About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

A Love Styles Exercise

So, Lance has said that his new big interest is love styles.  He’s mentioned it recently here and here, and I’ve also talked about it here (where I also link to other resources).  Basically you’ve got physical touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and gifts.

However, despite the fact that most of these sites (and most of what you hear) about love styles suggests that we have one preference that overrides all others, I don’t think that is the case.  It’s obviously simpler to think that because I am primarily a physical touch girl, if my needs are being met in that area then I can be happy even if there are deficiencies in others.  However, I think that while most of us may have one preferred love style, many people have hybrid love styles (where they need 2 almost equally), and I also think that practically everyone needs at least some of all five.  You can’t have absolutely none of any one thing and be happy.

With that in mind, here’s a fun little exercise that you can talk about with your SO or first date this weekend:

Rank The Love Styles In Order of Importance

1 is “most important,” and 5 is “least important.”  Here’s mine:

  1. Physical touch
  2. Words of affirmation
  3. Quality time
  4. Acts of service
  5. Gifts

Again, I am not saying that #5 isn’t at all important to you – you are putting things in order of importance.

Rank The Intensity With Which You Need Each Type of Affection From the Other Person

So, in this case, I’m going to suggest rating the intensity on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being along the lines of “absolute necessity – I couldn’t eat/sleep properly or stay in a relationship that didn’t provide this,” and 1 being “I might not even notice if this was missing from my relationship, and if I did, it probably wouldn’t bug me too much.”  Here’s mine:

  1. Physical touch – 10
  2. Words of affirmation – 7
  3. Quality time – 7
  4. Acts of service – 4
  5. Gifts – 3

Note – at this point we are ranking what you need from the other person, NOT what you enjoy providing to the other person.  While there is often some overlap between the two, the distinction is worth drawing for reasons I get into in the next section.  Think of  this as the section where you are ranking what actions you would like the other person to take on your behalf.

Discussion: Go Beyond the Rankings

Are there specific subcategories of each type of affection that you need? 

For example, I’m not a hand-holder but prefer full-body hugs.  I also love to have my face touched, which to me feels like the most intimate thing possible.  Interestingly, I am not at all touchy with friends or family – only my SO.  Lately, since I’ve been on Weight Watchers and lost 14 pounds, the words of affirmation I prefer are “you look so thin!” or “what size are those jeans?”  To me, watching TV together doesn’t count as quality time unless we have a philosophical conversation about the content of what’s been watched.  Playing a board game, card game, or sipping wine and talking is always quality time.  And gifts make me feel slightly uncomfortable (interestingly, no matter who gives them to me).

Now, in the section above I asked you to create a distinction in your mind between what you need from someone else and what you enjoy providing to/for someone else.  Here’s a great example – I love acts of service.  If Jake would do the dishes or the laundry without my asking, or call me from the grocery store to see if there was anything I needed, I’d be over the moon.  However, I gave it an intensity of 4 because, while I love it, it’s not something I need in order to be happy. 

This is a good thing, because he’s freely admitted on numerous occasions that this is something that he’s absolutely terrible at doing.  Interestingly, however, he thinks that the ability to perform acts of service is one of the most important attributes in a romantic partner – and one of the things that he likes so much about me is that there’s literally not a day that goes by where I don’t wash the dishes, take out the trash, do the grocery shopping, cook meals from scratch, walk the dog if he’s at work late, etc. etc. etc. 

Even more interestingly (and importantly for our relationship), these are not things that I do because I am trying to impress him or make him feel good – in fact, he sometimes feels guilty because he thinks that he should be reciprocating in kind.  This is why I draw the distinction.  I perform acts of  service automatically, without even thinking about it (here’s where Lance will want me to point out that I’m a Virgo, and performing acts of service is a central component to a Virgo’s psyche).  I actually get satisfaction myself out of performing the act, so Jake doesn’t necessarily need to perform acts of service for me in order to reciprocate – in fact, there is a danger that I’ll interpret something like that as a criticism, like you did the dishes?  Are you saying I’m a slob who left them out until they were crusty and the kitchen stank?

Instead, he would be far better off if he picked physical touch, words of affirmation, or quality time and “repaid” me in that way.  Along the lines of “Thanks for doing all the chores – you’ve freed up our evening so that we can have a glass of wine on the back porch!  Tell me about your day…”

Rank the Love Styles You’re Comfortable Performing: Providing For Others

Hopefully now you have an idea of what is important for the other person to be able to provide for you.  But how easy is it for you to provide for the other person, especially if their preferred love style doesn’t match yours?  I taught  for 6 or 7 years at the university level, and there’s a lot of research on learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic).  Most of the research indicates that we tend to teach using the learning style that we’re the most comfortable with, but because learning styles are pretty evenly distributed, doing that leaves about 2/3 of your students at a disadvantage. 

If love styles are also evenly distributed (now wouldn’t that be an interesting study…) you have to realize there’s only a 20% chance that your partner has the same primary love style that you do.  And once you factor in the intensity of each style that the other person craves, your individual “love style profiles” are likely to be very different.  So what are you comfortable providing for the other person?  Again, step one is to rank them in order from 1-5, 1 being what you are most likely to provide and 5 being what you are least likely to provide.  

Then rank each on the intensity scale from 1-10, the high numbers being “I am likely to provide this type of affection without even thinking about it,” the middle numbers being “I feel comfortable providing this style of affection, although I would have to make a conscious effort,” and the low numbers being “Providing this style of affection makes me uncomfortable or is challenging for me.  Even with a conscious effort, providing this style of affection to another person would be a constant struggle.”  Here’s mine:

  1. Acts of service – 9
  2. Physical touch – 7
  3. Words of affirmation – 6
  4. Quality time – 5
  5. Gifts – 3

Final Thoughts

Because relationships are partnerships, you have to think about both sides.  What do you absolutely need to be happy?  What are you capable of providing to someone else?  Just because you’re different from someone else doesn’t mean that a relationship isn’t possible – it just means that you’ll have to make an effort to be consciously aware of not just whether or not you and your partner are happy, but also why each of you are (or aren’t) happy and how you can work together to make each other’s life better.  The bad news is, this is a lot of work.  The good news is, there is a lot more possibility to create compatibility than we often think.

What’s your “love style profile” like?  Let us know in the comments below.  Then check out these fine posts:

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    This is great. I’ve been thinking about writing this very post since I got on the love styles kick, but I didn’t have the background knowledge, and you beat me to it! I may blog my own perspective next week to expand on it. I think the love styles stuff is brilliant and, like EMK said, vastly underrated. It can make or break you and no one is talking about it.

    I’m also thinking about picking up the Gary Chapman book.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    My profile:
    1. Words of affirmation – 10
    2. Physical touch – 7
    3. Quality time – 5
    4. Acts of service – 4
    5. Gifts – 3 (I also feel uncomfortable when receiving gifts)

    Notes: I used to be like a 3 on quality time, but have matured into a midling 5. I need the Words more than anything, and I’ve only met like 1-2 chicks EVER who had the skill/intelligence to get there. Makes sense for a Gemini.

    1. Physical touch – 10
    2. Words of Affirmation – 8
    3. Acts of Service – 7
    4. Quality time – 4
    5. Gifts – 2

    Notes: Love touching, that’s how I communicate to my partners. I’m also quite gifted with words, a Gem trait. I suck at QT, below average, and dislike giving gifts.

  • http://casualencounters.com/blog/ Janak

    I had a go at doing this with my current partner and the results were fascinating. They explained the problems we’ve been having recently, and gave us some good ideas about how we could address them.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is “thanks.” :)
    .-= Janak´s last blog …Weekly Roundup – Top 10 Casual Sex Links from Around the Web =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    You’re welcome, Janak! That’s what we like to hear :-)

    You can do these sorts of assessments about other people based on observation, but you’re lucky to have a partner that you can have meta-conversations with.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …A Love Styles Exercise =-.

  • http://kitkat4real.blogspot.com Katherine SOLO dot MOM

    I love this!! My SO and I have discussed the Love styles before and I agree you do need ‘some’ of each but more of one or two than the rest!!

    I want to do this exercise with my SO very soon… as soon as we can get some ‘alone time’ away from the kiddos that is!

    Glad I found your blog on MsSingle Mama…

    Great info.
    .-= Katherine SOLO dot MOM´s last blog …I Loathe Having These =-.

  • http://kitkat4real.blogspot.com Katherine SOLO dot MOM

    woops make that –

    Glad I found your blog on Single Mom Seeking… I just read both of them today… and mis-spoke earlier! :)
    .-= Katherine SOLO dot MOM´s last blog …I Loathe Having These =-.

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    I’m definitely a quality time girl followed closely by physical touch.

    1. Quality time-10
    2. Physical touch-8
    3. Words of Affirmation-7
    4. Acts of service-5
    5. Gifts-3

    When giving it’s probably very similar except I suck at giving words of affirmation…
    1. Quality time-10
    2. Physical touch-8
    3. Acts of service-7
    4. Gifts-5
    5. Words of affirmation-2

    Definitely working on that last one…
    .-= lisaq´s last blog …10 Post-Break Up Decisions You’re Sure to Regret-Part One =-.

  • http://www.neck-pain-exercises.com Stu

    Im gonna go quality time and physical touch for the win equally! i have those two ahead of the rest by a fair way :)