping you with these kinds of tasks.
Your love language might be words of affirmation if…
You feel the most fulfilled in your relationship when your partner expresses appreciation and love through words. It makes you feel connected to your partner when they spontaneously text you saying how much they love you or when they look you in the eyes and tell you how much they appreciate you. You might need your partner to tell you often that they are happy in the relationship with you. If your love language is words of affirmation, you might find that these kinds of compliments and affirmations are one of the most meaningful ways your partner can connect with you and show they love you.
Your love language might be receiving gifts if…
You feel that receiving gifts makes you feel the most loved, adored, and cared for in your relationship. You value this over other displays of affection, like holding hands or spending quality time together, for example. For you, it’s not necessarily about the size or cost of the gift, but about the thoughtfulness behind it that makes you feel loved. Knowing that your partner was thinking about you when they were at the grocery store and picked out your favorite snack, for example, makes you feel secure and validated in your relationship. You felt loved when your partner brought back a small trinket for you from another country they visited. You might also enjoy receiving larger, more expensive gifts as well. A pair of diamond earrings spontaneously gifted to you, or a video game you’ve been waiting for on your birthday, might make you feel the most appreciated and loved. You see these gifts as more than just nice things to have, but as representations of your partner’s feelings toward you.
Your love language might be quality time if…
You feel most loved and connected to your partner when you spend uninterrupted, focused time together. Spending the day together, even if it’s just hanging out, can be more meaningful to you than receiving a gift or your partner checking something off your to-do list on a stressful day. You also enjoy experiential activities, like going on a hike together, traveling, or even just having a game night. If your partner is performing an act of service for you, like cooking a meal, you enjoy the time spent talking to them while they cook for you, more than the fact that they are cooking. Having quality time, just the two of you, is how you feel the most connected to your partner.
Try a ‘What is your love language quiz’
If after learning the definitions of the love languages, you’re still not sure which love language(s) fit you, you might try doing some further research by taking an online love language test. These quizzes will present you with a series of questions to help you determine the ways in which you most comfortably give and receive love. Here are some typical questions you might come across in a “What is your love language test.”
- I feel most loved when…
a. my partner spontaneously does something to help me around the house.
b. we spend time together just the two of us.
c. I receive a thoughtful text from them out of the blue.
d. my partner and I hug.
e. my partner buys me concert tickets to my favorite performer.
- I feel more appreciated when…
a. my partner brings me my favorite take out, just because.
b. my partner and I kiss when we say goodbye.
c. I have help completing my responsibilities on days that I am stressed.
d. my partner tells me they love me.
e. we do our favorite hobby together.
- It’s more important to me that…
a. my partner tells me why they appreciate and admire me.
b. we have uninterrupted time together.
c. my partner gives me a gift as a token of appreciation.
d. my partner leaves me love notes.
e. we cuddle.
The results may not be totally accurate, but they can serve as a helpful guide to get you thinking about what you value most when it comes to giving and receiving love.
Your ‘giving’ love language may be different than your ‘receiving’ love language
You might find that you like to give love in a different way than you like to receive it. For example, receiving gifts might feel awkward or overwhelming to you, but giving them feels good. It might be the way you show love and appreciation best. But, personally, you might feel appreciated and loved most when you are receiving compliments.
Learning your and your partner's “giving” love language is important because it offers perspective on how each of you has been attempting to make one another feel loved. Identifying your “receiving” love language is important because it will help you and your partner identify and communicate what you need from one another to feel fulfilled.
To find out how you like to give love, consider the ways you express care for other people; what do you do when your loved ones are having a bad day? How do you show up for them on their birthday or during times of loss? Think about the ways you care for other people to find out your “giving” love language. It’s also possible that your “giving” and “receiving” love language is the same.
How to know your partner's love language
It’s important to know your partner’s love language so you understand what they need to feel secure and cared for in the relationship. To learn what your partner’s love language is, the best thing to do is ask them. You can bring it up by introducing the concept of love languages to them with an article, podcast, or by taking love language quizzes together. Consider asking them about the moments in which they felt most loved in the relationship. Or ask how it felt when you did X thing for them in the past. Pay attention to how they respond to your romantic gestures and remember, the best way to know how they feel loved is by communicating wants, needs, and desires directly.
Can your love languages change?
Yes. Your love language can shift over time. “We as humans aren’t concrete and how we give and receive love isn’t either,” Aydrelle Collins, sex therapist at Melanin Sex Therapy tells O.school. Your love language can change throughout your life. In fact, “at any point in time in our lives, we can need all five of them” Collins says. You may find that at certain points in your relationship, acts of service is how you feel most loved, while at other points, you need words of affirmation.
In addition, the love languages may not fully describe how you give, receive, or experience love. “I encourage all my clients to take [love language] quizzes with a grain of salt and just allow yourself to give and receive love” Collins tells O.school. As you learn more about love languages, pay attention to what feels good for you. You may find that you appreciate more ways of giving and receiving love, or that you need to receive love in very specific ways.
The bottom line
Knowing what your love language is can help you clearly identify and communicate needs to your partner. If you’re not sure how to give and receive love because you and your partner have different love languages, read our guide on what to do when love languages don’t align.