Does your partner light up whenever you pay them a compliment? Do they frequently tell you that they appreciate you? You may be in a relationship with someone whose primary love language is words of affirmation.
Once you know your partner’s love language and are able to tap into it, you’re one step closer to a loving and mutually satisfying relationship. Words of affirmation are a common way in which people enjoy giving and receiving love, so being familiar with this communication style is vital to forming strong relationships.
But before we dive knee-deep into words of affirmation, let’s back up and talk about love languages in general.
The five love languages are a framework for understanding the different ways that people like to give and receive love. First observed by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, he formed the idea behind the five love languages through repeating themes found with couples in his counseling sessions. He discovered that when people feel disconnected from each other, it’s often because they expect to receive love a certain way, but that way is not being displayed.
Everybody feels loved differently, and everybody gives love differently. For example, some people like it when their partner performs acts of service for them, such as washing the dishes, folding the laundry, or running to the grocery store. Others feel more loved when their partners perform the act of physical touch, like holding hands, hugging, cuddling, or kissing.
Chapman identifies the five love languages as words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Today, we’re looking at the most common love language: words of affirmation.
Someone who feels most by words is an individual who freely and comfortably “uses words to affirm other people.” Those who have this as their first love language tend to be observant and sensitive people. They remember details, especially about people they care about. They notice your new haircut and almost always know what to say to make you feel better
Often, we give love in the way we want to receive it ourselves, but this doesn’t always add up to our partner feeling loved. They need to be loved in a way that fills up their own “love tank.” It’s critical to a relationship that both partners understand their own love languages, as well as their partner’s love languages. A long-term relationship can only be lasting and fulfilling if both partners educate themselves on how to best display love and affirmation to their significant other.
Learning how to give love in your partner’s first love language is one of the purest, most selfless acts you can make. You may not feel loved by hearing kind words from your partner, but making the effort to observe them and affirm them can mean everything to someone whose love tank is filled by kind words.
Knowing your partner’s love language can also make it clear when they are showing their love to you. If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation and they pay you a compliment, you can trust that it comes from the heart. For them, it’s the most natural way to show you they care.
For some people, giving words of affirmation comes naturally, and for others, it feels quite uncomfortable. Luckily, giving words of affirmation is something that you can improve on with practice. When complimenting your partner, keep the following in mind:
People who like receiving words of affirmation enjoy hearing that they have been noticed. To give good words of affirmation, you have to make it a conscious effort to observe your partner in the small and big moments of life.
Rather than offering platitudes, use phrases that are specific to their actions, like, “thank you for making the bed this morning. I was running late and couldn’t get to it, so I appreciate your effort,” or, “You cooked a great meal tonight. I can tell that you worked really hard on making it perfect.”
If you’re new to giving words of affirmation, it may take some practice for it to come naturally. If it helps, just take a week to observe the things you appreciate about your partner and write them down.
For words of affirmation to be effective, they need to be genuine and authentic. Your partner needs to know that you mean what you say. You don’t have to be grandiose or poetic. Simple phrases like “your eyes look beautiful today,” or “you have a great work ethic, and you make your company a better place” are still deeply meaningful.
Words of affirmation don’t always have to be verbal. They can come in the form of notes, letters, texts, and other creative communication methods. If this is easier for you than saying words of affirmation out loud, this can be a great way to shower your partner with sweet words of appreciation and admiration.
People whose love language is words of affirmation tend to be very sensitive to the words that are used and how they are said. This means it is important to choose your words and tone of voice carefully. When speaking to someone whose love language is words of affirmation, take the following into account:
When someone’s main love language is words of affirmation, they tend to take words very seriously. While you may not always mean what you say from time to time, they often take every word to heart. As much as words can build up these types of individuals, they can just as easily tear them down, so be careful to not insult or slight them.
In some relationships, teasing is fun, and bantering back and forth builds your relationship. However, for people whose main love language is words of affirmation, teasing might end up being hurtful. Get a sense of the jokes they don’t find funny and avoid them.
Your partner can easily pick up on negative tones, even subtle ones, where other people wouldn’t be so aware of how things were said. Criticism of their ideas and condescension will come through loud and clear which can leave them feeling hurt, disrespected, and less confident.
Arguments happen, and we get angry, frustrated, and disappointed with our partners. However, don’t withhold words of affirmation from them in an attempt to get back at them. This only further fractures the disconnect and limits the healing that can be done. Soft, kind words are the lifeblood of individuals with the primary love language of words of affirmation.
If your love language isn’t words of affirmation, and you aren’t used to kind words, hearing them may make you feel awkward. Partners whose love language is words of affirmation will be prone to saying nice things to you because that’s how they naturally give love. Responding to this appropriately is important — it shows your partner that you accept their love.
If your partner likes to give words of affirmation, even if it isn’t your primary love language, you should try to accept and appreciate this love. This doesn’t mean words of affirmation will fill up your love tank. You should make clear to your partner how you feel most loved, and that they should try to incorporate that type of language more into their displays of affection toward you.
However, your partner likely expresses love for you in a variety of ways and you should do the same for them. To help your partner feel appreciated for their vulnerable words, try the following:
Saying “thank you” and “I appreciate you and your kind words” goes a long way with those who enjoy giving words of affirmation.
Maybe you want to be praised for your perfectly chosen outfits more than you want to be praised for doing the dishes. Feel free to express these preferences with your partner.
It is important to note that when your partner gives words of affirmation, they are putting their own heart on the line and displaying their raw emotions toward you. It’s important that you acknowledge their love — remember, they are often sensitive actions and body language.
Don’t dismiss your partner’s sincere affection, even if you’re trying to be self-deprecating. Humbly accepting their words shows that you take them seriously and appreciate them.
No matter how awkward kind words make you feel, don’t respond with disgust. Don’t shut your partner down. If you feel flustered, it’s okay to tell your partner, “I need a moment to process that.” Take a few deep breaths and remember that your partner is showing their love for you.
If you’re uncomfortable with kind words and compliments, it could be easy for you to try to ease the tension by cracking a joke. However, this makes light of your partner’s genuine attempt to show affection.
It’s okay for words of affirmation not to be your primary or favorite love language, but it’s still an act of love on behalf of your partner and you should do your best to accept them.
That said, it’s also okay and healthy to have boundaries, and communicating them is an important part of a healthy relationship. Make sure to tell your partner what’s too much for you to handle.
Hi, I’m Raghed!
Founder and lead relationship coach at HeartAppeal.
Our blog will be your new favorite place to go for advice, laughs, and comfort through all the stages of dating. We stay up-to-date on all the latest dating trends, so you don’t have to. Have a topic you’d like us to cover or a story you’d like to share with our community? Send me an email; we’d love to include it!