The Five Love Languages

Posted on in Healthy Living by Gary Chapman

Filling Your Love Tank


Imagine a couple named Trevor and Allison. After their first anniversary, their marriage is on its deathbed. Neither partner would have ever expected this. The beginning of their relationship was so vibrant. Now they don’t feel love from each other.

Allison accuses Trevor, “You don’t love me,” and he replies, “If I didn’t love you then I wouldn’t have . . .” “But Trevor, you never . . .” He accuses her of refusing to acknowledge his obvious love for her, but deep down he also feels that she doesn’t love him. “If Allison loved me, she would . . .” he says to himself. If their relationship continues like this, they will likely separate.

This is the type of story I’ve heard again and again as a marriage counselor. No one gets married with the expectation that it will someday end in divorce. And if most marriages remained as they are in the first few weeks or months, divorce would truly be rare. Sadly, it’s quite common.

Why do marriages not stay in the honeymoon stage for life? The answer to this begins with understanding that love does not remain the same throughout a relationship. During the early stages of a relationship, being in love is euphoric—the partners are intensely happy together, and it takes very little effort. This stage tends to last for approximately two years, and then they come down off the emotional high and are disillusioned.

You see, we each have an emotional need for love. I like to think of it as a “love tank.” When our love tank is full, we are able to approach life with confidence. When our tank is empty, the whole of life seems meaningless.

After many years of counseling and taking notes during each session, I sat down one day and began thinking about what it takes for a person to feel loved. It became apparent to me that what makes one person feel loved isn’t always the same for their spouse or partner. I discovered every person understands and receives love primarily in a specific language—one of five to be precise. The other four are just as important and also offer ways to express love to each other. When I began sharing this concept with couples, and they made the commitment to take the time to discover each other’s primary love language, the emotional climate began to improve in their relationship. So what are the five love languages?

man and woman in bed
  1. Words of affirmation. For people with this love language, words are more important than actions. They need to hear “I love you.” Even better is including the reasons behind the love. Insults are a huge issue for people who speak this love language, and they have a hard time letting go of hurtful comments.
  2. Quality time. Giving your partner your undivided attention is what matters most to them. That means no TV, no chores, no cell phone, just giving each other your undivided attention. Putting off dates, acting distracted, or not listening can be deal breakers for people who speak this love language.
  3. Receiving gifts. Don’t mistake this love language for materialism. The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. The trick here is picking the right gift that shows you understand your partner and the effort you made to express love. Forgetting a big event or choosing something completely unlike them can be a turnoff.
  4. Acts of service. This love language is about help. Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibility—vacuuming, going grocery shopping, sending thank-you notes—will satisfy this type of partner. The danger zones: laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them.
  5. Physical touch. It’s not just about sex; however, sex is a great way to express physical touch. People who speak this love language thrive on any type of physical touch: hand holding, hugs, and pats on the back. If you’re not physically present, this type of partner can feel neglected.

If your primary love language is Physical Touch, then a hug from a friend or a kiss from your spouse each say “I love you” in a profound way. If your language is Words of Affirmation, and someone compliments you on a job well done or tells you that you look good, you are elated.

If you notice above, Trevor and Allison are each expecting the other to express love in a certain way. They each want to be loved in their own language. Likewise, our natural tendency is to express love as we would like it to be expressed to us.

This is why many love tanks feel empty and relationships fall apart. If you want to start marriage right, learn to speak your partner’s love language. You may have to do this for weeks until it feels natural. However, as you begin to do so, your affections for each other will grow deeper and deeper as you each continually affirm your love for each other in the right language.

Your marriage can last a lifetime, and the first step on this journey is to discover your own and your partner’s primary love language. Take the free 10- to 15-minute profile on and discover the secret to love that lasts.

Gary Chapman is an internationally known author, speaker, pastor, and counselor with a passion for helping people form lasting relationships. He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants.

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