What to Do When You and Your Partner Have Different Love Languages

Fear not — your relationship can still thrive.

You and your partner have totally different love languages. Now what?

Don’t worry, you can still be totally compatible. You just need to figure out how to communicate your love. And we’ve got answers. Gary Chapman, an author and former talkshow host, created a framework for helping couples understand how each person expresses their love — and he even wrote a book about it in 1992.

The five love languages include gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch (find out yours by taking the Chapman love language quiz here). Chapman believes that each person is particular to one of the five love languages. A 2020 survey of about 1,000 men and women found that those whose partner used their love language had greater levels of relationship satisfaction than those who had differing love languages.

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How Important Are Love Languages In a Relationship?

They provide a great framework for understanding that people experience intimacy differently than one another — but they’re not the only part of a relationship, says Carly Claney, a licensed psychologist and group practice owner of Relational Psych in Seattle. Still, Claney says, understanding your partner’s love language can be a wonderful way of deepening your connection and love in a relationship.

That’s because when one person’s receiving love languages is gifts, for example, and they don’t receive any because your love language is intimacy, they may feel unloved and not seen by their partner, says Jennifer Klesman, a licensed clinical social worker in Chicago. Or, she says, if one person’s love language is quality time, and their partner is not often available, then they could feel needy or unloved.

Couple Exchanging Gifts

Can a Relationship Survive If the Couple Has Different Love Languages?

Yes, Claney says. “It may mean that each individual has to be conscious about loving each other within their love language, but there’s nothing that is necessarily incompatible about having these differences,” Claney says.

Even if your love languages are different, they’re not necessarily incompatible, says Michela Dalsing, a licensed mental health counselor in Washington. For example, she says, if your love language is gift giving, and your partner’s love language is acts of service, you can present your acts of service as a gift you’re giving by providing your partner with a coupon book with the acts of service in it. Or, Dalsing says, if your love language is words of affirmation while your partner’s is quality time, you can spend quality time together, such as having dinner, and offer words of affirmation during the dinner.

“Naturally, taking the time to truly praise someone means taking time to be with them,” Dalsing says.

Plus, says Boone Christianson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Utah, there’s no actual science behind the concept of the love languages — it’s simply a concept made popular by Chapman.

“Love languages are ways we feel loved, but they are not in our genes; they are not permanent; and they may change from person to person and over time,” Christianson says.

Christianson says she may want a hug from her mother, but she would want a text or a gift from her uncle. An apology would feel affectionate tomorrow, but today, she may need space.

“The key point is communicating what you need to feel love on an ongoing basis,” Christianson says.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Read more
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