Ah, the 5 Love Languages, cousin to the Enneagram as a trend taking the personality trait/ relationship world by storm. I first came across the 5 Love Languages in a premarital counseling class in 2014. My now husband and I were assigned to read the book, find our love language, brainstorm ways to show our fiancé love in the way they received it best, and report back to the class.
Since then, my copy of Gary Chapman’s classic book is dog-eared, highlighted, and has remained on my bookshelf after many other books found themselves in the Goodwill pile throughout various moves and organizational purges.
The Words of Affirmation love language is near and dear to my heart as it is my husband’s primary love language. Thus, it behooves me to dive into what that love language entails and how I can give love in that manner as Words of Affirmation are how my partner prefers to receive love. Mine is Acts of Service, if you were wondering. Someone besides me unloading the dishwasher legit makes my heart go pitter patter.
So today we will be diving into where the idea of love languages as a whole originates, what “Words of Affirmation” truly mean,and finally, how you can use this important trait in your relationships to give and receive love in a meaningful way.
Falling in love is the easy part. The Five Love Languages can be a valuable tool to navigate staying in love and being satisfied with a fulfilling, enriching relationship for each person. For so many couples over the years, reading The Five Love Languages is a lightbulb moment when it all connects that you may be giving love but it won’t be received and appreciated as fully if it’s not the type of love your partner prefers.
Where It Comes From
The concept of Love Languages can first be found in Gary Chapman’s runaway bestseller, aptly titled, The Five Love Languages. Chapman’s thesis is that there are five ways most individuals prefer to receive love. They are: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Receiving Gifts.
Dr. Gary Chapman began his career as a marriage counselor and sought a way to explain the feedback he was receiving. Individuals were trying to love their spouse, but for some reason the spouse was not feeling loved or cared for. He used this concept to study hundreds of couples to determine where the disconnect was coming from. Five primary ways of receiving love emerged and through a series of questions, it can be determined which love language a person tends to prefer more.
The caveat is that once it’s determined what you and your spouse’s love language is (check out this series of quizzes to discover your language), you must seek to try and give love in the way your partner best receives it (It makes sense that most people give love in the way they prefer to receive it).
For example, let’s say a husband’s primary love language is physical touch. His wife’s primary one is receiving gifts. Husband goes to snuggle Wife after a long hard day (that’s what he perceives as the most loving), and she’s left wondering where the heck her bouquet of flowers is (a gift is what she perceives as the most loving).
Sound like a puzzle? Well, it basically is. Chapman notes that many relational difficulties come when a partner is giving, giving, giving, but the love is not well received because it’s not being given in the way the other partner prefers to receive love. It’s beneficial to know your language (being self-aware and reflective is always a plus), but also it’s crucial to know your partner’s language so you can better express love in a way that’s better received.
There’s certainly validity and a popular following to this concept as the book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since 2007!
What It Means
Okay, so, you’re an expert now on The Five Love Languages, but let’s get deeper with Words of Affirmation and understand why it’s such an important love language. While the distribution of most common love languages is fairly equal, Words of Affirmation does happen to be the more widely preferred love language with about 23 percent of people ranking it as their preferred love language.
In the nutshell, Words of Affirmation involves knowing your spouse thinks highly of you based on what they say to you and about you.
There’s a popular quote that has made its way around social media and the sentiment fits perfectly with this love language: “If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.”
Clearly you love your spouse, but how about a morning compliment to jumpstart your day? (Dudes, those beachy waves are hard to come by and she may have just watched 45 minutes of YouTube videos trying to perfect that sought after combination of tousled and tailored. Just me? Say she looks cute!). Everyone loves to hear something nice, but if your primary love language is Words of Affirmation, then hearing kind words is how you best receive and feel love.
Words of Affirmation go beyond simply a “Great job with grilling dinner tonight, babe,” (although that is a lovely affirmative compliment!) but the core of a written or spoken affirmation is the essence of gratitude and appreciation. The receiver wants to have expressed that they are unique, lovable, and a good partner in their relationship.
The use of Words of Affirmation has powerful psychological implications as well. So even if you or your partner might not sway toward this particular love language, it’s worth trying out every now and again.
According to The University of Arizona Global Campus, “Speaking and hearing positive words more often than negative ones can activate the motivational centers of the brain, encouraging us to take positive action more often.”
Let’s hear it for a well-timed, thoughtful “atta boy.” It means so much more than you may think.
How to Use Words of Affirmation
The good news about this particular love language is that there are so many ways to share words of affirmation in a creative, loving way! Here are some suggestions for getting this love language to work immediately in your life:
- Speak It: Simply share with a loved one all of the ways you think they are amazing. It can be a heartfelt discussion with multiple points, or something as simple as, “I love how handsome you look in that shirt.”
- Write It: When I think of thoughtful words, I immediately think of taking pen to paper and writing out how I feel. You could totally do just that or you could add a modern twist and make a Kudoboard for your spouse. What a fun surprise to pop up in their email!
- Say It Through Song: Bear with me here on the cheesiness, but truly, sometimes songwriters and singers say it best! Send a new favorite song or an old classic to your loved one and let them know why it makes you think of them. I’d melt over a Taylor Swift jam, whereas my hubby might prefer the message from a vintage country song. Either way, sometimes those words of affirmation are best spoken (or sung) by someone Grammy-worthy.
- Listen: The flip side to speaking affirmatively to your partner is listening well too. Listen to what they have to say, be engaged, encourage, and appreciate the conversation.
- Text and Email: While the medium of an electronic word of love might feel impersonal, don’t sleep on a well crafted text to your partner or a sweet email in their work inbox. They most likely won’t be expecting it and the surprise element could make your words of affirmation even more special.
- I Love You’s: Yes, obviously you love your spouse. I mean, I watch football with my hubby, still get butterflies catching his smile, and crack up on the daily from his hilariousness. But don’t neglect those three magic words. The “I love you” is a big moment when it’s first said and now, into the relationship further, it may go without saying, but still….SAY IT. To a Words of Affirmation person this one is music to their ears.
- Express Gratitude: To me there is no more affirming and powerful series of words than “Thank you.” It’s so simple yet it packs a serious emotional punch. Saying thank you is really an ultimate way to give words of affirmation. It says, “I see you and I appreciate you.”
- Affirm Choices and Actions: By its very nature words of affirmation imply acceptance and approval. Rarely do we take the time to assure our spouse that they have made the correct choices and we approve of and appreciate their actions.
- Speak Highly of Your Husband or Wife in public: No one likes a humble bragger, or worse yet, a blatant bragger, but there is some good to be found in speaking well regarding your spouse. It’s not a good look, nor is it a healthy marital habit to speak ill to others about your better half. Being married means you have each other’s back. Words of affirmation don’t necessarily need to be spoken to the person directly to be meaningful. I can personally attest that these work well when in-laws are involved. Nothing makes a mama more proud than hearing that her son is a quality husband.
Each love language represents a way that partners can best give and receive love. I encourage you to find out your love language as well as your partner’s and get to work demonstrating love in the way that’s best received by your significant other. And finally, a Word of Affirmation to you, dear reader, thank you for being here, for reading, and for being your amazing fabulous self. Feel better already, huh?