Do you know about the Five Languages of Love? In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote a book by that title. It sold 8,500 copies in its first year, roughly twice the expected number. It has been on the New York Times Best Seller list since 2009. A newly revised edition was released in 2015. Dr. Chapman has written several more books expanding on his early concept.

The Five Languages of Love tells us that we all have a primary way that we express and experience love. In his book, Dr. Chapman posits that there are five languages:

• words of affirmation
• quality time
• giving gifts
• acts of service
• physical touch

He suggests that couples, seeking to improve the quality of their relationships, should first identify and then communicate to their partners what feels like love to them. In this way, each can begin giving their spouse what they truly long for, thereby increasing the chances for a deeper, more satisfying connection.

I remember 30 years ago when this book was first published. I, and many of my colleagues, questioned the simplicity of Dr. Chapman’s theory. The book is brief, easy to read, and to the point. We wondered if it would really catch on and move beyond self-help to the couples therapy room.

Today, this book has sold 90 million copies worldwide. Clearly, it has caught on! People seem to love it. As a Marriage Therapist, I like the way it addresses the need for targeted, caring behaviors in marriage.

I find that couples frequently come to sessions today armed with information about love languages as outlined in Dr. Chapman’s popular book. They say things like, “he washes the cars, takes the kids to soccer practice, loads the dishwasher, but rarely tells me that I’m beautiful”. Or, “she texts and calls me a lot when I’m at work, but at night, she rarely wants to cuddle or make love”. They agree that they have different love languages and are struggling to become bilingual!

First, each party is asked to become clear about their primary language. Then, I ask them to identify a number of behaviors that they would love to receive from their partner in their primary and secondary love languages. They exchange these lists, like recipe cards, and pledge to increase behaviors from off the lists. Typically, they come back with astonishment as to just how easy it was.
It doesn’t generally shift the entire relationship, but for many couples, it gives them a solid place of goodwill to start.

Because the concept of love languages has proven to be so useful, I began wondering if couples would also benefit from identifying their primary languages of desire. Most couples in therapy are also trying to improve upon their intimate connection. What if their partners are engaging in the wrong language for them? What if their efforts to turn them on are leaving them flat?

Let’s look at the five languages again, but through a different lens. Each of these love languages can translate to languages of desire.

• words
• quality time
• giving gifts
• acts of service
• physical touch

As couples talk about the history of their sexuality, there emerges a pattern or template. This is what has shown to be the most erotic and stimulating to them over time.

For example, some of us are most aroused when our lovers speak to us: sometimes in beautiful poetry and sometimes in naughty, nasty words. For others, words prove to be a big distraction and they would rather make love in silence. Find out if words are what your partner is longing for and talk about what kind. You might find yourself reading erotic literature out loud for the first time!

Quality Time:
A big point of contention for some couples is the longing for sensual and sexual quality time. There are partners who want long, drawn-out love-making sessions while their lovers prefer a quick, orgasmic experience. One woman described to me how she longs for “fine dining” while her husband is usually satisfied with “a quick trip for fast food”. This couple needed to learn how to engage in both experiences but until he knew that her language of desire was quality time, he couldn’t really connect with her.

Gifts are the language that involves the giving of tangible items. If this is your language of desire, you might need to let your partner know how much you would love to receive sex toys or books, lingerie, sensual bath products, or videos. Gifts should be freely given or requested.

Maybe the gifts you’d like to receive are not tangible items, but rather, acts of service? In the language of desire, acts can show up as lighting candles, putting on music, sensual massages, hair brushing, or oral sex. Each couple should talk through what acts they would enjoy. You are only limited by your imagination!

Physical Touch:
Although it seems obvious that desire would involve touch, it’s important to know what kind of touch. If touch is your primary language of desire, you will be more interested in the affection and sensual touch that leads up to sexual encounters. Caresses, kisses, spanking, and rubbing might be the very thing to turn you on. Your partner may not know how important this is to you in much the same way that you didn’t know he needed those naughty words.

The whole point of Love Languages is to help you to communicate clearly about the way that your partner or spouse can help you to feel most loved and cherished. I think it’s also worthwhile to take a closer look at your Languages of Desire. I have found, in my work with couples, that they are often not the same. You might really want the laundry folded to feel loved but desperately long for a deep, sensual massage in bed.

As a Marriage Therapist, I recommend that you read The Five Languages of Love with your language of desire in mind. Sit quietly, eye-to-eye with your partner, and take turns telling each other the behaviors that would most turn you on. Just as you deserve to have your longings for loving behaviors filled, you each deserve to feel sensually and sexually connected.

Author's Bio: 

Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT has been working with couples and families for over 30 years in her private practice in West Los Angeles. She is deeply passionate about helping couples improve their communication skills, deepen their connection resolve conflict and rediscover the joy of being together. She offers weekly sessions, Private and Group Intensives and Workshops for Couples. She is active in preparing engaged couples for marriage through several different formats, including The FOCCUS Premarital Inventory and Start Right, Stay Connected Workshops. Her Ebook entitled, 8 Essential Topics to Discuss Before Saying I Do, is available on her website.

Mary Kay has two Advanced Certifications, in Couples Therapy: Imago Relationship Therapy and Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy. She also has training in the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

Mary Kay is happily married in an intimate relationship and is the mother of three grown children. She also plays an ongoing role in being a teacher and mentor to new couples therapists, students and interns as they learn and practice their art of connection.

Mary Kay is an active member of the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Los Angeles Chapter of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, IMAGO Relationship Institute, and the Southern California Imago Therapy Association, and founder of The Conversation Group in Los Angeles.