The success of romantic relationships may be dependent on speaking the same language — or the ways in which people express affection and the ways they wish to receive it. A study published in PLoS One explores how matching love languages can lead to greater relationship satisfaction among partners.
The concept of “love languages” refers to different behaviors and tendencies in how people express and prefer to receive love and affection in their romantic relationships. There are five distinct love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
Partners are often encouraged to express love in the way their partner prefers to receive it. The present study aims to explore how empathy and ‘mismatches’ in love languages can affect relationship satisfaction.
For their study, Olha Mostova and colleagues utilized 100 heterosexual couples to serve as their sample. All couples had to be in a relationship 6 months or longer and be sexually active. Participants were recruited via social media and personal connections. Participants completed measures on love languages, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, empathy, and demographic information.
Results showed that people who expressed love and affection in the love languages their partner preferred to receive experienced higher levels of both relationship and sexual satisfaction. The lower satisfaction seen in mismatched couples could suggest that sexual dissatisfaction could be due to romantic, rather than purely sexual, factors.
“Our study provides novel evidence in support of Chapman’s notion that speaking one’s partner love language leads to higher quality relationships and create a positive emotional climate within the couple,” the researchers said. “In particular, the findings supported our major hypothesis that individuals whose partners express love in the way they prefer to receive it experience elevated relationship and sexual satisfaction.”
Love language mismatch was associated with lower satisfaction for both the giver and receiver of affection, suggesting that fulfilling a partner’s needs was valued in addition to having one’s own needs fulfilled. Contrary to what the researchers hypothesized, people who were higher in empathy did not necessarily have more success at speaking their partner’s love language.
This study took significant steps into better understanding the significance of speaking the love language of one’s partner. Despite this, it has some limitations to note. One such limitation is that the study relied heavily on self-report, which is vulnerable to biases. Additionally, the direction of causality is beyond the scope of this present study and could be explored in future research.
The study, “I love the way you love me: Responding to partner’s love language preference boosts satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples“, was authored by Olha Mostova, Maciej Stolarski, and Gerald Matthews.