We want to show the people we love just how much we actually love them, but it’s not always clear what the best way to do that is.
Do you buy them flowers? Build them an ornate cabinet? Do you write them a flowery poem, or take them for a long sunset drive along the shore? Do you skip all that and just rip their clothes off for a passionate lovemaking session?
Some people might opt for all of the above choices, but others could pick one or two options and be satisfied without overthinking it. That’s the principle behind the idea of love languages, which holds that people both give and receive love in specific ways.
Knowing that can mark a huge step forward for your relationship, or for you as a future member of one if you’re single.
In order to better understand how to channel the power of love languages, AskMen spoke to two relationship experts about how to use love languages to spoil your partner. Here’s what they had to say:
What Are Love Languages?
The idea behind love languages is not a complicated one. The theory holds that “there are five ways in which people predominantly give and receive love,” says Kerri Middleton, sex and relationship expert at Bathmate.
These so-called “languages” are as follows:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Quality time
- Physical touch
“The concept of love languages was developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts where he describes these five unique styles of communicating love,” adds Middleton.
While Chapman was not a trained relationship expert — his Ph.D. is in adult education — and he has professed bigoted viewpoints on a number of subjects, the core idea behind love languages is a solid one that can genuinely help couples communicate better and feel more appreciated.
If you have no idea what your primary love language is, you can either take a short, free online test to find out or simply intuit it based on what you find most meaningful (or what you have the most trouble going without) in a romantic relationship.
Why Understanding Your Partner’s Love Language Is Important
Depending on how familiar you are with them, love languages might sound fake or frivolous, but in reality, miscommunication around love languages is often at the heart of relationship fights.
“There’s a common relationship occurrence which I call the ‘Disaster Equation,’” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.
She describes a relationship where person A loves person B the way person A wants to be loved, while person B loves person A the way person B wants to be loved. But their styles don’t match up, and each person ends up feeling “unloved and unappreciated.”
In this kind of relationship, Tessina says, “the resentment builds on both sides,” leading to “a natural disaster with mutual accusations and mutual guilt.”
“For example,” shares Middleton, “you may be showering your partner with expensive gifts, but if what they really want is to have a sit-down dinner with you, away from all distractions, chances are the gift will be quickly forgotten.”
However, if both people realize they possess different love languages, then their assumptions about love can begin to evolve. Now, says Tessina, person A and person B “want to learn from each other.” Person A “learns how [person] B wants to be loved, and teaches person B how to love person A.” Person B does the same.
“This all comes about because [both people] have recognized the necessity of learning and teaching styles,” explains Tessina. “They dropped their assumptions about the meanings of each other’s behavior and learned to question and understand each other.”
How to Spoil Someone Based on Their Love Language
Now that you’re in the know about love languages, you might be wondering how best to put that knowledge to use. Well, you’re in luck. Here are ways to make someone feel extra loved for each of the five love languages:
Words of Affirmation
If your partner’s sweet spot is hearing things that make them feel nice, Middleton suggests “writing a thoughtful card or letter to help bring you closer to one another.”
If that’s not something you have a ton of experience with, try reading AskMen’s guide to doing just that:
Broadly speaking, she notes that you also could “make a habit of giving meaningful compliments, sending an out-of-the-blue text message telling your partner how much they mean to you or leaving notes around the house.”
People whose primary love language is physical touch crave hugs, hand-holding, cuddling — touch of any kind, really. Not being touched by their partner for a long time can have them on edge, like they’re getting the physical version of the silent treatment.
In order to spoil someone for whom physical touch is super important, “build up touch throughout the day,” suggests Middleton, mentioning a massage as one good option.
RELATED: How to Give a Sensual Massage
“In the bedroom,” she says, “experiment with different positions or tantric sex — a form of intimacy that transcends both the sexual and spiritual planes by engaging in deeply meditative and intimate sex.”
And if you can’t touch them because you’re apart? Do your best to communicate that you understand how important touch is to them.
“If you’re separated by distance, tell your partner how much you miss touching them,” she says, “going into as much detail as possible.”
If your partner’s primary love language is gifts, there are lots of ways to give thoughtful gifts beyond just buying them.
“Think of something meaningful,” suggests Middleton. “It could be something that reminds you of them or something that relates to an inside joke or a happy memory. They’ll very much appreciate the thought and effort you put into the gift.”
To that end, she suggests you keep a list of “key dates” written down somewhere — things like the anniversary of your first date, maybe, or your partner’s upcoming graduation or choir performance. Celebrating these with gifts, even small ones, will go a long way.
People whose primary love language is quality time struggle particularly with distracted partners. That’s why Middleton’s No. 1 suggestion, in the hectic era we currently inhabit, is a digital detox:
“Turn off your phone,” she says. “Focus purely on your partner!”
What that looks like will vary from couple to couple, but Middleton suggests simply engaging in regular ‘date nights’ where your partner is the total focus: “You can plan to cook a romantic dinner together, make some cocktails, dance around the room or watch a movie together. Whatever you plan on doing — big or small — the key here is to be present. This will ignite a romantic spark and bring you closer together.”
Acts of Service
Engaging in acts of service might not feel like the most romantic thing to the giver, but it’s how the receiver feels that counts.
“Doing a quick clean of the house or taking a task off their to-do list can help them feel more relaxed and appreciated,” says Middleton. “If you plan on cooking a romantic dinner, why not dress the table up with candles, flowers, and nice dinnerware? In the bedroom, put a big focus on foreplay and pleasing your partner.”
Most importantly, she says, “if you say you’re going to do something for them, make sure you follow through on it.”
Combining Love Languages
If you know anything about math, you probably know that adding two things together can create an even bigger sum. That principle is no different when it comes to pampering someone based on their love languages. While many people have a single primary love language, lots of people have two different ones clustered near the top of their results.
So how do you go about taking advantage of that? You could alternate approaches, offering them, for instance, words of affirmation one day and acts of service the next. But you could also try to brainstorm ways to combine the two.
“For example,” says Middleton, “if your partner’s predominant love languages are receiving gifts and words of affirmation, you could create a treasure hunt where the person has to find the sentimental gift hidden in the house through cryptic love notes scattered around.”
“Or, if their love language is acts of service and physical touch,” she suggests making them dinner and then incorporating sensual play into the dessert course by eating it off of their body. “You really can get as creative as possible,” she adds. “There are no limits!”