Love is a many splendored thing. But the expression of love and affection can come in many different forms.
So you've met someone new and things are going well. It can be exciting when you experience butterflies in your stomach for the first time at the start of a relationship, and it's only natural that we want to find different ways to express our feelings.
But, while there are different kinds of love and different ways to show your loved ones that you care about them, it is also important to acknowledge that there are different ways that people prefer to receive love, often depending upon their personality type.
That's why acclaimed Psychologist, Dr. Gary Chapman creates five separate 'Love Languages', which can help us to not only understand our own behaviour, but appreciate why others may react to affection in different ways.
1.) Words of affirmation
Words of affirmation are verbal expressions of positive feelings. A person who uses words as their primary love language will feel loved when they receive compliments and praise, encouragement and reassurance, or hearing “I love you” in some form.
Words of affirmation are not synonymous with flattery, which is insincere praise offered simply to get something in return. True words of affirmation are given freely and without expectation. They may be spoken or written - with this kind of love language, sincerity is key.
2.) Giving of material gifts
The expression of love through the giving of gifts can be an important way to show your loved ones that you care about them. However, it’s not just about the price tag or how lavish the gift is; it’s also about the thought behind it. It's an opportunity to prove that you've listened, and therefore that your partner really matters to you.
Your spouse may be more excited by a simple handwritten note than a diamond necklace, for example. Also be aware of 'too much, too soon' - especially in the earlier stages of a relationship. Sometimes, lavish gifts can be interpreted as needing to be in exchange for something else, or used to make others feel indebted. Also consider whether the recipient would be in a position to reciprocate, and whether it might put any pressure on them to respond in a way that might make them feel uncomfortable.
3.) Quality time
Spending quality time with your partner is, to give them your undivided time and attention - time that is dedicated to them alone. This can mean taking a walk, going on a date or even just sitting and watching a movie together. The important thing here is that you are engaging in an activity that both of you enjoy and therefore proving to the other person that you enjoy their company.
There is no set amount of time required for this love language to be satisfied - as long as both partners feel connected and valued by each other. Remember that you can also have too much of a good thing; every couple needs time apart in order to appreciate one another, too.
The key to making sure your relationship thrives using this love language is knowing how to strike a balance - so that neither person feels left out or ignored by the other person; we need to learn how much alone time works best for us individually before we can figure out what works best for our relationship as a whole.
4.) Service and devotion
Acts of service and devotion is another of the five love languages. It is a way to express your affection through helpful actions, like running an errand or making dinner. After all, the words “I love you” can be meaningless, if there is no action to back it up.
To use acts of service as a way to improve your relationship, think about what your partner does for you and how they like to be thanked or praised for their efforts. Work as a team, and when your partner does something that you appreciate - tell them. The chances are that the more gratitude you show, the more proactive they will be in finding new ways to devote to you.
Unsure how to apply this particular love language? Asking questions to find out more about your partner - especially at the early stages of a relationship - can be extremely helpful. Knowing their pet hates and taking on tasks that could make their life easier is a great way to prove that they matter enough to have their needs put first, and really boosts long-term relationship prospects.
5.) Physical touch
Physical touch is the language that shows your affection for others through physical expression. It can be as simple as a brief touch on the hand, a hug or a pat on the back - or more intimate, like holding hands or fully embracing. When someone feels loved by you, they may find comfort in being close to you.
Remember that physical touch can also be misconstrued if it's only used sexually and not in other ways that show love to those who need it most - and you must always be comfortable with its context - especially if you are only just starting out in a relationship.
Physical affection is important because it creates bonds between people, and often differentiates between friendship and romance. Some people have their own way of showing affection through physical contact, while others don't need much at all outside of being within close proximity to one another - every individual's needs are different.
Being aware of the five different love languages can help you to develop better self-awareness, and also enable you to understand how others might display their affection in different ways - preventing misunderstandings and assumptions of incompatibility. This is especially helpful when embarking upon a new relationship, and when trying to decipher the levels of interest from your prospective partner.
You can read more about The Five Love Languages and find out more about the language you speak in this guide by Dr. Gary Chapman.