People show love and feel loved in many different ways. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages named the five love languages as: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality time, Acts of service and Receiving gifts. He has a great little quiz on his website to determine how each person's love languages are ranked in importance.
Love languages are a very helpful relationship tool. Once we know how we feel loved it is easier to clearly ask for what we want and know that what we want is OK. It is also easier to understand that our consciencious efforts to let another know we love them may not be received as we mean them to be.
A brief description of each love language follows.
The person to whom this is their main language loves to be touched hugged cuddled massaged and stroked. They will probably be a very touchy person themselves. They like to hold hands, have an arm put around them and sit close together. Experiencing physical touch and closeness they feel special and loved.
Words of Affirmation
This person wants to be verbally appreciated and complemented. They want to hear about their attractiveness, have their accomplishments encouraged and acknowledged and be validated for their ideas and passions. If the person who has this as their first love language is verbally affirmed they feel loved.
The person who has quality time as their first love language wants to have undivided attention. Their bliss comes from having the undistracted presence of a loved one. The activity being done is not as important as sharing it with another in a focused way. Multi tasking while talking or being with this person can feel hurtful.
Acts of service
The person who has this as their first love language values things being done for them. They feel loved by receiving help with household tasks. They love it when a loved one does something for them without being asked. They feel especially special when the act of service is something the other person would rather not do and does it anyway.
The person who has this love language values gifts large and small as an experience of being loved. They aren't necessarily materialistic. Thoughtful hand made gifts would be of great value. Forgetting a special occasion would be hurtful to this person and a personal gift would light this person up.
Let's say my main love language is words of affirmation. I will probably tell my partner I love him and spend a lot of energy saying what I appreciate about him. . Because that is how I feel loved I will express my love in those ways. Let's say his top love language is acts of service. He will do things for me to show his love. He will do research about things I plan to purchase and shovel the walk before I get home. Both of us are very clearly expressing our love for each other in ways that the other person doesn't experience as being loved. This is how knowing you and your parntner's main love language can help couples express their love in the way their partner will experience as being loving. Most people could experience being loved with any of the five languages. The key is that we value them in different degrees. See if you can rank the love languages for yourself. This tool is valuable for non-romantic relationships with people we care about too. If you always hug your sister to show your love and she values gifts it would probably be helpful to thoughtfully buy her something you think she would really like. You could let her know how much a hug means to you. When we know the main love language of a loved one we can make an effort to express love in the way they will receive it. That act deepens our connection and is exteremly satisfying. It seems so efficient to me. I like that. One last thought- if i know how I feel loved I can be loving to myself in the way I feel loved, too. Be curious about that and see if the love languages can help you be more effectively loving with yourself, too.