Love Languages For Your Life

The following is the text of the two-day seminar presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on April 8-9, 2011.  The material is based upon the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Dr. Gary Chapman, © 1992, Northfield Publishing, Chicago IL.


Welcome to Spring Break 2011 and another installment of the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church Relationship Conference Series.  We are now in our fourth year of the series and our sixth seminar where we study and discuss everyday interpersonal relationships with a biblical perspective.  This is a unique approach to relationships that go beyond the how-to and advice books as we rely upon God’s Word to extrapolate how relationships form, develop, and change within our life experiences.

In the past we have discussed relationships from an interpersonal standpoint, including those with relatives, friends, co-workers, and, of course, a loving, healthy relationship with God and even how you value yourself.  We have focused on marital relationships and explored the importance of knowing your spouse as your marriage grows.  We have even discussed the difficulties of being in relationships with those that you love that are often unlovable.  Topics of divorce and remarriage have been discussed.  Yes, we covered a lot of ground, and there is much more to explore with our present look at love in action.

Love is a word that no one ever gets tired of talking about.  It has a miraculous resonance to it because of how it can dramatically change the lives of the people who experience it.  We should be thankful for the importance of love that God has always emphasized in his Word, and the responsibility that He gives to each of us in the role of love in how we interact with others.

It begins with how God demonstrates His love for us and that it is timeless and beyond measure:

Psalm 136:1-9

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  His love is eternal.

Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love is eternal.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.  His love is eternal.

He alone does great wonders.  His love is eternal.

He made the heavens skillfully.  His love is eternal.

He spread the land on the waters.  His love is eternal.

He made the great lights:  His love is eternal.

The sun to rule by day, His love is eternal.

The moon and stars to rule by night. His love is eternal.

John 3:16-17

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

He also gives us insight into the characteristics of love in its practice.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13

Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.  But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.  Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.  Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Leviticus 19:18

Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

John 13:34-35

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word.  He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.

With all of these examples that we have of love, why is it that it can be so difficult to communicate this love to others?  In addition, why do we sometimes have difficulty with understanding those same gestures of love that are directed towards us?  For your consideration, the simple answer to these questions is that we also sometimes struggle with the degree and measure of love that God has for us, let alone that of the love that we give to others and that we receive from others.  Love indeed is patient and kind, and can also be confusing if you don’t understand its delivery methods very well.  For example, we do not understand God’s love for us without the information provided to us by the Holy Spirit.  Without that information, we would need an interpreter just as we cannot interpret the meaning of Scripture without the wisdom of the Spirit to help.  In the same way, we sometimes need an interpreter to provide us with information about the linguistics of love communication.

This seminar will look at the languages of love as identified by the author of the best selling book, The Five Love Languages—How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Dr. Gary Chapman.  Dr. Chapman’s book was written in 1992 and became a best seller with additional books that grew out of the original, including those that expanded the love languages beyond the marital couple relationship.  This is important in that love languages are spoken on a daily basis between individuals who are not necessarily married.  They are spoken between a parent and a child, a brother and a sister, and even between friends and co-workers.  This communication is easily recognizable in many different interpersonal relationships, but only if you are conscious of them and are looking for them.  It is essential to learn about these love languages if you are interested in the healthy development of a relationship.

Love languages are relevant to each and every one of us for one simple reason…each of us has sensory capabilities, and we all respond to stimulus through our senses.  Can you note what your five senses are?  Sight…hearing…taste…touch and smell!  It is how we receive all of our communication, whether it is verbal or non-verbal; as a result, it is little wonder that we are responsive to love linguistics because of how it affects our overall communication efforts.

Each of us knows when there is good, effective communication between two persons (and not just between married couples)—between people that are friends with you or even your co-workers.  Words to describe effective communication do not necessarily mean that you are in agreement with someone else.  Effective communication is when both parties receive information that accurately represents the viewpoints of the other person.  Effective communication does not necessarily mean that you are like-minded in your way of thinking.  This is a misconception of effective communication.  There are times when two people will have to agree to disagree, but that doesn’t mean that the communication was erroneous or ineffective.  Ineffective communication is when there is a misunderstanding by one party of the other party’s intent, or it can also be ineffective if the person communicating information does not do so clearly enough for the other person to understand.  You can see that, with all of the opportunities for miscommunication, the practice of effective communication requires just that—practice.  It sometimes requires a little extra effort to make sure that effective communication is taking place between two or more people.

Can any of you think of situations where communication was ineffective between you and someone else, or scenarios where the best of intentions for one person to communicate with another person backfired?

What we want you to discover about the love languages is that they are unique to the individual in the same way that each of us have unique personality traits.  One person’s love language may not be applicable to another person.  Some persons may have only one primary love language, while others may have more than one (but usually not more than two or three would be considered primary).  The key to successful interpersonal relationships is to know how to identify love languages, and how to use your “love in action” by giving and receiving through these expressions of love.

Love is More Than a Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

The word “love” is used very freely today, and while it has a primary definition, it can mean different things to different people.  While most people understand love as having a strong attraction and connection to another person, we also know that love is evident with actions that support it, in much the same way that a person’s faith in Jesus Christ is most evident by a person’s actions that support such faith.  You’ve heard the expression, “If you love me, then show me…” Our discussions will show that love is far more than an emotional connection.  Just as an engine will fail to run without the sparks from a spark plug firing the gasoline within, the emotion of love will eventually burn out without the sparks of love in action within a relationship.

Love is profoundly more than a physical attraction, and much more than that feeling when you first fell in love, even the love for a spouse.  The evidence over many relationships suggests that there is much more to the initial warm, gushy, mind-wandering experience of falling in love.  In fact, after the gushiness wears off, love now requires a shift in one’s thinking and one’s attitude.  The love is now expressed with a series of actions that will actually enhance the love relationship into one that is nurtured and grown through a series of actions.

This love in action is best demonstrated by the love of God in action:

1 Corinthians 16:14

Your every action must be done with love.

1 John 3:16-17

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him?

Job 10:12

You gave me life and faithful love, and Your care has guarded my life.

With these verses in mind, we will spend our time looking at specific actions within a relationship that we will characterize as love languages.  To recognize these love languages requires becoming adept at what I will call love linguistics.  You need to be able to speak the language of love languages, and familiarity with these languages will increase your love linguistics.  Before we explore these languages, let’s start with an important factor that needs to be present to allow for the exchange of love languages.

Love Requires Humility

In order to communicate effectively in love linguistics, you must be humble.  Humility is the key to an open relationship, whether you are single or married, or whether you are developing a friendship or a work relationship.  It is the key to being an effective communicator in any language, let along a love language, because you have to be willing to listen.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.

James 4:6

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

To be an effective communicator, you must be willing to stop whatever you are doing, set it aside for a moment, and listen to the person who is communicating with you.  In the same way, effective communication requires a degree of thought that must go into the process.  In both instances, you must give consideration to the other person, whether receiving or giving the communication.  You will also find yourself to be more sensitive to the other person’s needs if you act in humility.  Listening to the other person is effective communication and it requires a humble spirit.  It sets the stage for the effective exchange of love languages between people.

We must be careful, however, to not confuse humility with feeling good.  There will be times when you will not feel your best, and yet you will still need to communicate in such a way where the recipient will not receive the brunt of your bad feelings.  This is also an act of humility, because you are putting your feelings aside in order to make sure that your language is not affected by how you are feeling.  It’s not easy to do, but it is necessary to communicate at your best even when you are not feeling your best.  In summary, humility is the underlying element to being an effective love linguist.

Speaking the Same Love Language is Not Required

In order to understand a person who is speaking Spanish or French, you need to know that language.  In the same way, a person who does not speak English will have a difficult time interpreting what you or I would be saying.  As far as love languages are concerned, the great thing about knowing your love language or the love language of your spouse, friend or peer is that you do not need to speak the same language.  You only need to be aware of the other person’s love language to be an effective love linguist.  Once you are aware of the other person’s language, you can speak very clearly to the other person in ways that words alone would pale in comparison.

The Love Languages

Dr. Chapman’s books all focused on five different methods of communication for married couples, family members, and friends.  The languages are all based upon the personalities of the persons involved, and all of these are relatively simple to understand and simple to implement once they are recognized.

Acts of Service

You would not immediately think that acts of service is anything special in communicating a love language to someone else, but you need to consider the personality of the individual who relishes when someone shows their love for them with this act of self-sacrifice.  Consider that you live with someone who likes to keep a neat house or makes a fuss over keeping things clean.  Doing something as simple as offering to take out the trash or vacuum the rug for this person would be a huge gesture on your part, and it would show one very important thing…that you care enough about what that person cares about.  It’s huge.

1 John 3:18

Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth.

1 Peter 4:10

Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

The opposite of this love language, which is essentially an affront to the person who assumes responsibilities, is to be lazy and inattentive to the helper’s personality, and also practice being forgetful or non-committal to fulfilling promises to help out in this area.  This type of behavior is especially disturbing to the hard-working person, and will certainly throw cold water on a relationship (and not in a refreshing way!).

The person who appreciates acts of service is usually someone who is also very active in their efforts to keep things in order.  The potential issue that an active person has is that he or she will have moments where they may become fatigued and a little frustrated over their efforts to keep their house clean.  If the person you care about has this type of personality (obsession) (laugh), you may sometimes be caught in a difficult situation.  The person who enjoys keeping house should not give you the same compulsion to keep a clean house in order to please the other person.  In fact, that is a very uncomfortable situation, and you may be altering your own personality to meet the other person’s helping gifts.  That is not speaking the other person’s love language.  It would only create tension and it could have a negative effect on your effort to communicate with the other person.  In reality, the Acts of Service love language is not a 50-50 tradeoff of helping each other.  Remember, the act of speaking the same language is not a requirement for communication.  There may never be “equality” in duties performed, for example, between a husband and wife.  The wife may adore her husband for making a “contribution” to the household, such as vacuuming, washing dishes, or cleaning the bathroom.  His willingness to help out is a major boost to her well-being because she believes he cares enough to lend a hand.  It is his selfless acts that show his love and concern for her.

Let’s take this language of Acts of Service and make a note of some examples that are applicable to married couples, friendships, and in the workplace.  Please write down the scenarios and, while doing this, think about some of the things that come to mind where you can see opportunities to nurture such a language within your own relationship.

Receiving Gifts

In the same area of love communication as acts of service is the love language of receiving gifts is reflective of making gestures that support your love for the other person.  Notice that this is not the effort of “giving gifts,” which diminishes the nature of the language.  The receiving of gifts is the response that you give to the person who gives you the gift.  The gift is not about its value and how you respond—for example, if my wife were to give me a brand new convertible for my birthday or for Christmas, I would be very, very grateful.  Anyone would be, in fact, ecstatic over such a gift.  It’s easy to be appreciative if you saw a new car in your driveway with a bow on it.  It’s entirely different, however, when you receive a gift that is much smaller and not as costly.  There is a clear difference between the two, but we need to remove the monetary and material aspect of receiving gifts in order to best understand the language.

Do you remember a time when you received an unexpected gift or a surprise gift?  Think beyond a physical gift, please.  The actual gift may have been flowers or a tin of candy or even a small Care Bear that fits your personality.  Consider the emotional response of receiving such a gift because of its timing or because of the level of thought that went into it.  It was a special gift not because of its material value, but because it was something of a much greater value, and it required careful thought and consideration from the gift giver.  It speaks of the love, care, and thoughtfulness being directed to you by the other person.  If you know someone who loves surprises like this, you can appreciate how they would be extremely happy to receive even the smallest gifts.  The gift may even be in line with the other love language pertaining to acts of service.  Maybe your surprise gift for your wife is to cook her breakfast, clean the bathrooms, and offer to get maid service for a day (or maybe none of those things if she feels compelled to clean the house before the maid arrives, and if you really can’t cook—but I think you get the idea).

In contrast, there is a negative effect that one can have on a person whose love language is receiving gifts if you flat out forget about your friend’s or spouse’s birthday or your anniversary, or if you come up with a gift that did not require a lot of thought.  This can have the opposite effect of giving a well-thought out gift, and reflect that you do not value the relationship as much as you say you do.  Even a lack of everyday gestures of love has a negative effect on the person who appreciates gifts.  The occasional gifts can be undermined by an ongoing attitude of selfish behavior over time.

Even if receiving gifts is not a primary love language, we need only to refer to Scripture to see the proper attitude that the gift giver should have—a heart of generosity:

2 Corinthians 9:6-13

Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written:  He has scattered; He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.  Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.  Through the proof of this service, they will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others.

Take a moment and think about situations where you can recall giving or receiving a gift, and why you still remember the incident.  What made it special?

Quality Time

If you value a relationship with a person, you will need to devote quality time to it.

Relationships will not effectively grow without quality time.

A biblical reference to quality time is the exchange between Martha and Jesus and how the busyness of life can swallow up the things that are most important, especially your relationship with Jesus Christ:

Luke 10:38-42

While they were traveling, He (Jesus) entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”  The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

As evidenced by Martha’s experience, quality time may be the most difficult one to practice and achieve, and while we are not ranking these in order of importance, it really is very important in its execution, and it is extremely important to the person where quality time is a primary love language.  Quality time is more than just saying, “let’s take a vacation.”  In fact, it does not require taking a vacation in order to experience it, although a vacation is a possible by-product of a high level of quality time.  Quality time, for the love linguist, means that the other person is important enough for you to stop what you are doing, look into the eyes of the other person, and express your love in such a way where there is no misunderstanding as to how much you love and care for the other person.  The act of stopping what you are doing will sidetrack some people, while stopping what you are doing and looking the other person in the eye will absolutely derail others, until we get to the remainder of the population who will stop, look, and express their feelings.  After that, there’s hardly anyone left.

Quality time, according to Dr. Chapman, means really being available for the other person—with the TV off, dinner over and done with, and while not occupied with anything else except your spouse.  As busy as we can be, this is very difficult to do—it requires practice for many of us.  The truth is that the person who values quality time can feel very neglected if there is not a sincere effort to spend time with that person by his or her spouse.  The time spent makes him or her feel loved and feel special.  Ongoing distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be very hurtful.

Let’s define what quality time is.  Quality time is time spent outside of the normal hustle and bustle of a couple’s day-to-day relationship.  Quality time is NOT doing something that you want to do and dragging the other person along with you.  It is not hanging out at a sports bar with the guys and coaxing your friend or spouse along if they don’t drink and dislike sports!  Quality time is not going from place to place to shop for clothes and shoes while your spouse or friend is wandering with you like a lost child looking for a parent.  There needs to be a mutual understanding of what quality time is, and then making plans that surround that quality time if it is not possible for you to make the effort to stop your regular routine.

One of our bad habits today is being engrossed with our telephones, and I have lost count of the number of times that I have talked to my boss or someone else who is looking not at me, but at their phone because of an email buzzing them and having an obsession with the next important message.  Isn’t it annoying to be virtually ignored or to play second fiddle to a Blackberry?  Well, if this annoys you to no end, imagine how this would feel to a person who needs to have a few moments of your attention just to express how his or her day is going, and you don’t slow yourself down long enough to take a listen or show your concern?  This is a critical form of selfless communication that must be carried out for the recipient in order for you to show that, above anything and everything else going on in your life, the other person is most important.

Quality time, in summary, is giving your loved one undivided attention.  Remember when you were first dating your future husband or wife and when you hung on every word, and even when you would talk on the phone for hours into the night and early morning hours until you thought that the phone in your hand and on your face would ignite from the heat and from the fire of your relationship?  How long ago was that?  Remember how the newness of the relationship can now be affected negatively by the busyness of life.  A person who values quality time will easily be inspired by moments between the two of you where everything slows down to a stop, and where you both can have a good, eye-to-eye conversation.

Can you think of examples of quality time that you had to undertake just to force yourself to stop and hear what your friend or spouse had to say?  Did you find yourself doing these things on your own, or did you need to be prompted because of an unfortunate event?

Words of Affirmation

Is there anyone that does not appreciate kind words?  No one would ever refuse to listen to another person’s kindness express in words to them.  We can easily reason that no one wants to hear words that are unkind within the course of a conversation, or even if they are expressed to us without warning.

What this means is that words are very powerful.  They can have a tremendous amount of influence in our lives, especially in those moments where there is some sort of an emotional connection involved.  The actual words, by themselves, have less of an impact, for example, if they come from strangers.  You may not like, for example, if a person expresses displeasure with you because they perceived that you cut the person off in traffic.  After the initial shock of what is said to you, it is likely that you can carry on with your day without it being ruined.  If the hurtful words, however, come from someone whom you have an emotional attachment to, the words used can have a lasting effect on you because they cause a degree of emotional damage when they are expressed.  Kind words, on the other hand, are powerful and make an impact for the good of the relationship.

Words of affirmation, in a married relationship, for example, are the additional words that support the words, “I love you.”  Just as a couple can say “I love you” only so many times before there needs to be actions to support that love, words of affirmation provide information to the recipient that supports the underlying statement or declaration of “I love you.”

Before going further, it’s important to define what I mean in having an “emotional attachment” to another person in order to best understand the concept of words of affirmation as a love language.  An emotional attachment can be either a good relationship with a person or a not-so-good relationship.  For example, a parent-child relationship can be a strong, loving bond, or it can be a disastrous relationship because of the lack of affirmation that a child receives from the parent.  The same is true within a marriage, where there is an understandable emotional attachment that begins with courtship, the ceremony, and the aftermath.  Unfortunately, there are marriages that become stale over time because what began as an emotional connection may have changed for one or both parties in the marriage, and there is less and less spoken that will affirm one or the other person.  The emotional attachment is still there because of the relationship, but the emotion itself can be altogether lost if there was nothing in place to reinforce the original bond.

Words of affirmation are one of the most important love languages for those persons who need to be reminded of their value within the relationship.  This is more than just a self-confidence booster or a vain expression of platitudes.  The words must match up with the feelings of the persons involved.  It is a very important part of communication, and I contend that even if this is not your primary love language, you should practice the use of words of affirmation.  Words of affirmation, or encouraging words, help to eliminate potential misunderstandings that can exist between two people in a relationship.  This is a situation where the more positive you can be about a person (even if their overall behavior is not necessarily the best at a given moment), the better the communication.  It will take you through those moments of difficulty and pave the way for effective communication and expression of feelings in the long run.

A person who takes out the trash, works hard every day to provide for the family, or even cleans the bathroom should be affirmed with words that express appreciation for what the person does and for what they value.  It’s one thing to do these things, as well as other tasks, and not receive any comments for their efforts, but it is entirely another thing to be affirmed that what is being done indeed has a value to the other person in the relationship.  It is recognition of the character traits of the person in words to support their actions.  It is a way to let another person know that who they are and what they do is important to you.  With that said, sometimes we will fail to express words of affirmation to the other person because (a) the person does something that is important to him or her for the good of the relationship but you do not believe it to be as important to it, or (b) because you are unhappy with the person for some reason and you don’t want to contradict your unhappiness with kind words.  Sometimes, it is this unhappiness that unleashes criticism of the other person’s behaviors at its highest level.

Before proceeding, here is a Scriptural reference to how powerful unkind words can be if they are not controlled:

James 3:6-9

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.  For every creature—animal or bird, reptile or fish—is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness.

The power of the words you use can either motivate a person in love or will repel a person if the words are counter-productive in the relationship.  As an example, let’s assume that a wife wants her husband to paint the bedroom.  The husband has determined that he either does not like painting or does not want to paint the bedroom.  This is a conflict that can go the wrong way very quickly without some thoughtful intervention.  A husband will perceive a wife’s prompts to paint the bedroom as nagging if all he ever hears is “Will you paint the bedroom this weekend, PLEASE?”  Even if you say please, it still sounds like nagging if that is all he ever hears about for the past eighteen weeks.  Words of affirmation are not to be used as a form of manipulation, but if the husband is affirmed by all of the things that he does, and does well, there is room for discussion about those things that he does not do very well or does not like to do.  How would you approach this situation?  What would you say to encourage the husband to paint the bedroom?

As you can see, words of affirmation for the other person are not to be used to get something done for the sake of accomplishing your goals…remember; a relationship is a team effort.  You want the other person to feel sincerely valued and appreciated, so that they are willing to tackle projects, meet goals, and accomplish things that have a mutual benefit to the relationship.  The words are used for encouragement—not manipulation.  Manipulation only goes so far.  The recipient will know beyond the shadow of doubt that what you say cannot be trusted if it is only to get things done that you want to do.  It’s the fastest path to shutting down effective communication.

Words of affirmation are powerful for the person most sensitive to this love language.  They have the ability to positively affect other areas within the relationship because of the emotional connection involved.  They are like sparks around a flame, especially at the right time.  The positive words can offset the person who had a bad day at the office or the person who is going through difficulty.

Let’s come up with some examples of words of affirmation that we can express to our spouse, or to a friend or other family member.

Physical Touch

The love language of physical touch is not simply of a sexual nature. For example, if you were to ask a man what his primary love language is, he would usually blurt out PHYSICAL TOUCH, of course, because men are sexually wired in this way.  While it is impossible to ignore that different degrees of touching have to occur during sex, this does not automatically default to being a person’s primary love language.

Many greetings or acknowledgements that we experience are usually associated with physical contact, and the vast majority of people respond favorably when it is received.  A handshake, a pat on the back, a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a high five, or even a chest bump (men only, of course) are examples of physical contact that are associated with greetings or feelings of celebration.  These are all acceptable forms of communication.  When examining the love language of physical touch, the person whose primary language is physical touch is generally more responsive to the physical contact that is received in conjunction with either verbal and/or non-verbal communication.  In fact, physical touch and words of affirmation may rank very highly together as love languages for the same individual because of that person’s sensitivity to all types of communication.

In more intimate relationships, the person sensitive to touch is highly receptive and responsive to sensations such as a kind hand to the arm or shoulder, or an arm around the waist, and even holding hands while walking or standing quietly.  All of these more intimate gestures reflect a sense of excitement, comfort, care, concern, and love, depending upon the circumstance or situation.  The level of comfort between the two persons that participate in physical touch is important because such actions would be perceived as strange and unwanted in relationships that are, for example, more professional or friend-like than personal.  Physical touch does have rather distinct boundaries associated with the type of relationship.

Physical touch is a wonderful love language that expresses love between two people.  All physical contact, however, is not good, especially when it is characterized as physical abuse.  It is not hard to understand why physical abuse is so destructive in a relationship.  In the same way that positive physical contact has an emotional connection and a bond between its participants, the physical abuse also has a profound emotional effect on the recipient of the abuse.  Neglect is another form of abuse, except it is non-physical in nature.  The neglect of a person who relishes in positive physical touch is also emotionally, and even psychologically damaging.  This will typically occur in relationships where two people are communicating poorly or hardly at all, especially if one of the persons involved is often away from home.

In a relationship where there has been emotional damage, there must be guarded physical contact between the persons involved.  Physical gestures such as hugging or touches on the arm or hand are not received in the same way when the recipient is damaged emotionally.  While physical touch may still be the person’s primary love language, the emotional baggage that has accumulated over time may overwhelm the welcome tactile sensation of touch.  It will take a lot of time and effort to heal and recover through such a period, and it will require patience of both persons involved in the recovery.

You can see how physical touch has a profound effect on the emotional health of a relationship.  As we noted earlier, we are all sensory people and we respond to physical touch in different ways that are inherent to our individual personalities.  Take the time now to recall instances where a reassuring hand or a hug were very timely, or make notes as to what you are most responsive to when it comes to physical touch.


Now that you have a greater appreciation for the love languages and their role in interpersonal relationships, we hope that you will be mindful of how we can sometimes speak different love languages, but we can still be multilingual in our communication with our loved ones if we are sensitive to their needs.  It requires a sense of love and selfless behavior to be an effective communicator, and that love will last well beyond the initial emotional rush of a new relationship.

We hope that you sincerely enjoyed this weekend’s seminar, and we look forward to seeing you down the road!

Thank you!


Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see and

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