Trying to read The Five Love Languages is like trying to speed-eat cotton candy.
The book is full of fluffy over-sweet terminology like “keeping the love tank full” and “love makes a difference.”
But I’m glad I powered through.
Because, unlike cotton candy, within the love language fluff there’s some valuable stuff that helped bring Kim and my relationship closer to what it was like in the early days.
No wonder over 10 million people have read The Five Love Languages.
But you may not have to shove the whole book down your throat to extract the good parts. This simply-worded, sugar-free summary may do the trick for you.
Resentment will rise up in your partner and wreak havoc on your relationship unless you hold it off with one of five strategies (“love languages”):
- Say nice stuff.
- Hang out.
- Get Physical.
- Give nice stuff.
- Do nice stuff.
You have to figure out which one works best on your partner by observing them, asking them, and experimenting.
Once you find the right strategy, use it over and over to keep resentment at bay and have a happy relationship.
The Five Love Languages in Regular Words
Everyone has the seeds of nasty resentment inside of them. It’s responsible for relationship misery: Stuff like passive aggressiveness, stonewalling, complaining, tears, and even cheating.
Early on in a relationship, you don’t experience it. Everything seems perfect. That’s because, like bamboo, resentment takes a couple of years to pop up. But it eventually emerges. It always does. And when it does it grows like crazy and spreads everywhere.
To stop it, you have to identify which one of five resentment-prevention strategies work. These are the so-called “5 love languages.”
1. Say Nice Stuff
All you have to do is:
- Give compliments: “That new haircut looks amazing!”
- Offer encouraging words: “Thanks for taking the garbage out. That was nice of you.”
- Leave a nice note: “I had a blast last night. You’re so fun to hang out with.”
- Say, “I love you.”
Tip #1: For extra potency, transmit your compliment indirectly. Say nice stuff about your partner to their friends and family, who’ll pass the message on to them.
Tip #2: Fun one from our relationship hacks post: Slip your partner’s hairdresser a tip so they give you the heads up to compliment their new look when you see them next.
2. Hang Out
Doing stuff your partner enjoys with them while not looking at your phone, like:
- Going for walks just the two of you.
- Have “quality conversations.” Consider these 36 questions and TableTopics to get these conversations started.
- Play games or sports together.
- Learn new skills together.
Tip #1: It’s even easier if you can find things that you both enjoy. For example, Kim and I both like traveling and playing sports, so we do that together rather than cooking lessons, which she’d enjoy equally, but I wouldn’t.
Tip #2: If you don’t like hanging out with your partner, you should probably find yourself a new one.
3. Get Physical
- Give them a hug when they’re feeling down.
- Massage their feet while watching TV together.
- Simple PDA (public displays of affection) like putting your hand on their shoulder or around their waist while waiting in line.
- Hold their hand when walking together.
- Screw their brains out.
Tip: Your partner might not want the same types of physical touch that you do (i.e., having sex all the time probably isn’t your answer). Try different ways of getting physical and ask them if they like it or would prefer anything else.
4. Give Nice Stuff
- Visual symbols of love like a framed photo of the two of you.
- Make something like some cookies they can bring to work.
- Find something, like wildflowers, that you can give to them.
- Buy something, like chocolate, socks, or, well, anything you know they want.
Tip #1: If you’re like me and don’t like “wasting money” on objects, reframe these gifts as investments in your sanity and the sanctity of your relationship. They’re cheaper than counseling.
Tip #2: Don’t overthink things. And don’t feel obliged to spend tons of money. If giving nice stuff is the strategy that tames your partner’s bitchy beast, even the smallest things will work wonders.
Tip #3: For birthdays, anniversaries, and other big gift-giving times, get some ideas from our post on How to Pick Gifts Even Better Than Santa.
5. Do Nice Stuff
Too bad for you if this is the strategy that works on your partner. It’s the hardest one. But it’s still not that bad and definitely better than the alternative.
- Wash their car.
- Rake the lawn, clean the gutters, and take out the trash.
- Make a nice meal for them.
- One of the 28 things I did to show my appreciation to Kim every day in February.
Tips: Don’t act as if you’re forced to do this nice stuff. Do it with a positive spirit or it won’t work. Ask your partner what they’d like you to do and keep an ear out for their complaints and indirect requests.
How to Choose the Right Love Language
“Why didn’t somebody tell me this thirty years ago? I could have been sitting on the couch talking to her fifteen minutes every night instead of doing all this stuff.”Norm, a poor guy from The 5 Love Languages
This quote was the funniest thing I read in the 5 Love Languages.
Poor Norm assumed the Do Nice Stuff strategy would tame his wife’s resentment, so he cooked, cleaned, and did chores like crazy.
For thirty years!
And it didn’t work!
His wife still resented him because what she really needed from Norm was simply more time hanging out together.
Here’s how to avoid Norm’s mistake by identifying the right anti-resentment strategy for your partner.
1. Don’t Assume What Works for You Works for Them
It’s like dick pics.
Guys send them to girls because that’s the type of thing they’d love to get from girls. But most girls aren’t interested in the same. They’re more likely to run than reciprocate.
Norm made a similar mistake. He used the Do Nice Stuff strategy he wanted from his wife on her. Like most chicks who get dick pics, she wasn’t impressed. He had it backward.
So don’t assume whatever makes you feel good will tame your partner’s resentment. Odds are, it won’t.
2. Use Their Strategy Against Them
Pay attention to which of the five strategies your partner’s using on you. They’re likely doing to you what they want you to reciprocate with.
So in Norm’s example, his wife should notice he keeps doing all these nice things for her and return the favor.
What does your partner complain about most that you don’t do? (Or request, if they’re in a good mood.)
That’s probably linked to the strategy you need to use.
Whittle down to the right strategy by asking questions like this:
Would you be happier with me if I,
A) Met you at work to go to lunch together, just the two of us.
B) Brought you a surprise small gift home from work.
If you get desperate, you can try to get them to do the official 5 Love Languages quiz. But it’s pretty crappy.
Try each strategy one at a time and see which seems to prevent resentment the most. Since there are only five, it won’t take long.
And doing the “wrong” strategies doesn’t hurt.
How to Deploy Your Love Language
Keep At It
Using your anti-resentment strategy is like being locked in a cell with a rabid bear and nothing but a little tranquilizer gun to defend yourself. You have to regularly subdue the beast to keep it from awakening and tearing you to shreds.
It might not feel natural at first. And resentment is invisible, so it can be easy to forget about it until it’s too late. So set a reminder in your calendar to keep doing it until it becomes a habit.
Try Some Advanced Strategies
If resentment manages to emerge and bite your head off even after you’ve deployed the right strategy, try these two advanced approaches.
A Secondary Strategy
Sometimes resentment needs a combo of two strategies: a primary one and a secondary one.
You won’t need to use the secondary strategy as much, and it won’t work on its own, but doing it every now and again will help.
Narrow Down Your Strategy
Not all actions within a single strategy will have equal effect. Narrow down the strategy within a strategy that gives you the most bang for your buck.
For example, if your partner needs the Give Nice Stuff strategy, regular handwritten letters may work better than boxes of chocolates. (Plus, they’re healthier.)
Never Feed the Resentment
The worst thing you can do is the reverse of your anti-resentment strategy. That means:
- Saying mean stuff to someone who needs the Say Nice Stuff strategy.
- Stealing or destroying the stuff of someone who needs to Give Nice Stuff strategy.
- Making them do unpleasant stuff if they need the Do Nice Stuff strategy.
- Physically hurting them if they need the Get Physical strategy.
- Standing them up if they need the Hang Out strategy.
These are obviously horrible things to do in general. And they’re even worse when it’s the antithesis of the strategy your partner needs. It makes their resentment stronger than ever.
5 Love Languages Cheat Sheet
In case someone starts talking to you in 5 Love Languages lingo, here’s how to translate that gibberish into regular words.
|Love Language Language||Translation|
|5 Love languages||The strategies for taming resentment|
|Words of affirmation||Say nice stuff|
|Receive gifts||Give nice stuff|
|Acts of service||Do nice stuff|
|Physical touch||Get physical|
|Quality time||Hang out|
|Filling their emotional love bucket||Keeping resentment down with regular use of your strategy|
|In love experience||The early days of your relationship before resentment emerges to make life difficult|
You’ve learned the 5 love languages.
Now go figure out which one works on your partner and use it on them to enjoy a wonderful, less-resentful relationship.
Worst comes to worst, if something’s not clear or not working, suck it up and read The Five Love Languages.
Or watch the story of Norm and how an understanding of the love languages rescued his relationship:
More Relationship Wisdom I Had to Be Hit Over the Head With
Free Wake-Up Call
Take the 20-question "Comfort Zone Assessment" to find out in just 3.5 minutes:
Where are you complacent?
Which area of your life most needs a push?
How to get started?
It's gimmicky and unscientific, but also quick, fun, and revealing.
PS: Surprise personalized accountability challenge afterward.
About the author
I'm Chris. Canadian, husband, dad, writer, investor, athlete, and obsessed explorer of the secrets to living a never-boring, always improving, unfollowable life story.
2 responses to “The Five Love Languages Summary for Unsappy People”
This was actually really insightful and the most clear explanation of the 5 love languages I’ve read!! Thanks 🙂