What Are the 5 Love Languages?

The concept of five main categories of giving and receiving love comes from author, speaker, and counselor Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages. Based on his years of clinical practice, Chapman suggests that a person experiences love in five distinct ways—through words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving and receiving, acts of service, and physical touch—and although they all have merit, everyone has a primary love language.

Chapman suggests that what makes one person feel valued and loved does not necessarily work for another. The book urges partners to learn each other's love language and use it to meet the other's emotional needs. Understanding their partner's preferred love language can help couples manage their differences and cope with conflict.

Read on to learn how to determine your love language and how it may help your relationship.

Romantic couple, close up

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The Research

The love languages model was derived from clinical observations made by Chapman rather than empirical evidence (gained through observation and experimentation). While the book has sold millions of copies worldwide and is being incorporated into therapy by some counselors, formal study on Chapman’s love languages is limited.

However, there is some research on the subject. One study that looked at over 980 individuals in relationships found that people who believed their partners were correctly using their primary love language felt more love for their partner. Even partners who were attempting to show affection in the way their partner needed made their partner feel happier in the relationship.

Another study found that couples who follow Chapman’s advice of catering to their partner's love language display relationship maintenance behaviors, leading to more relationship satisfaction.

These findings, in their basic form, show that partners who listen to and understand the needs of their partner will have a healthier relationship.

When Love Languages Don't Match

Partners don't need to have the same primary love language. When partners have different primary love languages, relationship satisfaction may depend more on the ability to self-regulate behaviors for a partner’s needs than anything else.


Research on the five love languages also has several limitations. Most of the research has been conducted on heterosexual couples. One study that included same-sex couples found that results were consistent regardless of sexual orientation, but more studies are needed.

While the five love languages seem to be adaptable to different cultures, the research has found that culture does influence both how the method is implemented and the results of the studies. Because many of the studies were narrow in their participant pools, the results may not translate well to other populations.

What Are the 5 Love Languages?

While all five love languages have value and people may identify with more than one love language, Chapman proposes that everyone has a primary one. Understanding your partner's top or primary love language is the first step in meeting their needs.

Quality Time

People whose love language is quality time appreciate:

  • Uninterrupted time spent together
  • Their partner's undivided attention (e.g., not checking their phone)
  • Not just the amount of time spent together, but the quality of it, including eye contact, being present and focused on each other, sharing feelings and thoughts, and being welcoming and personal with each other
  • Engaging in activities that allow them to enjoy each other's company

Physical Touch

People whose love language is physical touch don't necessarily require sexual intimacy. They also appreciate:

  • Affectionate touching, such as holding hands, hugs, arms placed around them, or gentle touches to their face or body
  • Physical closeness that allows them to feel connected to their partner and safe

Remember that even if your partner's love language is physical touch, they may not always want to be touched or touched in certain ways.

If your love language is physical touch, it isn't OK to pressure your partner into engaging in physical activities they aren't comfortable with. Consent is always needed.

Words of Affirmation

Someone whose love language is words of affirmation may appreciate:

  • Kind words of praise or appreciation
  • Love notes
  • Texts or emails that let them know their partner is thinking of them and cares for them
  • Compliments
  • Interest in what they are saying or doing or the things they value
  • Acknowledgment of their accomplishments
  • Encouragement
  • Hearing more positive words than negative ones

People with this love language are more negatively affected by unkind words or harsh criticisms.

Acts of Service 

People whose primary love language is acts of service value:

  • Their partner helping them out
  • When their partner takes the pressure off them by taking on one of their responsibilities, especially ones they do not enjoy
  • Their partner following through on commitments and doing things instead of just talking about doing them
  • Actions from their partner that make their lives a little easier or ease their workload
  • Their partner doing helpful things without needing to be asked or reminded

Receiving Gifts

Those who identify gift-giving and receiving as their primary love language value the thought behind the gift more than the material item. A simple, inexpensive, but thoughtful item means more to them than a generic luxury item. They appreciate:

  • Unexpected gifts that let them know their partner was thinking about them, such as bringing them coffee or flowers
  • When their partner surprises them with a gift for no reason
  • A gift that their partner put a lot of thought into
  • Gifts that show their partner really "gets them"

Examples of the 5 Love Languages

  • Quality time: Pete gives Suraj his full attention while Suraj tells him about his day. Pete's phone buzzes, but he doesn't pick it up or look at it.
  • Physical touch: Maria and John are watching a movie. John pulls Maria close to him for a cuddle.
  • Words of affirmation: While finishing up a meal that Pat made, Chris says, "This was delicious. I really appreciate everything you do for our family, including making this lovely meal."
  • Acts of service: When Aiko goes to empty the dishwasher, they find that Omari has beat them to it, even though it was their turn.
  • Receiving gifts: Carlos had a terrible day. When Maryam comes home after work, she gives Carlos a magazine he loves and his favorite kind of candy bar, which she picked up during her lunch hour to cheer him up.


Both partners and the relationship as a whole can benefit from using the five love languages.

Chapman argues that partners feel more fulfilled, secure, and recognized when they try to use each other's love languages. This allows them to explore their interests more and work on personal development. Rather than losing their individuality, they become more intimate with each other while helping their partner reach their potential.

When someone shows love using their love language, it may not be noticed or appreciated as much by their partner. Showing love using their partner's love language is more likely to have a positive effect.

Other benefits can include:

  • Helping improve empathy and selflessness
  • Encouraging partners to be more meaningful with their actions
  • Strengthening the relationship
  • Increasing self-awareness and encouraging personal growth

How to Determine Your Love Language 

Chapman offers a quiz on his website, in addition to measures provided in his book. You can look at the profiles of each love language to see which one most resonates.

Chapman also suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are things your partner does or doesn't do that deeply hurt you?
  • What have you asked your partner to do more/most often?
  • How do you typically express love to your partner?
  • What would you look for in an ideal partner?

Take the Quiz

Try Chapman's quiz to determine your primary love language. You can also look into his other quizzes on apology language, appreciation language, and anger assessment.

How to Determine Your Partner’s Love Language 

Ideally, both partners will read the book, take the quiz, and learn about their love languages together.

If this isn't possible, Chapman suggests asking yourself:

  • How does your partner most often express love to others?
  • What does your partner complain about most often?
  • What does your partner request most often?

Chapman also proposes a five-week experiment, that includes the following:

  1. Each week, choose one of the love languages and use it every weekday—Monday to Friday—while observing your partner's response.
  2. Relax on Saturday and Sunday.
  3. Repeat until you have covered all five love languages.

Did you notice more positive responses during any of the weeks? If so, Chapman says that's likely their primary love language.

Limitations of the 5 Love Languages Model

There are important limitations to the love languages model that need to be considered, including:

  • Chapman's theory is directed toward heterosexual spouses. The nature and language is heteronormative, and gender stereotypes are sometimes used. Relationships with more than two partners are also not considered.
  • Love languages may not be enough to address relationship problems. More counseling may be needed, potentially using the love languages as a tool.
  • The model may be too simplistic and broad, lacking nuance and not adequately addressing things like trauma, attachment style, or other major influences.
  • It has the potential to be misused, such as a person demanding their partner engage in behaviors or activities they are not comfortable with in order to "prove their love," or making the other person feel guilty for not doing so.
  • The love languages are based on American norms that don't always translate to other cultures. For example, in some cultures, gift giving can be viewed as "buying affection," and public displays of affection are taboo in some cultures.


In 1992, Gary Chapman published The 5 Love Languages, a guide to determining how to give and receive love based on each partner's preferred expressions of love. The five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

While there is not a lot of research on the effectiveness of using Chapman's love language model, studies suggest understanding your partner's primary love language leads to happier relationships.

There are limitations to the model, including heteronormativity, cultural bias, and simplicity. The five love languages should be viewed as a tool to strengthen relationships more than as a sole resource.

A Word From Verywell 

If you and your partner are having trouble connecting, it may be that you each express love in different ways. Learning what makes your partner feel loved and appreciated, and teaching them how to do the same for you, may help bring you closer together.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a sixth love language?

    There is not an official sixth love language, but people sometimes suggest additional ones, including humor or personal space. None of these are included in Chapman's theory.

  • What are the love languages of children?

    The five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving and giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch) can also be applied to children. They can be used to strengthen parent-child relationships. Chapman has a book on how to use the five love languages with children.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.