One of my favourite dinner party games is guessing which 'love language' my friends and family prefer to speak.
For anyone unfamiliar with the best-selling book by Dr Gary Chapman, PhD, author and marriage counsellor, we each give and receive love in different ways, according to our personalities.
These five specific love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time & Physical Touch.
Understanding our own love language, and that of our loved ones, allows us to communicate love clearly, resolve conflict more easily and feel more connected.
It also allows us to gift effectively in the way our loved ones really value as an expression of love.
Although we can give & receive love in more than one language, we usually have a strong preference for one.
For example, I love Receiving Gifts and have already dropped heavy hints to Ben about a beautiful blouse from French label, Aime, which I would love to receive for Valentine’s Day (Ben – consider this a concrete invitation to buy it for me!)
Yet, I also recognise that Ben most often shows his love most through Acts of Service – I have countless examples of crazy missions that I set for our weekends. Most recently, removing a 10ft solid armoire from the top of our house, I was there giving excellent guidance – while he was crushed between a wall and an enormous wardrobe....
In reverse, Ben’s love language is Words of Affirmation, on our first Christmas together I gave him a first edition copy of 'Rewards and Fairies' by Rudyard Kipling with a handwritten note bookmarking his favourite poem 'If'. This personal gift, made more special by the fact I am not naturally gushy, but was clearly trying to converse in Ben’s Love Language.
The beauty of understanding your loved ones' preferred love language is you’ll always give them a present they would love to receive.
So be inspired by our gifting edit below which covers each love language and suggests thoughtful gifts that will be truly appreciated.
Words of affirmation – this group’s love language is a spoken or written declaration of love; a thoughtful message or quote in a handmade card; a framed poem or lyric that speaks to them; a vintage edition of a favourite classic novel with a personal flyleaf dedication.
Or commission a small work of art; Juliet Wittet's hug series is a beautiful concept. She creates original drawings that help share the special bond between loved ones, whether that's a partner, child, friend, sibling or parent. One off originals in a world where mass art is often consumed - the bespoke nature of her artworks reflect the unique relationships between individuals.
Order directly from Juliet through her Instagram @julietcreates
Quality time – this group’s love language is consciously choosing to spend time together. A shared supper, a visit to an art gallery or theatre, a long walk, it doesn’t matter the activity, as long as focus is on your shared experience. Connecting to our senses also brings us into the present and invites us to enjoy the moment together.
A candle lit bath using your favourite bath soak or savour the spiritual bliss of ancient Incausa incense.
Acts of service – this group’s love language has a practical focus which notices and acts on the small things. Thoughtful gestures which support your loved one; tea in bed in the morning; looking after the children so you can have a lie-in at the weekend; filling up the car with petrol; making them a personal playlist; a pair of cosy socks & a handwritten token for foot massage, all make considered gifts for this group.
Physical touch – this group’s love language is in the form of touch and physical intimacy. It may be holding hands or a sensual massage. For family it might be a reassuring pat on the back or a warm hug. Or it can be a tactile gift which is pleasurable to your sense of touch.
Receiving Gifts – this isn’t just as simple as buying a gift. Selecting a gift that really hits the mark requires empathy and intimacy. Understanding the gift which really resonates with a loved one is crucial. For example, Ben bought me a beautiful painting for Christmas. He chose it himself, but he’d chosen it whilst factoring in all my likes and preferences about art from what I have said and from what I have bought before. As a result, it was a painting I could happily have chosen for myself and was the perfect gift for me.