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How to Speak Words of Affirmation to Your Partner

If your partner’s love language is Words of Affirmation, here are meaningful ways to express how you feel.

When my partner and I first started dating, he constantly fished for compliments.

“This is what a GREAT boyfriend would do, right?” he asked, holding out the take-out he’d gone out of his way to get for me.

“Yes, honey. You’re a great boyfriend.”

“Taste these steaks!”


“I’m a GREAT cook, aren’t I?”

“You are!”

Dr. Gary Chapman, pastor, counselor, and author of The Five Love Languages, argues that people “speak” one of five distinct languages for how they prefer to give and receive affection/love:

  • Words of Affirmation (receiving compliments or other verbal appreciations)

  • Acts of Service (carrying something for someone or doing something for them)

  • Receiving Gifts (physical items or even food)

  • Quality Time (spending time together)

  • Physical touch (hugs, cuddling, kissing, sex, etc.)

You can probably guess that my partner’s love language is “Words of Affirmation.” He gets a thrill from receiving compliments and praise, and if he’s not getting enough, he’ll fish for them. If I was to give him a back rub or a thoughtful present, or wash his car or go to a concert with him, he’d be incredibly appreciative, but he wouldn’t necessarily feel loved.

The purpose of Dr. Chapman’s theory is simple: if we know how our partner prefers to give and receive love, we can better help them feel loved.

As someone who feels the most loved when I’m touched, it’s tough for me to remember that I need to speak words to my partner to make him feel so himself. Regardless, it’s something I can and do work on. Here are meaningful ways you too can express to your partner how you feel.

1. Be grateful.

Nothing makes my partner smile more than hearing a specific “thank you.” He does so many things for me, but it’s not enough for me to say a plain old, “Thanks!” He appreciates it when I tell him why I’m thanking him.

This can be done in person or over text, and it can be quick, as long as it’s done often and consistently.

Other examples:

  • I appreciate that you . . .

  • I couldn’t do______ if it weren’t for you . . .

  • I am thankful that you . . .

  • I’m so glad to have you as my ________ because . . .

2. Encourage.

My partner has several fitness goals for 2020, including getting to 250 pounds of The Rock™-inspired muscle. He works out five to six days a week, and he, more than anyone, appreciates having a bit of a pep talk.

“I’m sore,” he said to me the other night.

“You might be sore, but think of how much work you’ve been putting in! It’s worth it because you look amazing.”

I can do this anytime he expresses that he’s struggling with work, our kids, or anything else.

Other examples:

  • I believe in you because . . .

  • It impresses me whenever you . . .

  • Remember that . . .

  • I know you’re going to reach your goals because

3. Empathize.

The people in our lives want to be heard and understood. I don’t always understand exactly what is going on in my partner’s life, but it’s comforting to him to share his struggles with me and to know that I’m listening.

My partner’s job is changing. I don’t understand what he does, but I understand it even less when he’s upset.

“I get that you’re upset,” I told him. “It sounds like things are really tough right now!” I saw him immediately relax. “They are,” he said.

Reflecting or paraphrasing what someone tells you they are feeling or thinking is a way to show empathy.

Other examples:

  • That must be really tough on you that . . .

  • I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to . . .

  • That sounds . . . Is that right?

  • I can see how you would feel that way because . . .

4. Express admiration and respect.

When couples are asked what the secret is to their long-term happy relationships, admiration/respect is always one of the top three answers. Showing this to your partner is so important, and if your partner’s love language is “Words of Affirmation,” then you’ve got to convey it with your words.

One of the easiest ways I can do this for my partner is to talk him up to others within his hearing or share it on social media.

Beyond just sharing this out to others, I can tell it to him in person, write it in little notes and leave them in his bag or on his workspace, or text it to him.

Other examples:

  • Great job . . .

  • I wish I could ___ the way you do.

  • I respect so much that you . . .

  • I’m proud of you for . . .

We all want to be loved in our individual ways, and we all deserve to be loved in the ways we want to by our loved ones. This is where Dr. Chapman’s love languages theory comes in. For my partner, this requires me to continually practice to give him thoughtful, intentional compliments and praises. But since I love him, I know he deserves it.

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