There are so many ways to love and be loved.
Pastor Gary Chapman introduced the concept of love languages more than thirty years ago in "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate." In his book, he outlined five ways people commonly give and receive love: acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts and physical touch. (Take this free online quiz to find yours.)
“The idea is that by learning what your partner’s love languages are you’re able to better speak directly to their heart and make them feel loved, make them feel appreciated and make them feel connected,” relationship and intimacy coach Jodie Milton tells TODAY.com.
“And when you know your own love language, you’re able to ask for the types of things you need to feel loved, appreciated and accepted,” she adds.
The five love languages, like love itself, have many nuances. To help you better understand yours and your partners, TODAY.com spoke with relationship experts to unpack common misconceptions about love languages. Keep reading to hear what people often get wrong.
1. Our partners don't necessarily have the same love languages as us
Even if you and your partner are totally in sync, you may have different love languages.
Adora Winquist, an author and expert on love and relationships, tells TODAY.com that many people assume that their partner wants to receive love the same way as they do.
But when this happens, it can leave their partners feeling unheard — and perhaps, unloved.
"So many clients are like, 'Well I love all of these things, so I do those for my partner," Winquist says. "And the partner is like, 'But that's not that's not my love language. I don't feel like you see me when that happens.'"
2. We don't spend enough time learning about our partner's love languages
Your partner's love languages are just as important as your own. Winquist often finds that clients are so invested in their own needs that they don't take the time to ask their partner if their needs are being met.
"When we spend too much time in our heads, thinking about love, overanalyzing things, we miss the boat," Winquist says.
That said, Reece Stockhausen, a relationship and intimacy coach, adds that it's equally important to take time to understand the ins and outs of our partner's love languages — in addition to our own.
"By focusing on that one thing, then we can tend to forget about the importance of the other love languages, and that most of us do need to receive love in multiple different ways," Stockhausen tells TODAY.com.
3. Gifts don't have to cost a lot of money
Gifts can come in all shapes, sizes and monetary amounts.
“For people who have receiving gifts as their primary love language I think often the misnomer is ‘Oh, it has to be an expensive piece of jewelry, or you know, some kind of like high-end gift,’” Winquist says. “But the truth is, a gift that’s handmade can often have more meaning than an expensive piece of jewelry."
Small gifts can make a big impact, especially if they come from the heart. A plus: Since they're more wallet-friendly, there's a good chance that you can shower your loved one with more gifts throughout the year.
4. Your partner doesn't always know what you need to hear
There are a million ways your partner can spell out how much they appreciate you — but one statement may mean more to you than another.
An example: "One couple comes to me and the wife tells me her partner says he loves her all the time and yes it feels really good to hear but I want him to say, 'Listen babe, I really understand you,'" Winquist says.
It's important to be upfront and honest with your partner about how you want them to express their love. Otherwise, Winquist adds they "might be missing the ball on what you need to hear."
(Psst, is words of affirmation her love language? These love messages for her are a great starting point.)
5. Physical touch is not the same as sexual intimacy
Milton points out that people often assume that sexual intimacy is an aspect of physical touch, but she says it's in a category of its own. "I would say add a sixth love language, sexual intimacy," she says.
"You will often find people saying that is one of the biggest ways I feel loved by my partner," she adds. "And sexual intimacy is more than just sex, it's erotic play, it's flirting but it definitely is different to physical touch."
In fact, Winquist says it the small, everyday gestures that often fulfill the desire for physical touch. Maybe it's a backrub at the end of a long day or brushing their leg when they tell a good joke. “It doesn’t have to be a whole hour-long massage, just a simple touch or I’m going out to work I’m going to give my partner a kiss before I leave, just so they know how important that they are," she says.
6. Love languages can (and probably will) change
Love languages will likely evolve as the years go on. Milton says you might start a relationship thinking receiving gifts is super important to yo, but you might find you're actually missing something deeper in your relationship and yearn for words of affirmation.
"So, depending on what's going on in your relationship, you might actually find yourself craving other love languages that you didn't actually realize were important to you," Milton says.
7. You give and receive love differently
The results of the love language quiz reveal how you prefer to receive love, but Milton explains that a lot of people actually give love in a different way.
For example, some people like to receive physical touch as their love language, but will naturally give acts of service. Some people might crave hearing words of affirmation, but find it difficult to speak words of praise or affection to their partner.
"This is especially true for men," Milton says. "We live in a culture that teaches boys and men that there are appropriate ways to show your love — such as with gifts or acts of service — but we discourage them from talking openly about their feelings or needing or asking for affectionate touch."