These Are Better Ways to Show Affection, Based on Your Partners Love Language

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No matter your opinion on Dr. Gary Chapman and his “5 Love Languages,” (some say it revolutionized their marriage; some say Chapman, a Baptist pastor with a Ph.D. in adult education, is a “therapeutic fraud”), you can’t deny that the idea he made mainstream—focusing on showing love and affection to our romantic partners in the way they naturally prefer—is a worthy endeavor.

In case you need a refresher, Gary Chapman’s 1992 book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts introduced the concept that each person has a primary love language in which they prefer to receive and communicate love. It’s either: Acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, or quality time. (To find out yours, take the quiz here.) If your primary love language is different from your partner’s, it may not be intuitive how to fulfill their “love tank.” Here are some ideas.

Acts of service

People whose love language is acts of service feel most loved when others provide help and support to them, without being asked. Some meaningful acts of service include:

  • Filling your partner’s gas tank when it’s low, or taking their car in for service.
  • Taking care of household chores they normally do (especially if it’s something they dread like meal planning or folding laundry).
  • Doing some lingering task neither of you enjoy, like hanging a heavy picture or cleaning the garage.
  • Preparing their favorite meal for no special occasion or picking up lunch for them unexpectedly.
  • Getting the supplies they need for a project, or taking care of household distractions (kids!) so they can work stress-free.
  • Taking the lead on planning an excursion or family trip.
  • Doing all the research and comparison shopping for a major purchase they want to make (new bike, TV, computer).
  • Giving them a full day “off” from family responsibilities and arranging their favorite activities (golf, spa day, brunch with friends, or a guy’s night out).

Words of affirmation

This group thrives when they receive praise, appreciation, compliments, and encouragement. Here are a few ways to provide meaningful words of affirmation beyond saying, “Great job.”

  • Frequently say “I love you” and phrases beginning with “I appreciate when you…” or “I’m so impressed that you…”
  • Leave encouraging voicemails or texts when they’re nervous about something they need to do.
  • Send them a love letter to find in the mailbox among the catalogs and bills.
  • Text them an acrostic with a descriptive, complimentary word for each letter of their name.
  • Leave sweet Post-it notes in unexpected places throughout the house (in their jean pile, the dishwasher, on the bathroom mirror).
  • Compliment them in front of others.
  • Post how proud you are of something they accomplished on social media.

Physical touch

When physical touch is your love language, you crave tactile expressions of love above all else. Here’s how to incorporate more physical touch into your routine (beyond the obvious of frequent hugs, kisses, and sex).

  • Do activities together that require touching: ice skating, roller skating, or visiting an indoor rock climbing wall.
  • Take a ballroom or swing dance class together.
  • Offer foot, neck, head, or shoulder massages.
  • Spontaneously hold their hand while out in public.
  • Offer quick touches like a head scratch, peck on the cheek, or arm squeeze each time you walk past them.

Quality time

For quality-time lovers, nothing beats being around their partner, no matter what you two are doing. From mundane togetherness to eventful occasions, they love nothing more than your undivided attention.

  • Establish a weekly date night, arrange the babysitter, and make a “no phones” rule.
  • Check in on them often with texts, calls, or trips to wherever they are in the house.
  • Pick them up from work or a friend’s house and take them out to dinner or for an impromptu picnic.
  • Run errands together or accompany them to their next appointment.
  • Ask about their bucket list and plan a trip together.
  • Go to bed at the same time as your partner.
  • Take a cooking class together.
  • Make uninterrupted eye contact while speaking with them (avoid being distracted by your phone).

Receiving gifts

Everyone loves receiving gifts. But if it’s your partner’s primary love language, they may need some extra, out-of-the-box thoughtfulness when it comes to gift-giving.

  • Order something from their Amazon wishlist, or something that’s been sitting in their online shopping cart.
  • Take note of their favorite beauty products or gadgets/tools and get them a new tube of their favorite lipstick or sports jersey for no special reason.
  • Bring them things—anything, no matter how small or inexpensive—that remind you of them (also a small token when you get back from work trips).
  • Put together a photo album or collage photo frame of special moments together.
  • Enlist the help of their close friends to brainstorm and personalize “just because” gifts outside of holidays and their birthday.