Thursday, December 6, 2007

Speaking the Language of Love

As the holidays approach, perhaps you have already given some thought to what gift you will give to your loved one this year. Maybe you’ve given some thought to your own romantic ideal. Will he whisper sweet words of love? Will she buy you that great watch you’ve been wanting? Will he carve out an evening from his busy schedule for a movie and some cuddles? Whether you plan to buy roses, make a special meal, write a love letter, plan a romantic escape, or just ignore the lovers’ holiday, there is one wonderful gift that you can give your partner every day of the year: speaking his or her love language.

In his groundbreaking book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman defines five different love styles. Each style is the way someone likes to be loved and feels most appreciated. Learning your own love style, as well as that of your partner, is the best way to love and be loved.

It’s quite likely that your love style and your partner’s love style will be different. If so, you may need to do a little work and practice acting in the way your partner wants to be loved. Then do a little education—determine your love style and ask for your spouse to do more of what makes you feel truly valued. If you do both of these things, your bound to see and feel more love in your everyday life.

Chapman's Five Emotional Love Languages:

Words of Affirmation
People who value verbal compliments, such as “Wow, you look beautiful in that dress,” and those who desire encouragement are Words of Affirmation types. Loving comments and statements of appreciation, like “You’re an incredible photographer, thank you so much for these pictures!” are what this type craves most.

Quality Time
Spouses who are Quality Time types would like to spend alone time together, focusing only on each other (i.e., not on the football game on TV), while sharing inner feelings, thoughts, and emotions. People who treasure conversation about hopes and dreams while sharing a drink at a local coffee shop are most likely Quality Time types.

Most of us love to receive gifts, but this alone does not make someone a Gift type. Gift types look for visual signs of love, such that any gift—big or small, expensive or casual—is likely to be saved, treasured and adored. People of this type often feel that a lack of gifts reflects a lack of love from their spouse.

Acts of Service
Partners who are Acts of Service types, value the little, feel loved when their spouse does little, everyday things, such as taking out the trash, paying household bills, picking the kids up from soccer practice, and the like. In order to feel loved, an Acts of Service type would like to see their partner go out of their way to care for them, to put in the planning, time, effort, and energy to make daily life a bit easier.

Physical Touch
Physical Touch types are perhaps the easiest types to spot. These partners thrive on physical contact and crave all of the hugs, kisses, and physical attention you can bestow upon them. People of this type are most want to be in close physical proximity to their partner and want to be touched or held with some frequency.

Determining Your Style

Answer these questions to determine your love style:

  • How do you show your love to others?
  • Think back to the moments when you felt most loved, what made them so memorable?
  • What do you really wish your partner knew about how to do things differently?
  • What do you complain about most often?
  • What do you save, keep, treasure, or hold on to most?

From your answers, look for a pattern: do you value physical closeness most? If so, your love style is likely the physical touch style. Do you crave more alone time? If so, your love style is probably the quality time style. Do you secretly desire a new wedding band for Valentine’s day? Perhaps you are the gift style type.

Determining Your Partner’s Style

To determine your partner’s love style, which one of these statements would your spouse most agree with?

  1. I feel most loved when my partner expresses feelings for me through physical contact, such as a hug or kiss.
  2. I feel most loved when my partner shows me how they feel by taking care of errands, doing household chores, and doing favors for me.
  3. I feel most loved when my spouse brings me a very special gift.
  4. I feel most loved when my partner pays attention to me, focuses on what I am saying, and plans to spend alone time with me.
  5. I feel most loved when my partner tells me how grateful they are for me and talks about how much they appreciate all the little things I do.

Statement 5 = Words of Affirmation style
Statement 4 = Quality Time style
Statement 3 = Gift Style
Statement 2 = Acts of Service style
Statement 1 = Physical Touch style

Speaking Your Partner’s Love Language

After identifying your love style and your partner’s love style, communicate what you’ve learned in their love style. If you’re married to a Words of Affirmation type, tell them “I am so lucky to be married to you, you’re the most caring man in the world.” Then go on to tell your partner what you’ve learned and how you think it could help you both, make sure to tell them about your love style and how you’d really like to be loved. If you partner is a Quality Time type, invite them for a romantic dinner and share your new knowledge. Perhaps you’re dating a Gift type? If so, write a loving statement inside a silver fortune cookie and present this Gift along with a copy of the Love Languages book.

By learning your love language and actively communicating in the love style of your partner, you’ll experience a deeper connection that you ever thought possible. Having this knowledge and practicing it daily will be a gift that gets better every year!

The Five Love Languages, How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Dr. Gary Chapman is available online at and at bookstores everywhere.

Dr. Kathy Nickerson is an expert counselor who helps couples and families improve and strengthen their relationships. She specializes in marriage counseling, couples counseling, and pre-marital counseling. Many of her Kathy's materials, including audio recordings of the how-to questions she is most frequently asked, are available at no cost on her website: Kathy would love to hear from you and she may be reached at 949.222.6688 or via email to

New Year, Renewed Relationship

Did you know that you are biologically engineered to be close to a partner? Emotional closeness doesn’t accidentally happen; it’s some thing that is achieved by paying attention to your relationship every day. As the New Year begins, try implementing some of these tips to get closer to your spouse.

Ways to Get Closer:

Be honest and kind. In order to really connect with your spouse, you need to say what’s on your mind in an honest and kind way. Closeness depends on openness, which means you need to share your innermost thoughts with the one you love. You’ll get great results if you can share your thoughts in a simple, loving way.

Ask for what you need. Your partner cannot read your mind and probably does not have ESP. So make life easy and ask for what you need. Simply and calmly state what you feel and what would make you feel better. Ask your partner for the specific kind of help you want.

Be a team player. The strength of a team is that different people with different talents get together to perform better than they could alone. The same is true with your relationship: you bring a unique skill set and so does your partner. Approach challenges with this mindset and work together towards a solution that makes the most out of your combined strengths.

Try a little tenderness. Be gentle with the people you love. We often reserve our worst behavior for the people we love the most because, we reason, they won’t ever leave us. Truth is, we all need acceptance and kindness from our loved ones.

Ask questions. If you don't understand or like something your partner is doing, ask about it and why he or she is doing it. Explore the behavior and try to find some part you can relate to. Avoid assuming and attacking.

Solve problems as they come up. Don’t spend time assuming and simmering about a problem; talk about how your feeling, ask for what you need to get over it, then move on.

Me Minutes:

Spend 10 minutes in a quiet place reflecting on the following question: What do I really need to feel loved an appreciated? Jot down your thoughts and list ways specific ways your partner can help you. Ask your spouse to do this same exercise. Plan a special night where the two of you can share your responses.

Hope this helps - let me know, I'd love to hear from you!
-Dr. Kathy
Dr. Kathy Nickerson is an expert counselor who helps couples and families improve and strengthen their relationships. She specializes in marriage counseling, couples counseling, and pre-marital counseling. Many of her Kathy's materials, including audio recordings of the how-to questions she is most frequently asked, are available at no cost on her website: Kathy would love to hear from you and she may be reached at 949.222.6688 or via email to

This article is from OH Magazine, to be published in January, 2008; more information available at