Your Guide to Understanding the 5 Different Ways People Give and Receive Love

Your Guide to Understanding the 5 Different Ways People Give and Receive Love

Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor for over 30 years, believes that there are “five basic love languages—five ways to express love emotionally”—and each person has a primary language in which they give or receive love the best.

Last week, I asked my friends how they primarily received and gave love. It was fascinating to hear them explain the specifics of their preferences—and to realize how different, and in some cases unexpected, their answers were. I think that clarifying how each person in a close relationship gives and receives love is incredibly important in effective communication of love between people.

Here are the five basic love languages that Chapman has observed.


1. Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are typically words of appreciation or praise—thanking someone for the different ways that they show love (whether that be doing the dishes, giving a gift, spending an afternoon together, giving a massage) or praising someone for who they are, what they do, and what you appreciate about them.


2. Acts of Service

Acts of service are simple acts that help to make the other person’s life easier or make things run smoother—offering to do the dishes or to do errands, for example. My dad shows love through acts of service and will often change the oil in my car or take it out and fill up the gas tank.


3. Receiving Gifts

Receiving gifts is almost always perceived as an act of love, but Chapman points out that people often don’t realize that, for some, receiving gifts is the primary way through which they feel loved. Depending on the person’s specific preferences, gifts don’t necessarily have to be material objects, they could be sentimental—a hand-picked bouquet, a handwritten letter, a mixed CD.


4. Quality Time

Quality time means giving someone your undivided attention—putting away your phone and distractions and truly being with that person, whether that is having a conversation or going out and doing something together.


5. Physical Touch 

Physical touch comes in many forms—holding hands, massaging, snuggling, etc. For some, physical touch is a very important expression of love. Of course, physical touch should always be communicated clearly and consensual!


Within these different categories, there are so many more specific ways to give or receive love—and it’s a really fun and insightful conversation to have! If you know how you and the people in your life give and receive love, then everyone can know better how to make each other feel cared for, loved, and appreciated.


Cover photo courtesy of Shutterstock.