The language of love comes in many dialects. The trick is to learn to speak your partner’s dialect, or at least to understand it. And if possible, to appreciate it.

The trouble comes when you expect your beloved to speak your language. For example, Sally is a Gifter. Sally loves to shop and as she peruses merchandise, various items remind her of her friend and her lover. She’s thinking of them throughout the year—not just at the holidays or on their birthdays—and she picks up items for them as she shops. Sally shows her love by giving gifts that reveal her thoughtfulness. She gave a special bottle of vinegar to her friend Lily because Lily had said she wanted to make better salads. It was a simple thing, but that bottle of vinegar was a symbol of Sally’s love for her friend.

Unfortunately, Sally’s friend and her lover are not Gifters. They love her and appreciate her thoughtful presents, but Gifting is not their language.

Sally’s lover speaks the language of Touch. He will tuck a blanket around her while she watches TV on a cold night. He will give her a shoulder rub while she works on her computer. He will gently caress her arm as he passes her in the hall. He shows his love through Touch, and Sally appreciates these gestures. But deep down she thinks if he really loved her, he’d give her gifts beyond those required for birthdays and holidays.

What Sally doesn’t understand is her partner does love her and shows her often in his own language of Touch, just as she shows him love in her Gifting.

Gifting is not Sally’s friend’s language either. Lily is secretly annoyed by Sally’s Gifting because Lily can’t possibly keep up. Lily does love Sally, but unlike Sally, Lily hates to shop. And she feels hopelessly behind when it comes to gift giving. Lily speaks a Verbal language of love. She writes Sally thank-you notes for all those gifts. She texts lines from a poem she knows Sally will like. She tells Sally how much she values their friendship. She loves Sally but she just doesn’t show it the same way Sally does.

Lily’s partner speaks yet another dialect. He is a Doer. Next to verbal Lily, he seems positively mute. But Lily never gets in her car when the tank isn’t full enough to get her where she needs to go that day. Her partner makes sure he keeps the tank full. And he keeps the garbage empty. The recycling, too. And the weeds in Lily’s garden seem to magically disappear because Lily’s partner quietly sees how he can help her and then does what’s needed. Lily wishes he’d tell her he loves her out loud, but that is what he’s telling her with his actions.

The trick is to recognize the different dialects of the language of love.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: