Podcast 80: A Very Special Episode Focused on Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages.”

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: It’s almost September, and for many of us, September is the other January. If you get a clean slate, start-over feeling in September, check out my book Happier at Home. If you’re not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy.

Very Special Episode: Every tenth episode we do a Very Special Episode, and for episode 80, we’re talking about Gary Chapman’s blockbuster bestselling book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.

I love a personality framework derived from observation! If you want to experience my own personality framework, the Four Tendencies, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, check it out here.

The Five Languages:

  • Words of Affirmation — the love language for both Elizabeth and me
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch


Gretchen’s Demerit: I didn’t give a proper good-night kiss to Jamie, even though I’d just been thinking about the fact that his language is Physical Touch.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives Acts-of-Service Adam a gold star for buying a light-weight comforter.

Want to give us the Words of Affirmation we both crave, for the podcast? Easy instructions here about how to rate and review the podcast (scroll down).

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #80

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  • Ashley Anderson

    I just listened to the podcast episode on the Five Love Languages on my way home from work tonight. My husband and I have both read the book: my love language is Acts of Service (which you both think is hard but I think is so easy!!!) and my husband’s is Words of Affirmation (which is difficult for me!!). Acts of Service: my husband makes my day when he makes me tea; he makes my week if he picks up my alterations; he makes my year if he programs my new phone or car. I don’t expect these things every day, but they are a nice and happy surprise. I actually really enjoy doing laundry, but if does a load, or (even better) folds and puts away without me asking, that is a wonderful gift of service. When it comes to Words of Affirmation, I think Elizabeth was right in that sometimes it feels fake. I have no problem handing out genuine compliments on something of-the-moment: “That looks great on you; Dinner was delicious! You’re so good at techie stuff,” etc. But what my husband needs is more than that and I have no ulterior motive in not doling it out, it just literally doesn’t occur to me. This show was a good reminder… and I am going to set a reminder on my phone (is that terrible?!) to give him more praise! I enjoy the podcast so much 🙂

    • AJHred

      Right!!! I’m an acts of service person, too. I don’t have a sweetheart/husband, but I do have friends and I know it seems hard for them to reciprocate. I’m the first to volunteer to help people move or give people a ride to the metro, but the times I’ve asked friend to do what seem like small things that would mean the world to me, it’s somehow inconceivable for them! I once lost power and I asked a friend (who had a cat that at the time was at her mother’s), can I bring my cats over – they can stay in their carriers and there’s nothing you need to do, I’m just worried about them in this 110 degree heat and you still have a/c – when she refused I was really, really upset. After several incidents like this (it’s also hard for me to ask for help), I’ve decided to let this friendship go. If you’re my friend or colleague and you need help, of course I will help you. I don’t understand people who don’t.

    • MaggieRose59

      It is only fake if you are lying about what you are praising him for, which I assume you would not do. If it doesn’t come naturally, you need the reminder. When you do it enough, it will become a new habit!

  • Padma Krishnan

    my love language is quality time and I so wish my hubby would speak my language sometimes but alas he does not..
    but after reading the book i realized his love language is acts of service and started appreciating him for that. and when I started speaking his language, he was so appreciate of me.. but I still yearn for for him to speak my language though…

    • mom2luke

      Same here. Had to lower my expectations as he’s a rebel and just won’t join me and the kids doing fun stuff. Wants to be alone.
      But: Double dates help. They are my idea of quality time and he likes the couple too so he enjoys the evening and it’s not like pulling teeth to get him to give me a QT evening.

  • LoriM

    SO good! I wish I could get my hubby to listen; gotta figure out a way.

    We, too, are people who need Words of Affirmation (me) and Acts of Service or maybe Quality Time (him). I can’t wait to tell him that even with all of the success you two ladies have achieved in life, EVEN you STILL need those WORDS. 🙂

    He has told me (and I’ve had strong, silent-type bosses also tell me) that they THINK the affirmations/appreciations in their heads, they just don’t remember to SAY them. The funny thing is, my husband praises himSELF all the time “That was a really good meal I just made”. So I’ve started doing that, even though it feels wrong.

    Our joke is to say something like “That was a really good meal, I just made, IF I DO SAY MYSELF.” His family always added “And I DO”. I’ve started adding my own addendum “BECAUSE APPARENTLY I HAVE TO!” [i.e., apparently I have to be the one to say so]. He thinks this is pretty funny, but change is hard, you guys! I’ve about given up on thinking he will ever be able to give this to me. I will find it from girlfriends, most likely, and my mother while she is still living.

    I tell myself I am GLAD he is not glib (I call it the salesman personality – the very opposite of my reserved policeman husband, and I am so glad – I HATE the salesman personality!!!) and handing out insincere praise, but surely there is some middle ground?? Is it even possible for these guys to learn? Wow, I really laughed at Gretchen’s story about her husband saying “This really turned out good,” almost purposely leaving her part out of it. That is so fascinating. I wonder if it is possible these guys just don’t want to give us the upper hand or something, if they praise us?

    So anyway, I have learned to appreciate all the acts of service he does FOR me and realize IN MY HEAD – I know he loves me, I just really, really, really want to get some gold stars, sometimes! I’m working, too, on doing more even LITTLE acts of service, because I know what they mean to HIM .

    His love language really was nailed for me one day when we were talking about his son. I told him his son wasn’t sure he really loved him, sometimes. He looked at me in unbelief and said “How can he say that? Just the other day I took him that lunch from Subway!!”

    Another point is I am very sensitive to even a hint of criticism. I’ve told my husband it would be easier to take, if I just heard more PRAISE. He is quite sure this is not true. Isn’t there a quote somewhere about negative words needing X number of positive words to come out even? Wow, I’m not saying that well at all.

    Anyway, thanks for reading (if you’ve come this far) and for all the work you do on your podcast. It is a favorite of mine.

  • Melissa Williams-King

    Hi Gretchen & Elizabeth, loved this episode. Re your comment about how everyone was wanting toast – this made me think of a favourite song lyric!
    It’s from Looking For A Girl by Teddy Thompson and he says:
    “I guess it’s good loving that I want the most – someone who turns my bread into buttered toast.” He must be an Acts of Service guy. I’ve always loved that line and it must be because I am Acts of Service too!
    Here is the song, it will get stuck in your head (in a good way!).

    • gretchenrubin


  • Mimi Gregor

    Huh…. After listening to this, it becomes apparent to me why my husband and I seldom have conflicts any stronger than disagreements of opinion: we both seem to be acts of service people. Neither one of us is big on gifts. We’re both loners, so we’re not needy for each others’ time. Though we enjoy physical touch, and hug and kiss hello and goodbye, neither one of us is “touchy-feely”. We both really enjoy affirmation, and indeed we do praise each other a lot, but acts of service is where we shine. I know that when he details my car that it is an expression of love. And he knows that my cooking his favorite meals from scratch is an expression of mine. I don’t think of it as being “a lot of work” to do this, as I enjoy cooking from scratch, as he enjoys anything having to do with cars.

    This has really given me insight into our relationship. Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that it was helpful.

  • JJ

    Hi! Intriguing episode! I love the part about figuring out our kids’ languages as well.

    I wonder if Questioners have an especially hard time using their partners’ language if it’s not the same as their own and doesn’t seem logical to them? Rebels too, of course!

    • Agree, as a Questioner with some Rebel intertwined, I feel somewhat suffocated and even communicating this doesn’t seem to click with my other half. I’m very independent and have a ‘bubble’ that I don’t always like a forced hand-holding or public affection such as a kiss. That last one is something that really bothers me. uggghhh. Probably we should seek a professional counselor in these cases?

  • bridgejr

    It seems like the five love languages are like the four tendencies–it can be hard for someone paired with a different temperament to understand why the other person just doesn’t do/want to do what we would do! I’m not a words of affirmation person–in fact, it would make me squirm if someone was verbally appreciating me all the time; and, it would feel fake and uncomfortable to me to do that all the time for a partner. (My quiz result was a tie between quality time and acts of service.)

  • Melissa Williams-King

    Also Gretchen Re: Jamie’s comment about the renovation – this one reminded me of one of the tips from Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (yet another romance self-help book, LOL!). Apparently men often prefer an indirect compliment – e.g. women should say “what a great movie” and men will then think “I chose that movie, I have good taste” – rather than saying “you chose a great movie.” (Something about the direct stuff supposedly makes them uncomfortable, I don’t know why!) So when Jamie says “that turned out well” he is perhaps just naturally geared towards an indirect compliment. You could therefore just translate that in your head and respond with “thanks so much, I worked really hard on this project!” as if it were a direct compliment. I know it’s not the full gold star, but it might help you feel more positive 🙂

  • Le Genou de Claire

    Thank you for this timely episode for me and my husband. We found that our love languages change over time. We’ve been married for almost 20 years, and during those times we thought we knew each other so well that we neglected that we have not spoken our “current” love languages of each other. For e.g. my love language used to be gift-giving, but now, I embrace the serenity of owning minimal stuff and my husband still thought it was de-facto language by giving me trinket gifts that I used to appreciate. Ditto with me toward him (his love language now is physical closeness, which I shower upon my son and sadly have neglected my husband). Coincidentally, I also found that my son’s love language (he is only 5) is also physical closeness, so now we’ll try a morning/evening group hugs together to see if it may work (my son loves group hugs).

    I also found that after I listen to your podcasts, Gretchen, that I become a little bit more.. cultured with the knowledge of good quotations from literatures. I never am a literary buff, but your quotations get me intrigued and I do enjoy the little morsels from “Little Happier.”

    • gretchenrubin

      Such an interesting point about how our “language” may change over time. And great to hear that you’re enjoying the “A Little Happiers!”

  • What does one do when the other half of the couple expects all of the above thus giving me all of the above and my responses to most are not necessarily welcome – too much can be suffocating. ??

  • Andrea L Meneses

    Hello ladies I am a new listener but very familiar with this topic of love languages. I learned that my love language is acts of service as well as receiving gifts. The most important lesson I have learned is that I should provide myself with that type of love. I allow myself to spend on a gift once a month that is very valuable to me but that also brings service to myself. This has ranged from massages to sneakers that are comfortable and most importantly make my busy life as a personal trainer easier. I have learned a whole new approach to loving myself unconditionally, which I think is the most important to being happy. In good health, Andrea from LA

  • Miri

    Well that was illuminating! At least on my end. I am very definitely Acts of Service and my partner is really not (though I can’t quite figure out what his would be. Probably Words of Affirmation, but I’ll have to ask). A lot of our disagreements suddenly make tons of sense.

  • Michelle Mason

    Jamie saying that the renovated room looks good was his way of saying what you wanted to hear – that you did a good job. I am terrible at giving affirmation and compliments, and when I do, it often comes out in a way that may not sound like praise. My co-worker and I struggle with this often – he is Words of Affirmation, and I am Acts of Service, and I am trying to do better about it, but it does feel very fake to me, and I assume that the other person takes it as being fake too. Based on what you both said in the podcast, I am realizing that this is not the case.

  • Molly

    Thanks for introducing the five love languages! It’s been fun to think about and discuss with my friends. We were getting together for Labor Day, so I sent the podcast out before hand so we could then all talk about it.
    Although I’m probably a “words of affirmation” girl, quality time is up there too. I used the technique of looking at how I express love, and I know that creating new experiences for someone really feeds me. I then realized that I love to receive new experiences! I have a birthday coming up, so I asked my friends to give me experiences, not things. This will give us quality time together, but also feed me by getting to try new things. This revelation has made me happy! Thank ladies- I love the show!

  • Heather

    I am also an “words of affirmation” person. I was listening to this podcast while running and reflecting on the topic, as my spouse is really not great at affirmations. He is a service person. It is part of how he was raised, and he really is terrible of straying outside of these early examples. I have learned not only to try to give him in the love in his form, but also to listen for his expressions of love through his service work to our family. I have found that if I look for his acts of service toward me that I am happier with him. My favorite to date is the time he grabbed my car from the local airport to get it washed and vacuumed. I came back from that trip and was overwhelmed by the cleanliness of my car, which usually stores several scone’s worth of crumbs. He knows that I hate vacuuming, so I really appreciated his work to clean up my car.

    Odd coincidence: I went to work after running and found an award in my mailbox from my boss’s boss’s boss. On the award she wrote, “For outstanding leadership and laboratory involvement.” It was wonderful affirmation for a job well done.

  • Carole Gates

    Another great book is His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. I often give it as a wedding gift. It’s a wonderful companion piece to The Five Love Languages.

  • Judith

    I’m very late to the party here but catching up with the podcast after the summer. I loved this podcast and listening to it was instantly aware of two things 1) I am acts of service and my husband is physical touch and 2) this framework is actually based on Values like the Four Tendencies – I hadn’t realised this before. My husband is also a Rebel with a capital R so a discussion with him about this could have been difficult and interestingly his reaction to Jamie’s inability to give gold stars was to say “well, if I was told to do something I wouldn’t do it” It is hard being married to a rebel but learning about them has been SO helpful. thanks Gretchen.

  • RaShelle K

    While this seems like a great idea, I really can’t get over the way the love languages seems to place responsibility for ones feelings on the spouse. I don’t believe that we can ever ‘make’ someone feel love. It is up to each of us to be 100% responsible for our own feelings. When I show love it’s because I am feeling love, not because I am trying to ‘make’ someone else feel love, because that is on them. If I tell my husband I need him to do something for me and he does it, that is an expression of the love he feels for me. It doesn’t make me feel love. I can choose to feel love for him, or not, at anytime no matter what he does for me. I have a hard time with this because if I am trying to meet his needs and ‘make’ my partner feel love then I am not really being authentic or being the real me. I am responsible for doing what I need to do to feel love for my partner and vice versa. FYI, I am a questioner and my husband is an obliger. It’s not our responsibility to meet our partners needs! It is their responsibility to get their own needs met. I hate the unrealistic expectations this sets up. If I am expecting my partner to meet my needs then I am setting myself up for disappointment.