My falling in love with William was an inevitable consequence of his selflessness. Within the first month of meeting, we found ourselves on weekly dates and nightly phone calls, due primarily to his efforts. He lived two cities away and, no matter the time of day, fighting traffic was an undefeatable certainty. But regardless of his stress level or magnitude of road rage, he took on this challenge and never once missed a date.  

His actions consistently proved his commitment to spending time with me and I was sold. Though his faith, intellect, humor and good looks won me over, what moved me from infatuation to adoration was his proficiency in speaking my primary love language: quality time.

More than two decades ago, marriage counselor Gary Chapman began a movement with his best-selling book: “The Five Love Languages.”  In the book, Chapman details the “five ways that people speak and understand emotional love.”  He says people in relationships rarely share the same love language, and stresses the importance of understanding what the other needs in order to keep their love tank full.  

So, what are these love languages, anyway? Chapman analyzed years of marriage counseling notes and found that what people really need in order to feel loved falls into five simple categories, as follows:

Words of Affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words “I love you” are important, but hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten – if ever.

Quality Time

In the vernacular of quality time, nothing says, “I love you” like undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Failure to be present can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift shows that you are known, you are cared for and you are appreciated above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. Someone missing your birthday or anniversary, or receiving a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous for you.

Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? You bet. Anything one does to ease the burden of responsibility weighing on the “acts of service” person will speak volumes. Broken commitments, laziness and making more work for them tells them they don’t matter.

Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person with this primary language is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, holding hands and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder or face can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial. Neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and irreversibly destructive.

I knew my primary love language before I met William and, while I thought I knew my then-boyfriend well enough to guess his love language, I had it all wrong.  While he was dedicated to giving me more time and attention than I felt I deserved, quality time was not his primary or even secondary love language.  Physical touch – that is the language responsible for keeping his love tank full. Thankfully, I am a card-carrying member of club affection. He appreciates that I do not leave the house without kissing him,  he loves that I reach for his hand when we walk and he can feel the day’s stress literally leave his body the moment I reach under his shirt to rub his back. It is amazing that we naturally speak each other’s love language, which could give insight into why we met, fell in love and were engaged within six months.  

A wedding, a few years and five boys later, when real life challenges often collide with our fairytale romance, we both can be left feeling unseen, unheard and frustrated. These are the days I may not want to be in the same room as William, much less rub his back. These are the times he may prefer to sit in front of the television alone and uninterrupted – giving his undivided time and attention to a sandwich and football. These days may be unavoidable, however knowing and understanding your loved one’s love language will allow you to better meet their needs and lessen those love language-less days.

If you’re interested in learning your love language, go to www.5lovelanguages.com. Understand what it means and discuss it in detail with those you most care about. Through this practice, you will better appreciate why you and your loved one react to situations and circumstances differently (like why you respond with enthusiasm to them coming home with your favorite ice cream, yet they respond with indifference when you do the same!). Begin to communicate by giving examples of how your loved one already speaks your love language and how it fills your love tank.  And, above all, work at speaking your loved one’s love language. Then watch how your connection with them deepens.