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Learning the Languages of Love in Recovery


Personal relationships, whether with family members or romantic partners, can be some of the most triggering and difficult interactions that people in recovery must deal with. In my own experience, problems in relationships have been one of the largest factors that have preceded my relapses in the past. When a relationship is suffering, we often don’t realize what it is that we need and aren’t getting; we only realize that we aren’t getting what we want from a loved one, which can be extremely upsetting and bring many feelings of defeat and pain.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, an internationally-respected marriage and family life expert, love is a form of communication. He is best known for his concept of the “Five Love Languages,” which teaches that people speak and understand emotional love when it is expressed through one of five languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.

Dr. Chapman argues that, while all people typically feel and express love through all of these languages, a person usually has one primary language which holds more weight than the others. The concept suggests that, if I primarily experience love by someone spending quality time with me but the primary love language of my loved one is receiving gifts, then when that person is trying to show me his love by buying me gifts, while not spend much quality time with me, we are not communicating very effectively. Even though the love is present, I will likely feel unloved, and that person won’t feel appreciated.

By understanding each love language, our primary love language, as well as the primary love languages of others, we are better equipped to express and feel love more effectively.

A brief description of each love language is as follows:

Words of Affirmation: For those whose primary language of love is words of affirmation, words are very powerful expressions of love. These can be verbal compliments, reminders, or encouragements that express a positive thought or sentiment about someone. Some examples may include “I appreciate you taking out the trash last night,” “You look so great in that outfit! Wow!”, “I am so grateful to have a person like you in my life,” or “You are such a great mother.”

Quality Time: Quality time in our day and age is sometimes a rarity. Quality time is not only spending time together, but also with focused attention. Watching TV sitting next to one another isn’t really quality time. Going on a walk with someone while each person is checking his or her emails also is not full of much quality. Quality time is time spent together, but more importantly with the focus on one another. It is important to have quality conversation. Allowing our loved one to speak about his or her feelings, thoughts, memories, dreams, etc., while letting that person know that you are listening in an interested way is imperative.

Receiving Gifts: A gift expresses that you are thinking of someone and shows that you feel deeply connected to that person whether he or she is physically present or not. The price of the gift is irrelevant. Gifts that express thought behind them are the most important. For some people, gifts can be extremely valuable, and not in a monetary way. These are physical, tangible expressions of love.

Acts of Service: Acts of service are great ways of doing something that tells another person that he or she is important to you. Actions such as cooking a meal, taking out the trash, filling up a loved one’s gas tank at night so he or she doesn’t have to do so on the way to work, changing the cat’s litter tray, etc, are all examples of acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. It is important to keep a positive attitude when doing acts of service for someone, because if they are done with anger or annoyance, they are not expressions of love.

Physical Touch: For some people, physical affection is a vivid expression of love. This may be a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss, sexual intercourse, cuddling, holding, caressing, etc. This does not mean all touches are equal, nor does it mean that someone whose primary love language is physical touch is going to want just any of these examples at any given time. Asking your loved one what he or she enjoys most, and to help direct you, will be a big help. While offering physical affection, we also have to respect others’ physical boundaries.

You can take the quiz on Dr. Chapman’s website to determine your primary (and secondary) love language, and I suggest that you encourage your loved ones to do the same. Understanding how to love and letting others understand how to best love you can be great tools to communicate love effectively, and eliminate unnecessary problems caused by miscommunication. Being proactive in our recoveries, by tending to relationships, will only improve us and those relationships that we desire to grow.

You can take the quiz here:


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Melanie is a 27-year old Southern California native who studied at Pepperdine University. Loving to travel and experience new places and cultures, she spent two years living in the Southern states of Texas and Tennessee before returning to Los Angeles where she began working in the legal industry writing content and managing communication to class members of class action lawsuits. She now is focused on her continued sobriety, and her motto in life is to never take herself too seriously. She is often described by others as an "old soul." She loves music, photography, and makeup artistry and likes to entertain herself with astrology and numerology. She is a Sagittarius and a number 9, and shares her birthday with her beloved late grandmother and her favorite author, C.S. Lewis.

Filed under: Love and Relationships, Recovery · Tags: expressions of love, language of love, love, relationships is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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