Deciphering and understanding your partner’s likes, dislikes, and interests in the bedroom can often feel like you’re both speaking a foreign language to each other. For example, you might prefer to cuddle before and after sex to show how much you care while your partner might prefer positive (and even dirty) communication as a form of intimacy. Not being on the same page sexually might leave you both feeling confused, unseen, and maybe even unsatisfied.
Enter: Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. The relationship expert coined the ubiquitous term “love language” after putting forth the theory that everyone understands and receives love in a different language — five to be exact: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, and receiving gifts.
If speaking your partner’s love language can improve your relationship in everyday life, then it only makes sense that applying this knowledge in your sex life can lead to more intimacy, better communication and connection and, ultimately, better sex.
“Communication and knowledge is key when it comes to intimacy,” says Ana De la Cruz, licensed marriage and family therapist. “It all begins with how much you know about your partner. Knowing what they like and what they don’t like, what feels good and does not feel good will lead you to the right place in order to enjoy sex. Knowing your partner’s love language will help you determine what steps you need to take in order to enjoy your sex life.”
If you don’t know your love language, you can check out this 30-question quiz on Chapman’s website to figure out yours while keeping in mind you might have more than one. If you know your love language but haven’t yet talked about it with your partner, De la Cruz recommends instead of guessing at what your partner likes (which is what most of us do), make the effort to set some time aside to have that conversation.
“Sit down with your spouse and ask about what you do that makes them feel loved, ask them about their love language, and communicate yours, as well, in a gentle way,” De la Cruz says. However, she points out it’s important to keep in mind that men and women are very different when it comes to intimacy.
“A woman responds sexually when she is taken care of emotionally, but a man responds emotionally when he is taken care of sexually. So take all the necessary steps in order to enjoy sex. Know your partner intimately, and understand love languages go further than the five love languages described in Gary Chapman’s book — but the five mentioned in Chapman’s book are a great place to start.”
Of course, everyone has different sexual preferences, including when it comes to love languages. While it’s not a one-size fits-all situation, it may provide inspiration for what to try out later with your partner.
Acts of service
“Acts of service in the bedroom can be taking the time to focus solely on your partner’s pleasure or doing something you know they really enjoy,” says Isabelle Uren, a certified sex expert. “These acts are much more meaningful when they are offered without being asked for.”
For example, Uren says, if you know there’s something your partner loves during foreplay, such as oral sex, let your partner sit back and enjoy while you work your magic.
“You can also take the time to explore their whole body to find their hidden sweet spots and get to know what really turns them on.”
If you’re both into bondage, you can also ask your partner if you can tie them up and let them enjoy being the centre of attention as you service them. According to Uren, even serving your partner a drink or wrapping them up in a blanket post-coital can make them feel truly loved if they like acts of service.
While it might seem like physical touch is a given during sex, Uren says there are ways to explore different types of touch with each other. For example, you can give and receive your partner a sensual massage, or explore temperature and sensation play. You can also build anticipation throughout the day with some sexy touches, including brushing up against your partner in the kitchen, squeezing their butt, or stealing a quick kiss on the neck.
While in the sack, trying out different sex positions that allow for lots of caressing and touching, such as lotus or the rocking horse, are also good ways to touch more. And, of course, don’t forget to enjoy the post-coital bliss with some cuddling, holding hands, or tender stroking.
“People who value quality time will feel loved when you devote time to sex, which involves minimising distractions and setting aside the time to connect fully,” Uren says. “On a practical level, this can include scheduling a sexy date night, leaving your phones outside of the bedroom, and investing time into improving your sex life.”
Quality time in the bedroom might also mean not rushing through foreplay with your partner. Uren provides another great tip: “Take things slowly, showing your partner they have your full attention, and incorporating activities that nurture connection, such as gazing into each other’s eyes and practicing synchronised breathing.”
Choosing sex positions that allow for long, intimate sessions, such as spooning or the coital alignment technique, could also be considered as quality time with your partner between the sheets. “You might also want to explore edging to draw out their pleasure and really allow their arousal to build,” Uren says.
Continuing to be present with your partner post-coital is equally important to those who prefer quality time, so try not to fall asleep, rush off, or be distracted by your phone. Instead take the time to chat and cuddle.
Words of affirmation
“A partner whose primary love language is words of affirmation will enjoy lots of positive feedback about themselves, their skills as a lover and partner, and the relationship in general,” Uren says.
To set the mood, you might consider sending a sexy message to your partner earlier that day letting them know they are on your mind. Compliment them, or tell them what you love about your sex life and how much you love being turned on by them.
Talking during sex is also something that you’d want to do for someone who likes words of affirmation. Ursen suggests face-to-face positions that allow you to whisper in your partner’s ear. “But no matter what position you are in, make sure to let your partner know when they do something you like.” Remember: Keep it positive and affirming.
After sex, take the time to compliment your partner’s between-the-sheets abilities or simply tell them that you love them.
If your partner is someone whose love language is receiving gifts, then surprising them with new lingerie, a new sex toy, or some sexy bedroom accessories, like massage oil or any BDSM gear, are great ideas, Ursen suggests. You might even get a little creative and write your own erotic story for your partner or create your own sexy vouchers for your partner to cash in.
But gifts aren’t necessarily tangible items. “If your partner has hinted at wanting to try a certain position or activity in the bedroom, offer to try it with them,” Ursen says. “Alternatively, let them pick their favourite sex position or gift them some new sex accessories such as a position enhancing pillow or some under-bed restraints to help you up your positions game.”
Stocking your fridge with their favourite snacks or drink as a little post-sex treat is also a great way to speak your partner’s love language. Thoughtfulness goes a long way when it comes to this love language.
Communicating what we need and understanding what our partner needs in the bedroom can be a little tricky at times. However, by learning your love languages together with your partner, you have a better shot at not only growing closer but also enjoying more sexual satisfaction.