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The Love Languages get an Update

Heard about the 5 Love Languages? Now there are 7 Love Styles! Learn more about this update and how learning your love style can help your relationship not get lost in translation.

I had planned another blog series to begin today but then realized it’s Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t not write about love today (yes, yes, cynics ... I know this is an arbitrary day but is it so bad to have a reminder to express our love?). Grab your partner (friends and animals count) and get ready to read about this exciting V-day news.

I have often helped couples think about how they most easily express and receive love by bringing in Dr. Gary Chapman’s Love Languages.

I think his categorization highlights a foundational truth: 

Like every emotion, each person computes, feels, and experiences, love differently. 

While this may seem like common sense, I can’t tell you how many times couples in my now mostly electronic office struggle with this basic premise. When we are so close to someone, we often assume that they think, feel, and thus, should act, just like us.

Sometimes the hardest and most foundational part of the therapy work is helping each person really inhabit the world of the other and to understand that despite how close they are, there are many, many differences in perception, reception, and action between their partner and themselves.

While we are so much more complex than any category can encapsulate, the love languages provide a really easy way to think about the ways in which needs and wants are unique to each person.

When individuals are stuck in seeing the ways in which their partner does not meet their needs, it can be easy to forget that sometimes we are having issues in expression and not intention.

Getting couples to reflect on the ways their partner does show their care and love allows individuals to soothe their hurt feelings and to see actions by their partners with new light. It also helps people more directly communicate the ways in which they would like to receive love. Asking for our needs to be met can be incredibly vulnerable and knowing the ways in which you best receive love can make it easier to ask and to receive!

The Five Love Languages* are:

*take the test here

1. Words of affirmation

People fluent in this value verbal communication.

This means: They feel loved when they are verbally recognized and appreciated. Whether speaking words of encouragement, acknowledgement, or kindness, they receive it best when it's said (written works too).

Practical applications: cards, poems, expressed thanks, verbal “I love yous,” love notes

2. Physical touch

People fluent in this language value sensual connection.

This means: They are affectionate and easily express love through hugs, comforting touches, and cuddles. They feel loved when they are physically close to their partner and their partner reaches out.

Practical applications: baths together, back rubs, kisses, hugs, sex

3. Receiving gifts

People fluent in this language value (in)tangible representations.

This means: Rather than think about speakers of this love language as materialistic, think about how they appreciate the thoughtfulness and sweetness of a perfect gift. As corny as it sounds, it’s really the thought that counts.

Practical applications: care packages, getting them something they have mentioned, special outings, unique gifts

4. Acts of service

People fluent in this language value concrete support.

This means: They look for ways to make your life easier in practical and concrete ways and feel loved when someone is thinking about their daily experience of life and their responsibilities and wants to lend a helping hand.

Practical applications: filling up the gas tank, doing the dishes, handling an errand, cleaning up, taking a tedious task off the list

5. Quality time

People fluent in this language value shared experiences.

This means: They feel most loved when spending intentional time together. Bonding over a shared activity or a movie makes them feel prioritized.

Practical applications: Zoom cooking dates, working out together, having a standing date night, putting phones away when together

- - - - - - -

While these love languages have been useful in my work with couples, Dr. Chapman is a pastor and counselor whose work was based on heterosexual couples in the 1950s. While the need for human connection and being loved knows no gender and has been around for much longer than that, it’s important to consider context when thinking about application.

Time is also a factor.

Marriage has changed a lot. We expect more from our partners than ever before.

When I would ask my grandparents about their marriage, they would say: “She has been a good mother to our children” or “He has always been a good provider and protector of our family.” My grandparents’ version of marriage was a much more traditional, gender-based division with clear norms and expectations. I didn’t often hear them say “I love you” but what they had lasted for 65+ years and they were “happy” (again, my word because I not sure being happy would be their number one priority).

Marriage was about stability and security and fulfilling roles – not often about love. My grandparents used words like respect and support when talking about what they had.

Never before have people wanted and needed more from their relationships. People want their partners to be their best friend, companion, mental equal, life partner, business support, family connection, sexual adventurer, and more. 

Additionally, with the global pandemic truncating so many people's communities and social networks, couples are turning more and more to one another to fill a wealth of needs we used to get met from the collective "village."

Couples now are struggling to see eye-to-eye and be able to communicate these needs as well as to have healthy expectations in the midst of the current circumstances.

Given the lack of diversity in the creation of the original 5 Love Languages and the evolving landscape of marriage, Truity surveyed over half a million diverse couples across the world to come up with their 7 Love Styles.

I connected with Truity's founder and CEO Molly Owens who echoed all of this:

“We really hope our new assessment updates and expands the concept of love languages to put emphasis on what really matters in modern relationships - and that is a useful tool for couples and counselors. 

We suspected that updated research across a more diverse sample might yield results that were more applicable and helpful for modern couples - and we certainly heard from them about the love styles that weren’t adequately addressed in the original 5 Love Languages - possibly because our expectations of relationships have simply shifted with the times.

These new Love Styles, just released earlier this week, are:

1. Activity

People who focus on the Activity love language feel special and valued when their partner takes an interest in their hobbies and activities and makes an effort to enjoy hobbies and interests together.

2. Appreciation

People who focus on the Appreciation love language feel loved when their partner gives them compliments, praise and thanks. They appreciate hearing explicitly what their partner likes and admires about them.

3. Emotional

Those who focus on the Emotional love language feel loved when their partner connects with them and supports them through difficult and scary emotions. Being present for the highs and lows is very important to those with the Emotional love language.

4. Financial

People with the Financial love language feel loved when their partner is generous with resources and sees value in spending money to bring their partner pleasure and joy. This love language may be expressed through gifts or just making space in the family budget for your partner's enjoyment.

5. Intellectual

People with the Intellectual love language like to connect through the mind. They feel loved when their partner values their intelligence, respects their opinion and thoughtfully discusses important issues.

6. Physical

People with the Physical love language feel loved when they receive physical affection—hugs, holding hands and snuggles. They want their partners to show they're attracted to them and initiate loving touch.

7. Practical

People with the Practical love language feel loved when their partners chip in with everyday duties and responsibilities. They feel cared for when their loved ones do chores and offer help.

- - - - - - -

You can read more about their research and their test here … yours truly was quoted ;)

And you can take the test here.

I took the test ... no surprise my Primary Love Style is Emotional (followed by Intellectual). When I took it, I instinctively sent a picture of the results to the group chat with my girlfriends of 20+ years. They took the test and we texted and joked about our differences ("We all know you don't like practical help" and my favorite: "I don't need praise. I know I'm amazing. Put me into your budget").

So whether you are partnered or single, sharing with a significant other or a friend, try learning an updated version of an old language this Valentine's Day!

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