I Love My Boyfriend, But How Do I Show Him? Learn Your Partner’s Love Language
There are many ways to express your love for your boyfriend, aside from just saying, “I love you.” By learning his love language, you can express your affection for him in the ways that are most meaningful to him. Love languages are relatively straightforward to understand, but in the real world it can be more complicated. If you want some guidance, a licensed couples therapist can be a useful resource for you and your boyfriend to strengthen your love and communication.
What Is A Love Language?
Love languages refer to the ways that people prefer to give and receive love. They were popularized by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., with the release of The 5 Love Languages in 1995. In his book, Chapman described the five different love languages that can make our relationships better.
Peer reviewed research on love languages confirm their existence, and support that they can improve the satisfaction and longevity of relationships. Carol Bruess, Ph.D., describes these languages as a type of currency: a particular love language (emotional currency) may be very valuable to some, less valuable to many, and meaningless to others. We all want to be loved in different ways and understanding your love language (and your boyfriend’s) can improve how you give and receive it.
Outside of romantic relationships, understanding actions that speak to our love language can improve relationships with parents, children, and friends. You can even adapt them to improve workplace relations.
What Are The Five Languages?
The five love languages are:
Having the undivided attention of a loved one is a strong expression of love for those whose love language is quality time. When your boyfriend puts his phone down and spends your date night focused on you, does that make you feel special?
Being present, making eye contact, and practicing active listening are all ways to give your partner undivided attention and speak in the quality time love language.
Words Of Affirmation
If your love language is verbal affirmation, you might appreciate it when your partner explicitly tells you things like, “I love you,” “It was very kind of you to help me brainstorm for that meeting,” or “I’m thankful to have you in my life.”
Words of affirmation can include compliments, encouragement, or expressions of appreciation, through spoken or written words.
Physical touch does not have to be sexual (though it can be); it can include things like hugging, massaging, high fiving, or holding hands. People whose love language is physical touch might think that the perfect date night consists of cuddling and watching movies together.
Acts Of Service
Bringing someone soup when they’re sick, getting out of bed first and making your partner coffee, or cleaning the toilet are all acts of service that might be an especially appreciated expression of love for you or your boyfriend.
Giving And Receiving Gifts
If gifts are your love language, you may feel particularly adored when your boyfriend brings home your favorite treat from the grocery store, or when you receive a thoughtful birthday card. Remember that the thought is often more important than the gift itself. It’s not about materialism, it’s about spending the time thinking about your loved ones and putting effort into thinking about what they would like.
A Mixture Of Languages
People are unique, and many identify with multiple love languages. You may have a primary love language and several secondary languages, for example. Your preferred type of love language may also change throughout your life or with different partners.
What Is Your Love Language?
You can reflect on the love languages listed above, and that might be enough to tell you what yours is. However, if you’re not quite sure, you can take the free The Love Language Quiz from Gary Chapman. If you don’t know what your boyfriend’s language is, you can take the quiz together.
What To Do If My Partner Speaks A Different Love Language Than Me?
If your partner has a different primary love language, it doesn’t mean that you are incompatible. However, if you speak the same love language, it may be more intuitive for you to express your love in the ways your boyfriend favors.
Knowing someone’s love language gives you the key to showing them affection in a way that will resonate with them the most. Just ask for what you need and ask your boyfriend what he needs.
For example, if your love language is gifts, you may be hoping your boyfriend will surprise you with a bouquet of flowers. However, if his love language is words of affirmation, he may not be aware of how meaningful a gift would be to you. This could lead to feeling resentful, neglected, and unnoticed. Clearly and openly communicating your needs can strengthen your satisfaction in your relationship.
Trouble Navigating Love Languages
If you want to improve communication or bonding in your relationship, centering your love languages can help. However, reality is often complex, and many people fall into a habit of oversimplifying the nuances of love languages or even weaponizing them. The following are mistakes that Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, sees as common missteps in navigating them:
Turning Love Languages Into A Way To Keep Score
Love languages are supposed to be about recognizing that our partners are their own people, and learning to love them in the ways they want to be loved. Turning it into a competition of who does more for the relationship can be harmful.
According to Carroll, in addition to things like caring for children or initiating physical intimacy, practicing your partner’s love language can become part of a running list of fuel for arguments.
Love Languages Aren’t Set In Stone
Love languages can change over time or in certain situations. To understand the nuances of each other’s love languages, you and your partner will need to practice frequent communication and active listening. Try setting aside an hour each week to check in on each other’s emotional needs and wellbeing.
You Can Practice Self-Love
Every love language—words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and gifts—can also be practiced on yourself. Make space to take care of your own needs.
Love Languages Can’t Fix Everything
Not all problems are caused by a lack of communication. Frequently, Carroll encounters couples who experience an “infinity loop,” which can look like the following:
Beth is afraid of feeling emotionally disconnected and wants to talk frequently. Sam is introverted and enjoys spending time playing music, which Beth interprets as a form of rejection. Beth was triggered by Sam playing music when she wanted to have a conversation, and turned to a routine of criticism to get Sam’s attention. Beth says to Sam, “You always hide playing music,” which in turn makes Sam retract in self-protection, which then makes Beth feel more rejected and thus more critical, and Sam more withdrawn. The loop continues.
Though learning your boyfriend’s love language can be beneficial for your relationship, there may be more complex issues that it cannot address. If you’re experiencing recurring arguments or you just don’t understand what the problem is in your relationship, a licensed couple’s therapist can be helpful.
Learning A Love Language Isn’t A Quick Fix
Relationships, and particularly long-term relationships, are complex and cannot be fixed by implementing this one concept. Love languages are one tool you may have in your toolkit, but they certainly are not the only tool you should be familiar with when it comes to romantic relationships. Healthy relationships require a strong foundation of trust, honesty, respect, consent, boundaries, and open communication.
How Couples Therapy Can Help
If you’ve had several conversations with your boyfriend about love languages, but it doesn’t seem like he’s understanding what you need, it can be helpful to speak with a couple’s therapist.
Many professionals recommend seeing couple’s therapist if any of the following signs are present:
Unhealthy/negative communication habits
Emotional distance or loneliness
Falling out of love
Insecure attachment or fear of abandonment
Feeling unable to open up emotionally
Lack of sexual intimacy
Parenting style differences that harm the relationship
Feeling like things are unfair in the relationship or competitive
Mental health concerns
Unequal power and say
However, even if you’re happy with your relationship the way it is, therapy can be a good way to strengthen your partnership and learn the tools to help you navigate future conflicts and stressors together.
If it’s hard for you and your partner to plan time for therapy around each other’s schedules, or if your insurance doesn’t cover couple’s therapy, you may want to try online couple’s therapy from a platform like Regain. Research published in 2021 found that many couples prefer the physical distance they have from their therapist through an online format, stating that it makes them feel more comfortable and in control of the sessions. Furthermore, a 2022 study found that online and in-person couple’s therapy provide equivalent improvements in relationship satisfaction and mental health.
Learning your boyfriend’s love language can improve your ability to express your affection for him in the ways that he prefers. Through quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, or gifts, you can make your partner feel adored and appreciated. Though love languages are not the only element of a fulfilling relationship, research demonstrates that they can improve relationship satisfaction and longevity.
If you have challenges in your relationship that aren’t solved by love languages, it may be a good idea to see a therapist. They will have many more tools in the toolkit that can help you improve your relationship, and online couple’s therapy is shown to effectively improve mental health and relationship satisfaction.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I learn my partner's love language?
The best way to learn your partner's love language is to examine how to express love for each other. To receive love, you have to give it, and it’s in that exchange that you can learn to speak your partner’s love language. You can even create a new one of your own and build a love language that’s unique to just the both of you.
Why is knowing your partner's love language important?
Knowing your partner's primary love language will open up so many possibilities in your expression of love towards them. You will learn to express love in ways you may never have before to make your partner feel appreciated and cared for in the relationship. It’s not a literal language, per se; there are no conjugations or tenses to worry about. It’s simply a way that a person enjoys love being expressed towards them.
What are the five love languages for couples?
The five ways couples learn how to express love and receive love include physical touch, receiving gifts, spending quality time together, acts of service, and words of affirmation. Physical affection is somewhat essential in a relationship, and this is more than just sex. Holding hands, hugging, or any kind of touching, in general, is good for both partners as it is a way to both receive love and give love at the same time. It’s probably one of the more common love languages.
Gift-giving is symbolic of the time and effort a person puts into finding the right gift fit for a person. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy; it’s more about the fact that the gift-giver thought of their partner when they were apart.
Quality time amounts to giving your partner your undivided attention. That means putting your cellphone or computer away and really listening to what they have to say for people whose primary love language is quality time; it's about how the time is spent, not the amount of time.
Acts of service are small deeds or chores that express love in small ways. It basically amounts to doing small things for your partner that show your love and appreciation, such as putting the dishes away or doing their laundry for them when they’re busy.
Lastly, words of affirmation are an expression of love through words. Use words of appreciation or praise when your partner has overcome a difficult situation, or send them cute text messages throughout the day telling them how much you enjoy their company.
Through a combination of these, you can learn to build a love language that only the two of you know.
Should you and your partner have the same love language?
In the early stages of the relationship, you and your partner may start with a very different love language from each other. This may seem like a concern, but it shouldn’t be. Through conversation, you can learn what your partner’s love language is so that you can learn how to express love in a way that they enjoy; they, in turn, will learn how to express their love in a way you enjoy too. It’s about compromise and learning to work together to develop a loving and healthy relationship.
Do love languages matter?
Although there has been a lot of talk about the love language, studies have shown that it might not even matter. Partners who had the same love language were no happier than those who had different love languages. Even understanding a partner’s love language didn’t result in better outcomes in terms of the relationship either. What mattered the most was communication, listening to one partner’s needs, and adapting to meet those needs. A stubborn partner who isn’t interested in knowing how to express their love will not promote a healthy relationship.
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