In the world of love, everyone speaks their own language. This is partially why couples end up on my couch—each person is speaking their own language and they need an interpreter.
In his work, Dr. Gary Chapman took the time to define these languages, discovering people experience love in different ways. The type of love that make the greatest impact on a person is what he would refer to as their primary “love language.” He identified five distinct love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and gifts.
People whose primary love language is words of affirmation feel the most loved when their partner, family, or friends use words to uplift and encourage them. If gifts is your language, this means you’ll be most appreciative when people physically give you little tokens to say they were thinking of you.
The physical touch love language involves feeling most connected to your partner when you are physically interacting with them through hand holding, hugs, and kissing. Quality time people flourish when they simply get to spend uninterrupted time with the people they love, especially if those people initiated the time.
If you are someone who feels warm and fuzzy when someone takes the time to help you with an activity, such as washing the dishes or assisting you on an assignment, then you are probably an acts of service person.
For more information on identifying your love language, click here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
Knowledge of these five love languages can vastly improve the way you and your partner communicate. We tend to give the type of love we want to receive, meaning someone who values words will give words to their partner. That partner, however, may be a gifts person. This doesn’t mean they won’t value the words of affirmation from their partner, but it won’t carry as much weight as if they were to receive a gift.
Once partners are aware of each other’s love language, they can start speaking it. This takes work as their first inclination would be to provide words of affirmation, yet because they know their partner vastly appreciates gifts, they’ll start to think about little tokens they could buy their partner to let them know they were thinking of them throughout the day.
This also works in the opposite direction. The gifts partner will now be aware of the importance of words to their partner. Therefore when their partner affirms them, they’ll be better able to accept those words as a form of love. Even though it’s not their top love language, they know it means a lot coming from their partner. This again takes practice, but pays off.
Through using love language awareness, partners are more likely to send out the kind of love their partner desires and also be more accepting of the ways their partner extends love, even if that isn’t their first love language.
Love languages can also be extremely helpful in providing gift ideas for our loved ones. Gift giving often causes anxiety for the giver and receiver, which I personally find a great loss to what is supposed to be a fun exchange between two people.
Part of this stress is due to simply having no idea where to even begin the search for the perfect gift. Do I Google their favorite pastime? Should I just wander Target for a while? What if I don’t even know their basic interests? What if they don’t like it? What if they already have what I give them?
These are good questions, but can all too quickly spiral into a ball of stress and soon the actual joy of gift giving is stripped away. I’ve also come across people who get anxious at the prospect of receiving a gift (their love language is very likely not “gifts”).
Receivers may wonder how to react, what if I don’t have a gift in return, what if I actually don’t like the gift, what if their gift was more expensive than the one I gave them? All these worries combined make birthdays, Christmas, and celebrations riddled with more stress than joy. However, when you keep the love languages in mind, I promise some stress will start melting off you and you’ll be able to gain more confidence in your gift-giving skills.
Why would knowing the love languages be helpful for gifts, you ask? Consider the fact that the types of gifts a physical touch person would be excited by is going to be different from those of an acts of service person.
In addition, sometimes love languages can be scoped out even if you don’t know the person well (which might come in handy for a secret Santa exchange). For example, if you have a boss you don’t know really well but who always lights up when someone brings them coffee, you can safely bet they’re either an acts of service or gifts person.
Gift Ideas Based on Love Languages
Given this knowledge, here are my tips on what to get your loved ones this year based upon their love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation Gifts
People with this love language want to hear not only that you appreciate and love them, but also the “why” behind your appreciation. Because of this, cards truly go a long way with this group. Odds are they will actually be more looking forward to reading your card than opening your gift, and the likelihood of them saving it increases with the amount you write.
Other ideas include: something engraved, a book of inspirational quotes, something with an explanation behind it (like Willow Tree carvings—each carving has a name and explanation of it), or paintings with words from their favorite inspirational character (like Mr. Rogers) or song (like the words from La Vie en Rose).
Remember, people with this love language want to know why you love them—if your gift and card both involve this desire, you’re going to hit a home run, but if you’re unsure if your gift will meet this, you have a fail-proof plan: add a card.
2. Quality Time Gifts
If you’re giving a gift to a quality time person, remember the key here is time. Giving them an item is not going to have nearly as much weight as giving them an experience (this is true for all people, but especially important here).
Date night (usually it’s a good idea to plan more than a movie, as some quality time people don’t define movie going as quality time), a girl’s trip, a day at the zoo with you, going to a sports event, or offering to babysit a couple’s kids for the night so they can have the night off, would all go a long way with a quality time person.
The emphasis here on the quality of the time—you’ve thought about it, planned it, and made sure that the time would be valuable between the two of you.
3. Acts of Service Gifts
This one is similar in some ways to quality time. Here the important factor is doing something out of service to help the person have more of their own time.
Some ideas are: offering to babysit, a candle lit dinner cooked by you, washing the car, volunteering together, doing all the grocery shopping for a week, giving your partner a massage, or helping them on an upcoming work presentation.
This one can be tough to wrap up, but one fun idea is to create a coupon book of sorts—one coupon for a car wash, one coupon for a massage, etc. to be endorsed by your partner whenever they so desire. Think of ways to ease your partner’s burdens and your gift will speak volumes.
4. Physical Touch Gifts
People who love physical touch are likely going to value sensory stimulation in their gifts. For example, a coupon book of massages or ideas for intimacy time, bubble bath, a weighted blanket, a massager, fuzzy socks, etc, would likely be much loved gifts.
Some might even argue for giving a puppy or kitten, as petting animals has been shown to decrease cortisol levels. People with this love language simply feel safer and more secure when they are in contact with their favorite person or comforting items, and gifts that reflect those desires will be well received.
5. Gifts Gifts
This love language tends to get a bad rap for being materialistic, but that is far from true. People in this category feel so loved when receiving gifts because it shows you were thinking of them and put effort into getting them something.
Because this type is so impacted by gifts, it can be intimidating to buy for them. However, remember that any gift will be of great value to them. With this type, spend time thinking of what reminds you of that person. Perhaps it’s their favorite flowers, or a TV show you guys watch together, or a personality trait of theirs that makes you smile. Then, buy something that falls into one of those categories.
For example, if you want to get your girl some jewelry, and flowers always come to mind when you think of her, find jewelry with a floral design. If she’s practical and understated, make it a small flower. If she’s vivacious and outgoing, get a bigger flower.
This is just one example, but the key here is to simply think of what you associate with the person, and then buy something based on that association. They will be so thankful for the thoughtfulness behind the gift.
If you are struggling with gift giving, hopefully this list will spark some ideas. If you and your spouse are struggling to make each other feel loved, check out the love languages and contact a therapist who can help you guys start understanding each other’s language.
“Sweet Gifts”, Courtesy of Michelle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just for You”, Courtesy of Siora Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart Lights”, Courtesy of Steve Halama, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Pinkies”, Courtesy of Ryan Franco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License