“WLoveLangugesCouplehy Don’t I Feel Loved?”

Janet’s question was one that her husband, Jonathan, had heard before—in fact, numerous times. He felt sad and confused about Janet’s question because he knew that he loved her very much. Throughout their eleven-year marriage he had tried very hard to show his love, but his efforts seemed fruitless. Regardless of his positive actions she maintained that she did not feel loved by him. During a recent discussion Jonathan acknowledged to his wife that there had been many times during which he did not feel loved by her. That acknowledgement resulted in a rather heated argument about her frequent efforts to show love to him.*

Okay . . . let’s stop and raise an important question. To some extent can you identify with Janet—or with Jonathan? Probably so. Many married couples struggle with the issue of “not feeling loved.” Clearly, in some marriages the love is not felt because the love is absent, perhaps having been destroyed by years of abuse and/or neglect. For these couples the legal marriage lives on but the personal relationship has perished from emotional malnutrition or behavioral poisons. In other marriages the two individuals continue to love each other, but each one consistently feels misunderstood and unloved. In describing their marital love many individuals could confess “My spouse may love me but I just don’t feel it.”

In my work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I’ve seen many couples like Janet and Jonathan. Each spouse confesses love for the other one yet each one feels unloved. In my early years as a therapist I often felt puzzled and frustrated as I tried to talk with these couples and understand their struggles. Somehow things just did not add up. If the two spouses really love each other (as they say they do) then how could either (or both) report “I don’t feel loved”? My usual course of action was to help them clarify their love and to express the love in meaningful ways.

My efforts were eased and became more effective when I started using a concept developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor who had worked with couples much as I had. Dr. Chapman began his career as an anthropologist but shifted into a counselor role in order to assist couples in their relationship struggles. After working for a number of years as a marriage counselor Dr. Chapman concluded that each individual tends to express love in five unique patterns which he described as “love languages.” He also concluded that each person probably has a dominant love language through which love is communicated. In describing love languages Dr. Chapman compared them to actual humaLoveLanguagesBookn languages that he had studied during his anthropological travels. If two people speak English to each other they are likely to understand each other’s meanings. However, if one person speaks English and the other one speaks Portuguese, and if neither one speaks the other language, then communication breaks down. The two people will not understand each other. Likewise, if the husband speaks one love language but the wife uses a different love language, he will be ineffective in communicating his love to his wife. The wife will be ineffective in conveying her love to her husband if she does not speak his preferred love language.

In 1992 Dr. Chapman presented his basic concept in a published book entitled “The 5 Love Languages:  The Secret of Love That Lasts.” In that book he describes the five love languages and provides various illustrations and applications. In recent years Dr. Chapman has expanded his concept in additional books written specifically for husbands, for wives, for children, and for single adults.  His concept is very useful for all human relationships.

If you value personal relationships, particularly marriage, you will no doubt appreciate the practical benefit derived from Dr. Chapman’s five love languages. In this brief article I want to share in my own words an overview of the five languages to introduce them to you. Please keep in mind that each of the five languages has numerous variations which Chapman described as “dialects” within a particular language. Obviously, for an in-depth study of the five love languages you’ll want to read Dr. Chapman’s book firsthand.

Describing the Five Love Languages . . .

Words of Affirmation

One of Dr. Chapman’s five love languages is “Words of Affirmation.” When a person uses this language he communicates love through verbal expressions of love, including words of admiration, compliments, and appreciation. He tells his wife, “I love you very much.” He says, “I really appreciate your helping me this morning.” She hears him say things like “I really like the way you look in that dress” and “I really admire your ability to work with our kids so effectively.” Verbal expressions such as these possess the potential for affirming and strengthening love within the relationship.

Quality TimeLoveLanguagesTVList

Another love language is “Quality Time.”  An individual conveys love by spending time with the other person in meaningful activities. The choice to share time together reflects and expresses the love that is felt by the initiator. The person who uses this language is saying, “You know that I love you because I want to spend a lot of time with you.”

Acts of Service

A third love language is “Acts of Service.” This language is seen in physical actions that are intended to be helpful or supportive of the other person. For example, the wife has been wanting to repaint the master bedroom. The husband who uses the “Acts of Service” language volunteers to paint the room the color the wife prefers. As he paints the room he is expressing love to the wife. “Acts of Service” might include a variety of actions (like chores or projects) that are love-motivated.

Physical Touch

Many people prefer a fourth love language: “Physical Touch.” They show their love by physically touching the other person. The physical touch could be non-sexual affection or might be sexual in nature.

Gift Receiving

The fifth love language described by Dr. Chapman is “Gift Receiving.” Through the giving of a gift a person expresses love for another individual. For example, a wife has been wishing for a rose garden in the back yard. The husband hears her hints and decides to give her a rose-garden gift, so he digs up a space of ground and develops it into a suitable rose garden. His gift is his way of expressing his love for his wife. According to Chapman, a gift is a visual symbol of love and can be purchased, found, or made.

Discussing the Usage of Love Languages . . .

If two spouses share a goal of developing their personal relationship they would do well to discuss the usage of love languages. Spouses who use the same love language probably feel very loved and secure within the relationship. However, a spouse can feel unloved when that person’s dominant language is not used by the other spouse. For example, suppose that a husband’s dominant love language is physical touch, but the wife’s dominant language is words of affirmation. Let’s suppose further that physical touch is the least preferred for her; that is, it is #5 on her rank order of languages. Since physical touch is #1 for the husband he tends to touch her often, and he assumes that she will therefore feel loved by him. However, she is looking for verbal expressions of love and is disappointed that she is not hearing words of affirmation. Therefore, she tends to feel unloved, and the husband may also feel unloved because she did not respond to his physical touch in the way he expected her to respond. Many scenarios could be provided that illustrate the same pattern of disappointment and frustration.

The negativity is often promoted by our tendency to assume that the other person speaks the same love language that we do. For example, if my dominant love language is acts of service I assume that your dominant language is acts of service. Therefore, when I perform an act of service for you I expect you to feel loved, just as I would feel loved if you did an act of service for me. If your dominant love language is quality time together you might assume that by spending time with me you are helping me feel loved. However, our mutual assumptions are often wrong and we wind up expending a great deal of effort only to feel dissatisfied and frustrated with the results. Predictably, these inaccurate assumptions set us up for individual and relationship suffering. Essentially, these assumptions represent unrealistic expectations that will continue to hinder growth until they are recognized and changed into expectations that are more realistic.

Therefore, we need to stop making assumptions and start discussing specific ways through which we feel loved. Preferably, we would learn about the five love languages, determine our dominant language, and discuss this information with our spouse. Through a discussion of love languages two spouses can gain understanding about what helps each one feel loved within the relationship. If they use different languages they can work hard to learn and use the other person’s language. For example, the husband described earlier whose dominant language is physical touch will strive to use verbal words of affirmation with his wife. Likewise, the wife who prefers words of affirmation will work hard to use physical touch with her husband, since that is his dominant language. Thankfully, any couple can learn ways to accommodate and satisfy each other’s love language. As a result, both individuals will feel more loved within their relationship.

Discerning Your Personal Love Language . . .

When I share the love languages concept with couples in therapy I usually hear the question, “How do I determine my personal love language?” I welcome the question and encourage the two individuals to discern their respective love language. The following suggestions are often given in response to their question.

Perhaps the easiest (and best) way to discern your personal love language is through completion of the Love Language Profile that Dr. Chapman has developed. The inventory is available on his website at The inventory consists of a series of two-question choices that you answer. Your response to the choices will suggest your dominant love language.

In his book Dr. Chapman suggests several other methods of discerning your personal love language. You can think about the specific things that your spouse has done (or failed to do) that have caused you the most hurt and pain. That information can suggest your love language. You can also consider the requests you make most often regarding the things you want your spouse to do (or stop doing). Those requests can reflect your personal love language. Also, you can think about the specific ways that you have used most often to show love to your spouse. Your actions are a good indicator of your love language. Through these methods you should be able to discern which one or two of the five languages are your preferred ones. You might conclude that two languages are equally dominant. Whatever you conclude, the information can be extremely useful to you as you strive to strengthen and safeguard your relationships.

Concluding Thoughts . . .


In order to grow in our relationships we need to feel love and to express that love to the other person. However, if we want that person to feel loved we need to communicate our love in the person’s preferred love language. Therefore, every married couple (and everyone else) would benefit from an understanding and usage of the five love languages concept popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman. His original book focused primarily on married couples, but he believes that the concept has tremendous application for single adults, teenagers, and children. These additional applications are explored in detail in other books that Dr. Chapman has published.

The five love languages represent a useful tool for relationship growth. I recommend the concept to you, and I hope that you will at least consider its potential for your relationships, specifically for your marriage relationship. Additional information about Dr. Chapman’s material is provided at the end of this article.

I appreciate your interest in this particular relationship topic, and I wish you the best as you continue your journey along the Relationship Highway.

                                                                      (Healthy Relationships #123)

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*DISCLAIMER: The names Janet and Jonathan do not refer to a specific couple. Instead, they represent couples everywhere who wrestle and struggle with issues of “feeling loved.”  

RESOURCES:  For more information regarding the five love languages (and related topics) please refer to the following resources.

Chapman, Gary. (2010). “The 5 Love Languages.”  Chicago:  Northfield Publishing.

Dr. Chapman’s Website:
  (The Love Language Profile is available on Dr. Chapman’s website.)


VIDEO:  To see a television interview in which Dr. Baker discusses “Relationship Love Languages” please click on the image to the right or click here.







(To listen to an audio version of this blog entry, click the Play button below.)














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