Making This Valentine’s Count: An Actionable Guide to the 5 Love Languages

It’s 14 February today – or what most people know as Valentine’s Day. For some couples, it might be a day of roses, chocolates, showering each other with gifts and a good dinner. For individuals without a significant other, it might be enjoying a night out with friends.

However, let’s not forget to celebrate the most important part of today: love & appreciation. It’s not just love & appreciation for your spouse, it’s also about showing love for your family, friends, colleagues and others around us. It’s really about genuinely enjoying relationships.

In relationships, people tend to show love to a partner in the way they’d personally most like to receive it. For example, those of us who need a big bear hug when we’re stressed might assume our partners would want the same. In reality, they may wish we had helped them cross something off their never-ending to-do list instead. Enter 5 languages of love.

First, what are ‘5 Languages of Love’ in short?

In summary, 5 languages of love try to define how each of us want to receive love more. Gary Chapman ― a pastor, speaker and author who has been married for more than 50 years ― explored this concept in his 1992 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, which has sold more than 11 million copies to date.

If you haven’t taken the test before, take the test here:  It’s entirely free and takes only 5 minutes!

The five love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Gifts
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to you than all the others. Discovering each other’s language and speaking it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in any relationship – be it a marriage, a parent-child relationship or even between friends.

#1: Words of Affirmation – “I must verbally express how I feel.”

fountain pen next to red Thank You journal

This love language expresses love with words that build up your partner. Verbal compliments don’t have to be complicated; the shortest and simplest words of affirmation can be the most effective. Even better is including the reasons behind the love: leave them a voice message, a written note, or talking to them directly with sincere words of kindness and affirmation.

“That shirt looks incredible on you!”

“You always make me laugh.”

“I love your hair today.”

Words mean a lot to a person with this love language. Compliments and an “I love you” can go a long way. On the other side, negative or insulting comments can hurt this person and take longer to forgive than others.

Some Ideas for Words of Affirmation

  • Thank them for cooking a tasty meal
  • Congratulate them for hitting a weight loss milestone or achieving a workout goal
  • Leave an encouraging note when they have a big presentation at work
  • Remind them how capable they are when they doubt themselves
  • Compliment their outfit, hair or something else about their appearance
  • Hide a card with a loving message in their suitcase if they’re going on a trip
  • Send them a text just to say you were thinking of them
  • Send them a letter in the mail telling them you appreciate them
  • Share something nice they did on Facebook or Instagram
  • Give them a phone call just to say how much you love them

#2 Gifts – “He/She was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”

photo of white and red gift box

In case you were wondering, this love language isn’t necessarily materialistic. It just means that a meaningful or thoughtful gift makes them feel appreciated and loved. Something as simple as picking up a pint of their favorite ice cream after a long work week can make an impact on this love language. Take note, though: this is different than Acts of Service – those are purely helpful and taking work off of your partner’s plate.

“The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift,” Chapman said. “The trick here is picking the right gift that shows you understand your partner and the effort you made to express love. Think about finding a gift that your partner has been asking for or would enjoy receiving, and plan for a special way of giving it, make it a surprise.”

Some Ideas for Gifts

  • Keep a note in your phone of specific things they mention wanting or needing so you have a list of gift ideas for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays
  • Buy them concert tickets when their favorite band is in town
  • After a trip, bring home a souvenir or trinket that made you think of them
  • Order their favorite childhood candy or snack ― bonus points if it’s a regional treat or something that has since been discontinued

#3 Acts of Service – “I’ll do something for others that I know they would like.”

person mopping the floor

Your partner might have this love language if their motto is “Actions speak louder than words.”

This love language expresses itself by doing things that you know your spouse would like. Cooking a meal, doing the laundry, and picking up a prescription, are all acts of service. They require some thought, time, and effort. All of these things must be done with positivity and with your partner’s ultimate happiness in mind to be considered an expression of love. Actions out of obligation and with a negative tone are something else entirely.

“Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibility — vacuuming, going grocery shopping, sending thank-you notes — will satisfy this type of partner,” Chapman said. “Ask your partner to give ideas for things they’d like you to do that would make their life easier, and make a schedule to get them done.”

Some Ideas for Acts of Service

  • Do ALL housework for a weekend (no, seriously do it!)
  • Get their car washed, fill up the gas tank
  • Pick up their dry cleaning, do their laundry
  • Pack an awesome home-cooked lunch
  • If they need to bring a present to a party or event, help by picking it out or even purchasing it for them

#4 Quality Time – “They deserve my undivided attention”

selective focus photo of woman lifting child during daytime

This love language is all about undivided attention. No televisions, no smartphones, or any other distractions. They think talk is cheap and the type of action they want is to be your main focus.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t curl up on the couch to watch Netflix or HBO; it just means that you need to make sure to dedicate time together without all of the distractions. That will help them feel comforted in the relationship.

Remember: Every time you cancel a date, postpone time together or aren’t present during your time together, it can be hurtful to your partner.

Some Ideas for Quality Time:

  • Plan a staycation
  • Have coffee together before work
  • After work, set aside 10 minutes to catch up — no phones allowed
  • Plan a date night with your spouse
  • Always maintain eye contact when you’re having a conversation
  • Take a walk together
  • Go to bed at the same time, if possible

#5 Physical Touch“I’ll be sure to show some physical touch.”

person hugging someone

To this love language, nothing is more impactful than the physical touch of their partner. They aren’t necessarily into over-the-top PDA, but they do feel more connected and safe in a relationship by holding hands, kissing, hugging. If physical touch is a person’s primary love language without it they will feel unloved. All of the words and gifts in the world won’t change that.

Be intentional about finding ways to express your love using physical touch: giving hugs, touching their arm or hand during a conversation, offer to give a neck or back rub.

Some Ideas for Physical Touch:

  • Give a loving hug
  • Cuddle while you’re watching TV
  • Always kiss hello and goodbye
  • Rub their neck after a long day
  • Treat them to a back rub
  • Gently rest your hand on their lower back at a party
  • Touch toes while you’re laying in bed
  • Hold hands on a walk
  • Put your arm around them at a concert

So, how will you show love and appreciation this Valentine’s?