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What is your love language?

Understanding your love language – the way you give and receive love – can be a gamechanger in your relationships.

“Honest, open and vulnerable communication is the most important thing to a healthy relationship,” says Mark Flanagan, LMSW, MPH, MA, a social worker at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “In truth, many couples and family members have difficulty communicating their wants and needs to one another. Love languages can be a fun and engaging way to learn the desires of those you love.”

Love languages are a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote the book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” Dr. Chapman identifies the following love languages:

  • Physical touch. This includes physical contact, like hugging, kissing, holding hands or massage.

  • Quality time. Examples include focused conversation, a romantic dinner, taking a long walk, playing a game or doing a puzzle together.

  • Receiving gifts. Some people feel most loved when they receive gifts, such as flowers, a favorite treat, sports tickets or any other meaningful item.

  • Acts of service. These include actions that are helpful to a loved one, like cleaning, yard work, cooking, running errands and taking care of pets or children.

  • Words of affirmation. This means using words to give a loved one a compliment or meaningful praise.

What determines your love language?

“Through your social interactions and the way you were raised, you may come to believe that certain actions are more closely associated with love than others,” explains Flanagan.

You may show love and receive love in different ways. For example, you may enjoy giving gifts to your family and friends, but prefer when they offer words of encouragement and support (words of affirmation). Also, it’s possible to have more than one love language.

To better understand your loved one and yourself, Flanagan suggests asking each other the following questions:

  1. Do you like giving/receiving hugs and kisses? (physical touch)

  2. Do you like it when we hang out and engage with one another? (quality time)

  3. Do you like giving/getting presents? (receiving gifts)

  4. Do you like it when I do work around the house or yard for you? (acts of service)

  5. Do you like it when I say nice things about you? (words of affirmation)

It can be beneficial to know not only your romantic partner’s love language(s), but also those of your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors – anyone who is important to you.

“The most important thing is to start a dialogue with those you love,” says Flanagan. “You may be surprised with how empowering it feels to share your wants and needs, and how enlightening it may be for your loved one. Even if your partner, friend or family member doesn’t resonate with the idea of love languages, simply showing interest in the wants and needs of your loved one will enhance connection and encourage future communication.”

Learn more about how to strengthen your relationships.

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