At some point in your life, you have probably heard of the concept of love languages. It is often how friendships and couples alike explain the way they show and want to receive love. Oftentimes, people feel that they need to have compatible love languages in order to appropriately love the person in that relationship, whether it be platonic or romantic. I am here to say—that’s not the case! It may just take a little bit of deeper understanding of other’s love languages and how you can branch out to show them that they are loved.
(Before we go any further, if you are not familiar with your love languages go ahead and follow this link to take a short quiz and figure it out for yourself!)
As a recap, the five love languages are: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, giving/receiving gifts, and acts of service. While you may align the most with one love language, oftentimes multiple can ring true for you. This can give a friend or partner many options on how to love you fully and for you to do the same to them. If you are not participating in these actions or actively going against them (like forgetting gifts for an important day, insulting them, avoiding time with them, not providing physical touch, or never doing anything nice for them) they might feel dejected or that you do not care about them.
If you feel like your partner or friend is not acting in ways that you need to experience closeness, here are some suggestions you can make for them to do, as well as things you can do when you know their love language to really emphasize that you care:
- Physical Touch
For a friend: make sure to give them hugs
For a partner: Hold hands in public or private, initiate a hug or kiss randomly, give them a reassuring arm squeeze.
- Quality Time
For a friend or a partner: find a common hobby to spend time on together (whether it be doing a puzzle, watch a tv series together, cooking, etc.), plan out a fun day to their favorite place, go on a walk through the local park, set up a reoccurring time for coffee or an outing, or even plan a trip together somewhere!
- Words of Affirmation
For a friend: remind them of how great a friend they are to you or that they are an important figure in your life, tell them things that you enjoy about them, if they do something that makes you happy—highlight it! Acknowledge the little things, it will make a difference for them. Reach out to them by text or phone call unprompted if you haven’t seen or talked to them recently.
For a partner: Follow all the above steps but remind them that they are a great and caring partner. Highlight the things that make you feel loved and the things that you appreciate them doing for you in whatever regard. Thank them. Let them know you are proud of them. Tell them that you love them often. Shoot them a text during their workday with admiration.
- Giving/Receiving Gifts
For friends or a partner: If you find a gift that reminds you of them, get it! It can be little or small, oftentimes it is the little things that mean the most. If they love food or coffee, drop off one of their favorite snacks without them asking. If they collect something, find one they do not have so they can add to their collection. Get them flowers (yes, even for your friends). Pay for a meal for them when they had expected to share the bill. Giving them gifts lets them know that they are always on the back of your mind!
- Acts of Service
For friends or a partner: If you live in a snowy climate, clean their car off for them! Wash dishes for them after they make a meal, or you make a mess yourself. Offer to pick up groceries for them or run an errand they have been dreading. Get them a product that they mentioned they are low on so they can avoid a trip to the store. Watch their kids, pets, or plants for them if they are going on vacation or even a night out! Help without being asked.
All of these are great ways to love the people in your life. And as a reminder if you aren’t sure what to do to express love to them—just ask! They will be glad to hear that you are interested in showing them affection in their desired way. It is great to normalize open communication with the people you care about most.
Written by Emma, Undergrad Intern 2021
If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this or another issue and are in the Chicago area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.