There Are Seven Love Languages Now, and One Might Be Yours

There Are Seven Love Languages Now, and One Might Be Yours
Photo: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

You’ve almost certainly heard of “love languages” and you probably also know there are five of them. Or, there were. In 1992, Gary Chapman released a book explaining this theory of interpersonal dynamics, and delving into the five ways people can display affection to their partners — words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, actives of service, and receiving gifts. The impact of his work on our modern dating culture is seismic, to say the least. New research, however, shows that there might actually be seven of these so-called love languages, and they aren’t exactly as Chapman laid out three decades ago.

Truity, a company that offers a variety of personality tests, announced last week that its new survey of over 500,000 people yielded a list of seven love styles: Activity, appreciation, emotional, financial, intellectual, physical, and practical. So, what does this update to the conventional wisdom mean for you?

What are the original love languages all about?

Chapman, a marriage counselor whose work with couples in the 1980s led to the publication of his seminal work in 1992, not to mention subsequent books and a cottage industry based on the original love languages, concluded everyone communicates their affection in one of those five ways. Similarly, everyone feels most loved when their partner communicates with them using their preferred love language.

The original five were pretty self-explanatory. Someone whose love language is “quality time” obviously wants to spend quality time with a partner. Someone whose love language is “physical touch” prioritises hand-holding or other types of physical intimacy. Chapman has written extensively on these love languages, and you can take a test on his website to determine which one you align with most.

In a release accompanying the survey findings, relationship counselor Christa Hardin, MA, noted, “in my counseling and coaching practices, the Love Language framework has been helpful for clients to develop their listening skills and help them come back to the most important aspects of their love and life together. It is exciting to have another tool that better reflects the needs and styles of diverse, modern couples — and which can be used to help them deepen and grow their relationship together.”

What are the new love languages all about?

In its release about the latest research, Truity noted times have changed since Chapman first introduced the concept of love languages to the masses in the early 1990s. Gender norms aren’t the same — and the original five love languages certainly show their age. Culturally, men were once expected to do more of the gift-giving. Women were expected to do more acts of service. The more glass ceilings women break, the less they have to rely on men to buy them things and the less time they have to devote to bolstering male partners’ egos and careers.

Culture has shifted in other ways, and for men too. Male displays of emotion aren’t quite as stigmatised as they once where, so men are freer to admit to themselves and their partners when they might prioritise words of affirmation over physical touch. These ever-changing norms don’t negate the fact that we all have unique communication styles and needs. They just reframe what those look like these days.

While Chapman’s original five have counterparts among Truity’s new seven, the two totally new ones are the “emotional” and “intellectual” styles. A person who prefers an emotional style needs a partner who treats them with empathy and compassion, who is supportive, and who stands by them even through hard times. Someone who prefers an intellectual style wants to share opinions and ideas with their mate while having their own intellect appreciated.

This update “provides a more comprehensive look at the needs of the modern couple,” said Omar Ruiz, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “For instance, emotional as an added love language is very key–as there has been an overall shift in promoting for all genders to express themselves in ways that could not have been acceptable in previous generations.”

As for the other five, they’ve all gotten a slight makeover, again thanks to the survey. Where “receiving gifts” was once its own narrow love language, a “financial” love style is a little more all-encompassing and includes, for instance, providing financial support.

Are the original five love languages bad now?

No, the original five love languages aren’t objectively bad, sexist, or anything like that. They, like the new ones, are just a framework for better understanding yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Chapman’s love languages just happen to be a little older than Truity’s and reflective of the time when they were conceptualized.

Taking an online quiz or reading a book — or five — about purported “languages” are great ways to start this journey of discovery, but they aren’t everything. You still need to communicate your needs with your partner and work every day to express when and how they’re meeting yours while also striving to meet theirs. No book or press release can do that work for you. They just offer a good place to start.

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