Gary Chapman’s bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, suggests that each of us has a primary love language — words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch — and to improve emotional communication and connection, we need to learn to speak our partner’s language.
With the holidays upon us, understanding and catering to your partner’s love language can make gift-giving easier and more meaningful, so I’ve put together a brief gift guide for each of the love languages.
If your partner values words of affirmation, be sure to write a personalized card and consider a DIY gift. Last year, Rosedale resident Bruce made his wife a book of memories with photos and loving commentary from over thirty friends and family members. It’s no wonder they’ve been happily married for 37 years! If you didn’t plan ahead (Bruce’s book took four weeks to complete), consider the 21st century digital addendum to the words of affirmation love language: public declarations (my addition — not Chapman’s). Put together a photo collage, poem or playlist in honour of your partner and share it with a loving note on social media. Don’t worry about oversharing; one study found that flouting your love online is positively correlated with higher commitment levels.
No one likes to admit that their primary love language involves receiving gifts, but it’s perfectly natural to associate gifts with feelings of love. The key to pleasing this type of partner is to give them something they would not expect. The nucleus accumbent, the brain’s most reward-responsive area, shows greater activity when there is an element of surprise due to the value of “reward prediction error”.
Gifts that are sure to surprise include a 3D-printed portrait (figurine) from Selftraits (545 Queen St. W.), a Luckies of London travel map (available at Indigo) upon which you can mark a surprise trip destination or the new couples’ vibrator, the Sync by We-Vibe (available at Good for Her on Harbord).
Looking to splurge? Purchase a membership to John Allan’s Grooming Club at (unlimited hair cuts and pampering for men!) and if they’re a wine collector, opt for a membership to the Vintage Conservatory, a private wine cellar and social club with 24-hour fingerprint access for members.
For those with a partner whose primary love language is quality time, consider experiential gifts, which have been shown to improve relationship quality more than material ones. Take them to The World Junior Hockey Championships or the upcoming Kings of Leon concert. Book a room at Le Germain and take two full days off of work. Dine in the dark at O Noir where cell phones are disallowed. Whatever activity you plan, leave your phone at home. This is a gift — not a typical date — and your partner deserves your undivided attention.
For those inclined toward physical touch, look for gifts that encourage you to be hands on with one another: salsa lessons, a couples’ massage class, body oils, a cashmere blanket or an afternoon at Hammam Spa (602 King St. W.).
And if your lover expresses love through acts of service, it’s time to turn the tables. Prepare a week’s worth of meals in advance and buy them a book to read while you cook. Play chauffeur for the day and take them shopping to select their own gifts. Steal one of their chores for two weeks and send them to the spa while you’re hard at work. Accompany them to a volunteer job or co-ordinate a new volunteer opportunity (consider ethical volun-tourism) you can attend together.
If you’re not sure which language dominates your lover’s landscape, try to identify how they communicate their love to you. It’s likely that their primary mode of communication is the same one they expect in return. Alternatively, you can both take a short quiz at 5LoveLanguages.com.
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