The 5 Love Languages Quiz: What It Means For You
The middle stage of marriage (the part after the initial high and before long-term contentment) is no joke. Shit gets real, and couples start crumbling. But by understanding how you and your partner like to give and receive love, you can weather the bumps. Here’s how to do it, according to one groundbreaking book.
Why couples can drift apart
Remember when you fell in love with your partner? You were euphoric, living on a high in which your partner could do no wrong. At best, you were only mildly annoyed by your differences.
Fast forward 10, 20, even 30 years, and that happy high has long vanished. Instead, you’ve become mildly perturbed to seriously angry about character flaws in your partner that not only bother you, but you’re not able to change. As if that’s not bad enough, your job, your kids, your parents, even your dog, are stressing you beyond belief.
“This middle stage of marriage (after the happy high and followed by contentment) happens to the best of us, and we all struggle with it, even experts,” says Jennie Rosier, Ph.D., associate professor of communication studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., director of The Relationships, Love & Happiness Project, and author of Make Love, Not Scrapbooks. The good news, though, is there may be a solution, even if it sounds a bit corny: Learn your partner’s love language.
What Are the 5 Love Languages, Exactly?
In 1992, marriage and family counselor Gary Chapman, Ph.D., wrote a groundbreaking book titled The 5 Love Languages that arose from his years of counseling married couples. “The book addresses the deep emotional need to feel loved and communicate that love with others,” he says. In essence, the book identifies how you give and receive love. “Many couples love each other in their mind, but one may not feel loved by their partner because the partner is expressing love in a language the other person doesn’t understand or want, which creates issues,” Chapman says.
Through his work with unhappy couples, Chapman noticed that complaints fell into five areas. That revelation became the basis of the five love languages (below), which include: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman calls these emotional love languages and says that "how you express love may be different than how your partner expresses love, and knowing that can make a huge difference in a relationship."
For instance, a husband might give his wife words of affirmation, telling her she’s beautiful or he’s proud of her. While he might be speaking from his heart, if this isn’t his wife’s language, she won’t see the love behind these words. “If you want to effectively communicate love, you have to understand your partner’s primary love language,” Chapman says. “Once you do this, the emotional love tank begins to fill up and you feel loved again.”
Love Language: Words of Affirmation
• You get a thrill from receiving compliments and unexpected praise.
• You like when others say they care about you or appreciate having you in their lives.
• You love feeling understood and receiving recognition for a job well done.
Love Language: Quality Time
• You’re an excellent listener and always give others your undivided attention.
• You prefer not to be alone and think most activities are more fun with others involved.
• You always make time for your loved ones, even if you’re not physically with them.
• You enjoy sharing new experiences with others more than receiving physical gifts.
Love Language: Receiving Gifts
• You enjoy when your partner brings you your favorite flowers, just 'cause.
• You like when your partner celebrates anniversaries, big and small.
• You love being sent a surprise package at work.
Love language: Acts of Service
• You like when your partner makes breakfast in bed.
• You like when your partner takes the dog for a walk, does the grocery shopping, or folds and puts away the laundry.
• You consider an uninterrupted hour of TV time a gift.
Love language: Physical Touch
• You’re comfortable with public displays of affection, even in front of large groups.
• You feel alone in a relationship if you’re not able to express or receive physical affection.
• You like to get massages on a regular basis and love the occasional foot rub.
• You pride yourself on being a good hugger, and you like sitting close to others.
• You look forward to kisses and intimacy with your partner more than anything else.
How to Interpret Your Partner’s Love Language
No doubt this seems gimmicky – and it may be if you’re in a new relationship or have just committed to a marriage or partnership. “You’re not dealing with that much crap yet,” Rosier says.
But it can be a step in the right direction if you find yourself drifting from your partner in the middle stage of marriage. “It’s more about having empathy and understanding of your partner than about following these love language rules,” Rosier says. To have a healthy relationship, you have to understand where your partner is coming from.
Rosier is a prime example. Married for 13 years but with her spouse for almost 20, Rosier’s love language is acts of service. “I do everything for everybody around me, and it’s clear that that’s how I want people to show me their love,” she says. Yet until her husband learned this, she would get mad – and sometimes she still does – when she’d clean the house or make a favorite dinner, and he wouldn’t notice. His inattention would then get her madder, and their relationship would sour.
While her husband had to learn that doing little acts of kindness were her jam, Rosier also had to learn that her husband didn’t feel loved by her acts of service. “I had to step back and learn how to fill his love tank, which had nothing to do with cleaning the house,” she says, adding that it doesn’t mean she can’t still do the things that make her feel good. But because her husband now understands how she wants to receive love, she feels more fulfilled, loved and happy. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still bumps, but they’re not as frequent.
And that’s exactly what Chapman sees happen with many couples who read his book. “These love languages change the emotional climate between a couple,” he says. “You realize that you’re each here to enrich and enhance each other’s lives, and you work to make that happen.”
Many couples love each other in their mind, but one may not feel loved by their partner because the partner is expressing love in a language the other person doesn’t understand or want, which creates issues.
Gary Chapman, Ph.D., author of The 5 Love Languages
Making the 5 Love Languages Work for You
Getting there, of course, takes work. And while reading Chapman’s book is one step – “ask your partner to read just the first chapter in hopes it might spur him (or her) to read more,” Chapman says – there are other ways you can improve that communication with your partner.
One strategy? “Put yourself in your partner’s shoes,” Rosier says. Take your shoes off, put their shoes on and stand where they’re standing, thinking about what it’s like to experience life from their perspective. “Once you do this, you’ll be gentler with your partner.” When you do have arguments, you will be able to remain calmer and be more empathetic toward your partner.
But don’t stop there, especially if you’re the only one willing to do the work. While this might anger some, Rosier advises asking your husband or partner what you can do to make your partner feel more loved, which will run counter to what you want to do. You might even start by asking your husband/partner how loved he feels by you on a scale of one to 10. If he says anything below a nine, ask what you can to do make it a 10. For the next two to four weeks, work hard on doing those things, and at the end of that period ask for an honest assessment.
There’s a reason for doing this. “He’ll most likely say that he feels more loved, and he’ll probably ask you what he can do to make you feel more loved,” Rosier says. If not, ask him to do something for you. Because his emotional love tank is now full, he should be more receptive to this.
Getting through this middle stage of marriage is a challenge, which is why many couples throw in the towel. While nobody advocates staying in an abusive or negative relationship, these strategies could help restart your relationship – “remember the reason you committed to this person,” Rosier says — so that you reach the next stage of partnership where you’re once again happy and content. And by the way, in case you’re wondering about a sixth language, Chapman hasn’t found it.