Author of The Five Love Languages Dr Gary Chapman says It is very important to understand and speak the love language of your partner to keep your love tank filled to the brim. So, what exactly are these five languages Dr Chapman speaks of? 

1. Words of affirmation

Words of affirmation shows the power of words and the impact they can have on an individual. When we use positive, encouraging and uplifting words, it speaks to the heart and makes someone feel valued and special, says Shaldon Fitzgerald, a Cape Town-based hypnotherapist. He explains how actions don’t always speak louder than words.  “I once counselled a couple who’d been married for 34 years. The wife’s primary love language was words of affirmation. She burst into tears during one session, saying to her husband, ‘You never say you love me.’ He had a look of absolute shock on his face and said,   ‘But I make you tea every morning.’ For him, by bringing her tea in bed every morning, he was telling her he loved her. She never ‘heard’ it because her expression of love came in words or touch,”  Fitzgerald adds.

If this is your love language, spontaneous compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you”  or “You did well” or “I’m proud of you” is important. Hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward while insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.


2. Receiving gifts

Phumla Zondo, 32, shares: “I’ve been giving my husband gifts as a way of expressing my love for him. I put a lot of thought into those gifts, and I love surprising him. But he’d receive the gift and just say, ‘Oh cool, thanks,’ and then put it aside. That hurt a lot because that wasn’t the reaction I wanted. One day he explained to me that he appreciates the effort but he prefers spending time with me, rather than getting gifts.” Don’t mistake this love language for materialism,  Dr Chapman cautions in his book. The receiver of gifts (small, large and even inexpensive) thrives on the thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. It shows you are known, cared for, and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty,thoughtless gift would be disastrous for someone with this love language. 

3. Quality time

Dr Chapman says nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical. This means the TV is off, and all chores and tasks are on standby to make your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be very hurtful.

Paula Quinsee, a Joburg-based relationship expert, defines quality time as giving the gift of your presence to your partner, doing things together, sharing experiences, creating moments and memories (for example, going on a hike together).

4. Acts of service

Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love to someone.  Thuli Ngobese, 28, says she feels truly cared for when her boyfriend lends a helping hand. “When my boyfriend takes my car to the garage to be serviced and ensures the tyres are pumped and in good condition, I can’t help but feel cared for and loved; it shows that he cares about my safety. When I hear him say ‘Let me do that for you’ I just melt,” she says.

5. Physical touch

Some people think physical touch is all about sex, but it’s not. Holding hands, hugging and cuddling are also a way of communicating emotional love. Dr Chapman describes in his book that in this love language nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Hugs, pats on the back,  holding hands and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they all show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

If you aren’t sure what your or your partner’s love languages are, visit Dr Gary Chapman’s website (www.5lovelanguages.com/gary-chapman) to take a quick quiz and find out.