When it comes to relationships, everyone builds connections differently. Some people are all about the PDA, some enjoy posting gushing IG captions for each and every anniversary, and others shower each other with presents whenever possible. But as it turns out, how these people show their affection can actually be broken down by love languages.
The phrase comes from the book Gary Chapman, PhD, wrote in 1992: The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. And for those who don’t know, these love languages are kinda major when forming a lasting and healthy bond.
Basically, Chapman says people “speak” one of five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and gifts. These love languages reveal how you show your love and how you want to receive love.
So obviously, the first step in all of this is to take a (free!) love language test to find out what your love language is. Once you know your language, you can learn the best way to show love and understand when your partner is expressing their own affection.
If you find out you rank high for words of affirmation, well, this article is for you. From what it means and how to show it to plenty of examples and dating tips, here’s everything you need to know if you or your partner’s love language is words of affirmation.
What does it mean if your love language is words of affirmation?
As you might have guessed, this love language is centered around words. “Words of affirmation can be spoken or written words that are supportive and empathic,” explains licensed marriage family therapist at Hope Therapy Center Jennie Marie Battistin. “They often acknowledge, identify, and recognize a person’s behavior, contributions, successes, or challenges.”
We’ll get into more specific examples and ideas below, but in short, folks with this love language are big fans of heart-to-heart chats and compliments—both giving and receiving.
“For these people, words are more important than actions,” explains certified sex educator and relationship expert with SexualAlpha and MysteryVibe Dainis Graveris.
And before you think words of affirmation is a “bad” or “needy” love language, experts agree it’s actually the opposite. “People who speak in this love language are usually the ones who pay attention to and also care about the tiny details of other people’s lives,” says Graveris.
As someone whose love language is words of affirmation, I can attest that a simple compliment or “I love you” turns me into straight-up putty. On the flip side, I tend to express my admiration and gratitude by doing things like sending good morning texts to my parents or leaving cute lil notes around the house for my hubs. And yup, I’m 100 percent that person who always saves handwritten cards from people I love.
What are some signs your love language is words of affirmation?
Words of affirmation is one of the easier love languages to pinpoint, says Battistin. Not only do you like to verbally hear “I love you,” but Graveris says you probably enjoy hearing why your partner loves you, and chances are, this exchange never gets old.
Some other signs might be you appreciate when your partner notices you’ve changed up your look, you enjoy picking out the perfect birthday card for someone, and love songs hit super hard for you. Graveris says you also probably really enjoy texting your partner and/or expressing your adoration via social media.
On the reverse, having an unfulfilling conversation, not being verbally congratulated, thanked, or validated, or being on the receiving end of unkind words is especially upsetting to someone with this love language.
What are some examples of words of affirmation?
When it comes to love languages, most people find words of affirmation to be relatively simple to master. Here are some things you can say and do for your partner whose love language is words of affirmation:
- Simply say, “I love you.”
- And then explain what you love about them.
- Express how you feel about them often.
- Tell them in detail how you’re proud of them for something specific, like navigating a difficult family holiday or a hard convo with their boss.
- Say: “I’m so blessed to be with you.”
- Congratulate them on big and little wins, from getting a promotion to parallel parking on the first try.
- Compliment their hair, their outfit, their perfume, their smile, their smarts—you get the picture.
- Thank them for doing something for you or your household.
- Become very familiar with handwritten cards, and make sure to give your partner a note for every birthday and holiday.
- Leave lil notes around the house saying everything you love about them.
- Tuck a note in their bag before work to encourage them on an important day.
- Send them “just because” love notes.
- Save the cards and notes they give you because, chances are, their words really come from the heart.
- Post a cute photo and special caption to social media on their birthday.
- Give them verbal validation and praise often, and especially when they’re having hard days.
- Compliment them on their nails or outfit or how blue their eyes particularly look that day.
- Text them during the day to remind them you’re thinking of them.
- Tell them how and why they inspire you and what you admire them.
- Acknowledge when they do something good or impressive and point out what they do well, especially as they’re doing it.
- Tell them when they make you feel good (both in and out of the bedroom), that you’re attracted to them, and that you appreciate them.
- Focus on positive words and communication, even during difficult times. Remember: Every word carries a lot of weight to them, so always think before you speak.
- Avoid criticizing, negative comments, and accusations since insults can have a lasting impact on words people and aren’t easily forgotten.
It’s important to remember these ideas aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some people aren’t fans of social media PDA and others prefer short and sweet praise versus soliloquies. Chat about what you want and need, and be patient as you and your partner work together to find the right balance.
What are some relationship tips if you or your partner’s love language is words of affirmation?
As with any relationship, no matter if you have the same or differing love languages, communication is key. If you’re not able to express your feelings and emotions effectively, things can’t really move forward or thrive.
So the first step is “identifying your and your partner’s primary love language and constantly speaking that language,” says Graveris. This not only helps you understand each other’s needs better but using each other’s love languages can actually help foster growth since love languages “helps us understand how to communicate to our partner love and how they communicate love,” Battistin explains.
If you and your partner have figured out your love languages, and one of you speaks “words of affirmation,” here’s what to keep in mind:
If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation:
Very simply: They want you to give them reassurance, validation, and support with your words, and more importantly, they want you to mean what you say. “It can be very easy for partners with words of affirmation as their love language to spot fake compliments and remarks,” Graveris says. “My number one advice is to make sure if you say something to your partner, it comes from your heart. If you say random things or make stuff up, they’ll know you’re not authentic.”
Being empathetic to their feelings goes a long way, as does pep talks when they’re feeling down, and thanking or praising them as much as possible. Don’t just assume your partner knows you care—tell them and tell them often.
If you’re having a hard time remembering to give positive, verbal affirmation, Battistin suggests putting a daily reminder in your phone to text them something nice or even send them a funny meme. “Pick up several ‘thinking about you’ cards and mail one a month to your partner or get some dry erase pens and write, ‘I love you,’ on the bathroom mirror,” she suggests. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking their language.
If words of affirmation is your love language:
You need to use your words to let your partner know. Since couples often have different love languages, if your partner doesn’t know verbal or written words make you feel loved, they might not think to utilize them. Plus, even if your partner does know your love language, Graveris says they might not be as well-versed at expressing their feelings or noticing the small stuff, so be patient and forgiving.
“Just like in any relationship, feeling appreciated and understood is very important,” Graveris explains. “It’s just that it means a whole lot more for people with words of affirmation as their love language.” This means words probably hit a lil harder for you. So if someone says something that hurts you, try to explain why without getting defensive. It’s likely they didn’t necessarily realize the weight of their words.
Finally, it’s important to note your love language can change from time to time depending on the situation. After a bad day, you might want a hug instead of a pep talk or you might like to simply spend quality time together instead of discussing your feelings. Graveris says it all comes down to communicating with your partner and both of you speaking up about what you need in the moment.
What if you don’t have the same love language as your partner?
The good news: Couples absolutely don‘t need to have the same primary love language for their relationship to work. It all simply boils down to learning how you each like to give and receive love. Most people give love how they like to receive it as a default, so if your partner’s love language is acts of service and they always help you out with your chores or tasks, realize that’s their natural way of saying they love you.
That said, anyone can learn to speak a new (or another) love language with a little time and effort, Battistin says. “Ask your partner what are the things you can do that meaningfully show them you love them,” she suggests. Try not to get defensive as they explain, but pay attention and be curious to find out the answer.
Make it a mission to work as a couple to discover and explore each other’s love languages together. “By being committed to loving each other in ways that are meaningful to the other, you will soon find yourself in a happy and satisfying relationship,” Graveris says. And TBH, those are words I can get behind.
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