It’s often said that actions speak louder than words, but for people whose love language is words of affirmation, it’s actually words themselves that speak volumes.
Never heard of love languages? Introduced by Gary Chapman’s best-selling 2015 book, love languages are ways of communicating based on methods to speak and understand love. There are five different types: quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and the aforementioned words of affirmation. (Which is apparently the most common, according to Chapman.) Knowing your partner’s love language is important because it clues you in as to the best way to show them how much you care. You may think your partner wants to feel showered with thoughtful presents (receiving gifts) when really they would so much more appreciate you cleaning the kitchen for them (acts of service).
“People whose love language is words of affirmation like their partner to use words to express their love,” says sex and relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly, PhD. But if you don’t consider yourself good with words, being in a relationship with someone whose love language is words of affirmation seem challenging. But Dr. O’Reilly says it’s really not. Here, she shares her tips on how to fluently speak this love language. Keep reading for her tips.
Dr. O’Reilly emphasizes that you don’t have to be “good with words” to speak the words of affirmation love language. “It’s important to know that you don’t have to come up with something to say right on the spot,” she says. “You can spend some time and think about it, and then write your partner a love letter.”
However, just a simple “I love you,” (while nice) doesn’t always cut it. “Generally people who are inclined towards words of affirmation are looking for specific and personalized messages,” she adds. “They want to hear why you love them and how you love them.” For example, what actions or personality traits do you appreciate about them? Thinking about that could help you make what you say more meaningful and impactful to both of you.
If you take time to craft a love letter and it’s still challenging to put your feelings into words, Dr. O’Reilly says to borrow from time-tested love stories over time. “You can quote a passage from a poem or story,” she says. Or, you can gift your partner a book and underline passages that speak to your relationship.
Surprising your partner with notes is another way to express words of affirmation. “If they’re going on a business trip, you can leave little notes in their suitcase. Or, you can put one in their lunch bag,” she says. “It’s fun to surprise your partner!”
Dr. O’Reilly points out that someone whose love language is words of affirmation likely also likes to show their love this way, so it’s important to be able to accept words of affirmation, too. If you’re someone who can’t take a compliment, this can be challenging. “If accepting words of affirmation is challenging for you, it’s good to express this to your partner,” she says. “Tell them. ‘I’m not used to accepting words of love, but I’m working on it.’”
When your partner starts voicing all the things he or she loves about you, if you don’t know what to say, Dr. O’Reilly says a simple thank you works just fine. “Just start with that,” she says.
Just like with other languages, it can take work to become fluent in a love language, but Dr. O’Reilly says it absolutely can be done. “It’s also good to be fluent in more than one language, so it’s great to practice the other love languages as well,” she says.
The important part is that you and your partner are expressing your love to one another. And that’s something that’s appreciated no matter what language you speak.
If you’re curious about couples therapy, here’s what it’s like. And here’s how to literally rest easy when you and your partner have different sleep habits.