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Feature Article


Love languages: Understanding how you and your partner love

Amanda Kowal, Ph.D., former Assistant Professor, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri


Illustration of 2 figures forming a heart togetherResearchers and clinicians have found that one key to happy love relationships is understanding the type of love that is important to both you and your partner. Gary Chapman, author of the The Five Love Languages series, refers to the different kinds of love as “love languages.” He believes that your love language describes how you want to be loved and how you show love.


It is important to figure out what makes you feel loved so that you know what you want and need from your partner. It is also important that you understand what makes your partner feel loved so that you can make him or her happy.


Determining your love language: Answer the questions below to figure out the love language that is the most important to you.


  1. What does your partner do, or not do, that hurts you the most? The opposite of what hurts you is probably your love language.
  2. What have you most often asked of your partner? The thing you have most often asked for is likely the thing that would make you feel the most loved.
  3. How do you show love to your partner? The way you show love is probably how you would like to be loved.


Which of the love languages below is most like your answers? This is your love language.


  1. Words of Affirmation: Saying kind, supportive and loving things to express affection such as “I appreciate that you washed the dishes” or “I know you can do it!”
  2. Quality Time: Spending time together while giving the other person your full attention. It’s not so important what you do, but that you spend the time focusing on each other.
  3. Gift Giving: Expensive, creative or thoughtful presents are seen as clear signs that someone is loved.
  4. Acts of Service: Doing things you know your partner would like you to do, such as cooking, setting the table or walking the dog, can be expressions of love.
  5. Physical Touch: Holding hands, kissing, cuddling and sex can be powerful ways to show romantic love.


If you don’t know each other’s love language you may not feel loved, and what you do to show love for your partner may be ignored or missed. For example:


  • Teresa’s love language is Words of Affirmation, and her husband Nelson’s is Gift Giving.
    • Nelson works overtime so he can buy Teresa diamond earrings.
    • Teresa thinks “The earrings are nice, but I wish we had more time to just hang out and talk. What good is his job success if we never get to spend time together?”


  • Jean’s love language is Acts of Service, and her husband Adam’s is Physical Touch.
    • Jean may be thinking “I am always doing things for him like washing his car and he never seems to appreciate it.”
    • Adam may be thinking “It seems like Jean avoids me. Yesterday I wanted to snuggle, but she went and did the dishes.”


Talking with your partner about the type of love that is important to both of you can help your relationship. When you know your partner’s love language you can work to show him or her love in this way. When your partner knows your love language he or she can make a special effort to show you love in a way that is meaningful to you.



Chapman, G. (1995). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Sternberg, R.J. (1986). Triangular Theory of Love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 19-135.


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Last Updated 02/13/2017