You’ve almost certainly heard of “love languages” and you probably also know there are five of them: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Or at least there were. Truity, a company that offers a variety of personality tests, recently surveyed over 500,000 people and concluded there are actually seven love styles: Activity, appreciation, emotional, financial, intellectual, physical, and practical.
That represents a major shakeup to conventional wisdom dating back three decades. In 1992, Gary Chapman released a book explaining the five-language theory of interpersonal dynamics, delving into the five ways he said people can display affection to their partners. The impact of his work on our modern dating culture has been seismic, to say the least. So what does this update to the old way of thinking mean for you?
Breaking down the seven love languages
Before we compare and contrast the new and the old, let’s delve into what the updated love languages are:
- Activity: People with this love style feel valued when their partner takes an interest in their hobbies and makes an effort to join them in doing what they love. When a partner shows genuine curiosity about a hobby or interest, they demonstrate an appreciation for who you are as a person outside the relationship.
- Appreciation: People with this style feel cared for when their partner praises their effort or traits, taking care to notice little things about them and offer specific words of encouragement and gratitude.
- Emotional: Someone with this style feels loved when their partner supports them emotionally and is there for them through hard times. If your partner has this style, dig deep into their unique personality and work hard to understand their point of view and emotions.
- Financial: A person with this love style feels valued when their partner spends money on them—but it’s not just about gifts. Money spent splitting rent, for instance, counts here, and demonstrates an interest in your partner’s safety, while money spent on trinkets shows you’re thinking of them and remember what they like.
- Intellectual: People with an intellectual love style feel most connected when talking with their partner, reaching understandings, and having their opinion understood. They want to know how their partner thinks and have their partner understand their point of view, too.
- Physical: Individuals with this style feel supported and loved when physically touching their partner—which includes sex, but is absolutely not limited to it. From hand-holding to a shoulder squeeze, they interpret physical touch as a sign of support and care.
- Practical: Someone with a practical love style feels valued when their partner helps with tasks, like household chores or giving them a ride to work. This one is all about showing support for your partner and everything they have to do, indicating you’re part of a team and they’re not alone.
Can’t figure out which one you align with most based on the explanations? Truity has a test you can take, of course.
What are the five 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 through words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, or gifts. 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” prioritizes 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 Truity 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 Truity’s seven new love languages all about?
In its release about the latest research, Truity noted that 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 stigmatized as they once where, so men are freer to admit to themselves and their partners when they might prioritize 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.