The Many Languages Of Love

languages of love

Late last night, as little Nirvaan slept in his cot at the foot of our bed, my wife and I held hands and whisper-spoke for more than an hour. At one point, she said, ‘For me, this is love. Spending time alone with you and talking. Love is being able to share myself and know I am not being judged.’ We reminisced how, when we first met, we often spoke till dawn. Over the years, and especially after the birth of Nirvaan, this had tapered off.

I had not paid much attention to this lessening, but hearing her say that reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother and mentor GD last week. He told me he sometimes asked his clients during sessions about what love meant to them and the variety in the answers surprised him. One unnamed client, he said, told him she did not feel loved until the other person shared his deepest, darkest secret.

“Just imagine,” GD said to me, “a man could be showering her with affection and giving her diamonds and it wouldn’t really matter to her. Because her subconscious definition was that until he had shared his deepest, darkest secrets, it wasn’t really love. I realized during my sessions that most people don’t consciously know what love means for themselves or their partners. So they keep doing things for their partners according to their own definition of love, and then feel disappointed that their partner still doesn’t feel loved.”

As I read up further on this, I came across Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestseller ‘The Five Love Languages’. It says that most of us grow up learning the language of love of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. So if you speak Spanish and your partner speaks English, communication is impossible, comprendez? Chapman counts five broad languages of love:

Words of Affirmation
Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time
Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
This language is not about the value of the object but the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. The perfect gift or gesture shows that you are understood, cared for and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.

While these categories are useful, my guess is that the definition for each person doesn’t always neatly fall into them. For another client of his, GD said, love meant the other should be always present nearby. Because he had lost loved ones through death, travel or separation, the marker of love had become whether the person was physically present. Some people, GD suggested, had strict parents and as grown ups, a partner’s aggression could be a subconscious reminder of tough love.

I shared this with my wife as we lay silhouetted in bed. It turned out for me love is about receiving thoughtful gifts and acts of service. As we spoke, we realized that I often give my wife surprise gifts, but receive few in return because she never realizes how much they mean to me – it isn’t part of her definition of love. On the other hand, she makes time for mid-week lunch dates and quality time with me, which doesn’t have quite the same impact for me.

It’s so interesting that our definitions of love could be so varied and so important to us, yet remain unknown to ourselves and our partners all our lives. This simple missing bridge can create a huge chasm between the most sincere, loving couple.

As a support to everyone else reading this blog to find their own and their partners’ definition of love, I would really love to know what are your definitions of love in the Comments Section below. A quick and simple way to find out is to ask: How do I express love to others? What do I complain about the most? What do I request most often? Or simply when do I feel truly loved by my partner? I would love to find out what you discover about you.

Thank you and happy loving! 🙂


P.S. For those who would like to go deeper into discovering their own love language, on Gary Chapman’s website, there is a short Love Language Profile test.

12 thoughts on “The Many Languages Of Love

  1. I’d blogged about love languages a long, long time ago ( and this just refreshed my memory! I knew nothing then! 😀
    Being in a clandestine relationship, every moment of time I get to spend with my partner is a precious one. And yet the language of love has evolved for both of us. It started with flowers and has ended up with holding each other, feeling the comfort in each other’s arms in those precious, stolen moments. And yet, what we both agree with, is that the most powerful moments spent with each other, are the ones when we are both absolutely aware in the present moment. Whether in those moments we are countries apart or next to each other is secondary. There is a stillness we both enter into and whatever unravels in that spacious awareness leads us to meeting each other in wonderment, as if for the first time. This, not surprisingly, is a result of the Sunday sessions with GD. And those have been our best moments. In my last personal session, I was at odds with GD – he kept insisting love comes and goes but awareness is always there. And my truth was that love is always there, but when we are aware, we notice it. And there was a point when I realised we were both saying the same thing! That for me was an eye opener. It opened me up to love on many, many levels. Just last night I was in wonderment – I had shared Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves” that had moved my partner deeply after the last Sunday session. Last night he started pulling up one Eva Cassidy song after another from iTunes and playing it aloud over the phone. I felt him cry at times and soar in happiness at others. I was just listening over the phone, just present in his space, feeling him go through the highs and lows with the music. I marvel now at the unfolding of love’s language. It seems to be ever-evolving.
    [Sorry for the long comment! 🙂 Thank you for the space you created for this to be shared. Love]

  2. Great post! I have heard of that book but never read it. Reading this really makes me wonder about mine and my husbands love languages. As I read the list the one that stood out to me as my language was physical touch which kind of surprised me. So I guess I just learned something about myself. Thanks!

    In general to me love isn’t so much a be there, do that, say that kind of thing. It is a whisper from your heart, a stirring from your heart’s connection that recognizes, “I love him,” but also, “He loves me.” It’s two souls seeing each other and being bound by the heart no matter what life’s circumstances are- favorable or unfavorable. While these 5 languages are representations of how individuals express, receive, and manifest love in their life they are not the truth of what love actually is. Love is simply connection and your heart feeling that connection… to anything.

    • Yes, well said. Dr Chapman doesn’t get into what love is, but rather how it is expressed or communicated between people. And that’s where the problem always is, isn’t it? Love in itself is beautiful and perfect and complete. But with that 50% divorce rate, something is missing somewhere that he tries to address. Thanks for sharing your love language…

  3. I think for me love is being known and accepted fully for who I am. It is not just acceptance of one another, but also a mutual respect and appreciation for the genuine fullness of who we are- which swirls into the realization that we are both one and the same, in a state of recognition, and unique expressions of this sameness simultaneously. Magical… Michael

  4. What a lovely post aalif and Aditi:-) you created this mini mills and boon moment for me:-) love for me is freedom

    If you loved me, you would allow me to be who I am, what I am and accept me with everything. And I mean that in every way-and allow me to say everything and anything… No judgement. No anger. Just understanding… And yes kind words! You can love me- but you raise your voice and you killed every part of that love I had for you:-) in almost an instant!

    Strangely, till I read this note- never occurred to me that people want other things till they told me. My best friend wants me to sit next to him while he has dinner. That’s perhaps his language of love. My mom needs words as much as I do:-) and my dad… Hmmph:-) I am guilty of not knowing except that when I wear salwar kameezes, his eyes light up like lamps and I feel the love:-)

    Thank you for provoking a discussion:-) love your blog as always

    • Thanks Nidhi. It’s been quite a realization for Aditi & me too. Since the last few days a new level of consciousness has entered into our personal interactions with this understanding. Glad it feels the same for you. It’s so simple, yet not knowing this can be so injurious to relationship health — I feel this should be taught in school! 🙂

  5. Dear Aalif thank you from the bottom of my heart for that lovely post. Honestly I have some difficulties to describe what exactly love means to me and also so much has already been written and said. For me love is the wish to be accepted the way I am (as full package to say so) but also to accept others the way they are. To give each other space without losing sight. To trust each other fully, to communicate without words, to feel in good hands. Love for ma are unexpected moments of beauty, a smile here a kind word there a glance a general feeling of unification. And love for me is not necessarily linked to a person – it’s universal. So I am sending you lots of love, Béatrice

  6. For me love is not giving gifts or getting into physical mode for sometime and after you are done you care a damn for each other, for me love is always making your best effort to understand each other, respecting each other, finding out quality time to send with each other. There is no space for lies yet accepting each others point of view & if you feel a change is required for the betterment of relation then one should happily do that also. You need to nuture love everyday with the best you can.

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