How do you communicate with those you love? How do you recognize when they feel the most loved? When do you feel the most loved? If your sweetheart really loves strawberry ice cream and you really love chocolate, will you keep buying and serving her chocolate in the misplaced hope that she will come to enjoy chocolate as much as you do? How often do we insist on using a love language that our partner doesn’t speak?

In his book “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,”[i] Dr. Gary Chapman identified 5 love languages people use: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In his first book, Dr. Chapman focused on the five love languages for couples. The love languages have extended to include relationships with children, singles, teenagers, and in the workplace.

Words of Affirmation. These are words of care, kindness, and affection. It might include “thanks for making dinner, it’s delicious!” Or “you look really nice today, I love that outfit!” Usually the more specific the compliment, the more it means. The opposite of affirmation can be painful and hurtful when there is any type of verbal abuse, criticism, disparaging comments, or silence.

Acts of service. Doing something helpful, thoughtful, or kind for your partner can include doing dishes, vacuuming, helping with the baby in the middle of the night, making a special treat. Ignoring opportunities to serve or not helping with daily responsibilities are the antithesis of acts of service.

Quality time. This includes time dedicated to each other. Especially something you both enjoy. It could be walking together, playing a board game, or just visiting. Some examples that bring meaning to a relationship include weekly dates with our spouse, daddy-daughter dates, father-son outings. The opposite of quality time is making all other activities and people a higher priority and ignoring the needs of our loved one.

Receiving gifts. Gifts can be elaborate or simple, just giving a gift that is meaningful. These can be birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, special occasions, flowers … anything that touches the heart of our partner. Missing birthdays or anniversaries or other important dates can be seriously damaging to a relationship.

Physical touch. This can include holding hands, a back rub, a hug, a touch on the arm or shoulder, or sexual intimacy. When there is a lack of touch or if there is physical abuse, that will destroy a relationship.

When I was doing counseling in prison, we taught the men about the five languages of love. I told them my wife’s language of love is acts of service. Mine are words of affirmation and physical touch. Then a couple months later as Valentine’s Day approached, they asked me, “Are you going to take your wife to dinner, buy her flowers and candy?” I responded, “Are you kidding? Those are not my wife’s love language. I’m going to vacuum!” [Note: She has since told me that she also likes an occasional gift of flowers and dinner out.]

I was counseling with a young couple where the husband’s love languages were physical touch and gifts.  The wife’s love language was acts of service. When asked what he was doing to strengthen their relationship, he said he would often buy her gifts and was very disappointed that she only said “Thanks” but was not as effusive in her appreciation as he would have been. That’s when we began a serious talk about ice cream.

My wife loved it when I came home early while she played the piano for choir practice. I set the table and was making a salad when she came home. And on Mondays, I vacuum. It’s all about love!

May the Lord bless us to recognize and respond positively to the love languages of those around us as we strive to love one another.


[i] Chapman, Gary D., The five love languages: the secret to love that lasts, 1992, 1995, 2004, 2010, 2015. Northfield Publishing: Chicago, IL.