What Is Your Emotional Love Language?

I’m a huge Vince Vaughn fan.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Swingers, Made, Old School, Wedding Crashers, and Dodgeball.  These are all classic Vaughn comedies that I never tire of watching.  On the other hand, I wasn’t such a big fan of Vaughn’s 2006 movie “The Break Up” with Jennifer Aniston.  Having said that, I think the dysfunctional dynamic between Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Aniston) accurately and hilariously reflects a fundamental source of frustration in many romantic relationships:

Brooke: I just don’t know how we got here. Our entire relationship, I have gone above and beyond for you, for us. I’ve cooked, I’ve picked your shit up off the floor, I’ve laid your clothes out for you like you’re a four-year old. I support you, I supported your work. If we ever had dinner or anything I did the plans, I take care of everything. And I just don’t feel like you appreciate any of it. I don’t feel you appreciate me. All I want is to know, is for you to show me that you care.

Gary: Why didn’t you just say that to me?

Brooke: I tried. I’ve tried.

Gary: Never like that, you might have said some things that meant to imply that, but I’m not a mind reader…

In another scene, Brooke is in the kitchen following a dinner party at their condo.  Gary sits down to play video games while Brooke is washing the dishes.  She gets angry and asks him to help, and he begrudgingly agrees.

THEN, Brooke says she doesn’t want him to do it because she asked him to, but rather “I want you to want to do the dishes.”  Gary finds this ridiculous, of course, and says “who would want to do the dishes?”

Brooke and Gary didn’t understand how to love each other.  Each thought they were doing a good job at expressing their love, and yet the other person was not feeling loved.  That’s where the idea of “emotional love languages” comes into play. The premise is that we all feel and express love differently, and understanding those differences is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve any relationship.

Gary Chapman (not to be confused with Vince Vaughn’s movie character “Gary”) is a marriage counselor and bestselling author who coined the term “emotional love languages.”  In his book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” Chapman helps break down and decode the different ways in which people communicate with their partners.

Based on his 30-plus years of couples counseling, Chapman theorizes that most of us express and interpret love in the same five ways – i.e., the five love languages.  According to Chapman, couples rarely speak the same emotional love language.  “Your emotional love language and that of your spouse may be as different as Mandarin from English – no matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse only understands Mandarin, you’ll never understand how to love each other.”  So the challenge (and possible key to a long-lasting, loving relationship) is to identify and learn to speak your significant other’s primary love language.

The 5 Love Languages

  1. Words of affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words.  If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you.  Hearing “I love you” is important to you, and hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward.  Conversely, insults and negative comments can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

  1. Quality time

If this is your love language, nothing says “I love you” like getting your significant other’s full, undivided attention.  Really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved.  Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

  1. Receiving gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.  If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, cared for, and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you.  A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift is disastrous.

  1. Acts of service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love?  Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes.  The words he or she most want to hear are “Let me do that for you.”  If this is your love language, laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for you all mean “my feelings don’t matter.”

  1. Physical touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom.  Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.  Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

What Matters Most to You and to Your Partner?

Chapman firmly believes that each person has one primary and one secondary love language (you can take a quiz on his website to determine what your personal love languages are).  After taking the quiz, share your results with your significant other and encourage him/her to do the same.  This tool may finally take some of the mystery out of what your significant other really wants and needs from you.

When you realize what your significant other does and doesn’t care about, you can empathize better.  It also creates clarity.  Your reasons for arguing make a little more sense.  And when you understand why you’re arguing, you’re in a better position to come up with a solution and (hopefully) avoid and/or short-circuit the same argument in the future.



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