Words of Affirmation: How to Speak the Language of Love
The concept of love languages (originally developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D) is built around the idea that there are five basic ways that people want to receive love. This could be the love we feel in a romantic relationship, but it could also be the love of a platonic friendship or a relationship with a family member. There are probably people in your life that just seem to know exactly how to make you feel seen and loved. Chances are they are already attuned to your specific love language.
In any relationship, understanding which actions from others make you feel loved gives you a sense of empowerment. You should always feel empowered to ask for what you need. Likewise, learning your partner or loved one’s love language enables you to be more intentionally loving and supportive of them. Having love language wisdom makes you a better partner in every situation.
Chapman identifies the five love languages as:
- Acts of service: doing something for your partner that you know they would like.
- Physical touch: both intimate and non-intimate touching.
- Receiving gifts: giving your partner tangible items that you know they want or would appreciate.
- Quality time: showing love and affection by spending dedicated time together.
- Words of affirmation: speaking or writing words that empathize with or uplift your partner.
Some of us give and receive love in the same way. If your love language is acts of service, maybe you always make sure to fill up the gas tank before your partner uses the car and you feel the most loved when your partner prepares the coffee in the morning. It makes sense that we would often offer love in the language that feels the most relevant to us, but understanding your partner’s own personal love language and working to express your affection in that way is the surest way to make them feel seen, valued, and appreciated.
Words of affirmation is the most common love language. Almost a quarter of people report it as their top way of receiving or feeling loved. Those who identify words of affirmation as their primary love language feel most loved, appreciated, and seen when their partner uses verbal language to express their affection. This love language is so easy and straightforward it is sometimes overlooked or forgotten. If your partner is a person who responds to praise, declarations of love, affectionate texts, or love letters you should learn all about words of affirmation and use them regularly!
If words of affirmation isn’t your love language, you may think something like: “They should know how much I love them without me constantly saying it!” You may feel confident that you show your love to them in different ways.
But remember: understanding and utilizing the love languages means recognizing what makes other people feel loved and appreciated and offering that to them rather than expressing your love in the way that makes the most sense to you. If your partner responds to words of affirmation, identifying different methods of expressing love in this way and even making a plan to do so often will go a long way in making your partner feel loved and seen.
Make A List
A big threat to long-term relationships is the tendency to take for granted that our partner knows how we feel about them. If your partner responds to words of affirmation, you may find yourself drawing a blank on what to say beyond “I love you” (though don’t skimp on the “I love yous”, they definitely need to be said!).
Take some time to think about what you love and appreciate about your partner. Think of all things big and small—from them taking out the trash to driving through rush hour traffic to pick up your aunt at the airport. Making a physical list of all the things that you appreciate about your partner means you have a bank to pull from to tell them how much you value them. This practice may also feel good for you personally as you enumerate all the wonderful things about the person you love.
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Words, Words, Words
Words of affirmation is probably the most direct of all the five love languages. The simplest way to practice it is to speak! Speaking words of affirmation means telling your partner that they are loved and appreciated, but in the hustle of our busy day-to-day lives, remembering to stop and tell a partner how much they are valued can be tough. Why not set a reminder? You can use your phone to prompt you to tell your partner something loving. Doing this will create a habit and eventually you probably won’t even need the reminder.
Send A Text
People who identify this as their love language often say that hearing their partner or loved one speak words of affirmation tells them they are being thought about, that they are occupying the mind of the person who loves them. Sending a text when you are apart is a great way to let your partner know you are thinking about them and thinking about how much you love and appreciate them even when you are not together.
A bonus! Studies show that dopamine is released in the brain when we get a text alert. You can capitalize on that happy hormone and make your partner feel even more loved by sending them an affirming and affectionate (or even sexy) text during the day.
Often in long term relationships texts and notes can be used for mundane messaging like: Don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning or We’re out of milk. If your notes have become utilitarian, flipping the script and using them to completely indulge your loving feelings for your partner can be extra surprising and fun.
Leaving sticky notes for your partner is the analog way to text. Get creative: leave notes on the bathroom mirror… stuck to their favorite coffee cup… in the refrigerator on the orange juice pitcher. Tell them you love them or recognize something they have done or make a declaration of their greatness. Like a text, they give your partner a private reminder that you are thinking about them and value them constantly.
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With all the immediate communication options available to us, it is easy to forget the joy of written letters. Passing notes in class gave us the same sort of dopamine hit we get with a text.
Writing a letter certainly does take more time and consideration but it can have a much bigger impact. Whether you jot down a sweet note on a piece of notebook paper or buy some flowery stationary and seal the letter in an envelope with a kiss, taking the time to write a thoughtful letter will really show your partner how loved they are.
Check In With Your Partner
There are just five love languages but there are billions of people in the world. Not everyone whose love language is words of affirmation is going to want the same expressions of love.
After you have tried some of these suggestions, check in with your partner. Ask them which ways of communicating your love make them feel the most affirmed. Do more of those!
Understanding each other’s love languages is a step towards loving one another more authentically and fully.
Studies show that couples who know each other’s love languages and practice expressing their love to each other in the language of their partner have greater relationship satisfaction and report higher levels of intimacy. It is important to be authentic with your expressions of love. While setting a reminder or scheduling time to say “I love you” can feel insincere, remember that building a new ritual takes time and intention. It is okay to use all the tools available to help you make sure your partner knows how loved and valued they are.
Make sure you are bringing empathy and authenticity to your expressions of words of affirmation. If this is not your personal love language it may feel awkward at first to be so direct and vocal about your feelings. It is important to remember that love languages are really about the receiver and making sure that we express our affection in ways that make them feel loved and seen. Being intentional about this practice is an act of love in and of itself and your efforts should pay off with greater satisfaction and intimacy!
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