Two of the founding fathers of the field of positive psychology are Professors Martin Seligman and the late Chris Peterson. According to Peterson, positive psychology can be summed up in two words: “Other people”.  One of the central tenets of Seligman’s wellbeing model is relationships, in particular positive relationships. When you have such heavyweights placing something at the heart of wellbeing, you know it has to be significant.

So, How Do We Make Relationships Work?

One person whose work on relationships has gained a lot of popularity, is Gary Chapman. His work as a counsellor for many years revealed consistent patterns in the ways people felt loved and demonstrated their love in relationships.  This lead Chapman to come up with The Five Love Languages and write a book of the same name, which has sold millions.

Our natural tendency is to speak in our native tongue. If you know how to speak English, you are going to speak English! If the person you meet and want to be with, doesn’t speak English but rather they speak German, what then? To get along, you’re going to have to learn to speak the other person’s language or at least enough of the other language to get by. Chapman realised that how a person feels loved is how they communicate love works in much the same way;  and so the love languages were born!

What Are The Five Love Languages?

Words of Affirmation:

The use of words (spoken or written) to convey your love, affection, appreciation, encouragement, kindness, compassion, and compliments. This also involves saying positive things about your partner to others.

Quality Time:

Spending quality time together where there is focussed attention on each other be it in deep conversation or by being engaged in an activity together; so watching TV doesn’t necessarily count! Quality conversations involve you listen intently to your partner (not just their words, but how they say it with all the non-verbal communications) and genuinely contribute to the conversation by sharing things of yourself (not just sharing your opinions on solving a problem at hand).

Receiving gifts:

Gifts can be large or small, bought or made, or most profoundly, the gift of your presence in a time of need. The gift needs to resonate with your partner, something they may have expressed a desire towards at some point.

Acts of Service:

Doing something for your partner that they would like done for them. Keeping the garden looking great might not hit the spot in the same way for the partner who loves to be wined and dined.

Physical Touch:

This is not just about sex or sexual contact, but connecting intimately in heartfelt ways such as with the touch on the back or arm or a hug when in need of comforting.

Our natural tendency is to demonstrate our love for our partner in the language that comes most naturally to us – that’s our primary love language. But what if your native love language is not the same as your partner’s? As with our English and German lovers, learn to speak their language. Or as Chapman more emphatically states, “we must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”

The quick way to find out your primary love language: consider which of the five you would miss the most if it were NOT present in your relationship.

When most people think of love, they think of the feeling of love – that warm soft gooey feeling that comes over us – or the object of their love – that special person or hobby they are passionate about. Yet, I remember years ago, a lecturer of mine pointing out that ‘love is a verb, not just a noun’. Love requires action, and the feelings will follow as a consequence. What can you do, or more to the point, what WILL you do to learn and speak the language of your love’s love more often to create more heartfelt connection with your partner to reap the rewards of a richer relationship?


How Do We Make Relationships Work