You may have heard of the 5 Love Languages, a system that Gary Chapman, Ph.D., created over 25 years ago. This is a tool commonly used in couples counseling to help each partner better understand how to communicate in a way that shows love and support.

Oftentimes in rocky relationships, the issue is not the amount of love between the couple, but the way that love is communicated.

 

The 5 Love Languages has revolutionized the way many people communicate, helping them form healthier relationships. Can the same principles be applied to healthy friendships?

The truth is that as we get older, friendships become harder work for us to maintain. Our close friends are not necessarily our coworkers, so balancing our professional and personal lives becomes time-consuming. Once a romantic relationship, kids, or relocation enter the picture, it takes a concerted effort to foster our existing friendships. But if you’re an adult with friends that have been in your life for years, you’ve already cultivated a language that has kept the friendship lasting this long. 

Below are 5 languages common to friendships. Each one is rooted in a different concern as well as a different communication style. You can utilize these languages to build on your friendships so that they’ll be able to withstand even the toughest times and come out stronger for it. 

Initiation

Are you someone who is either hesitant to reach out to friends, or has no qualms and tends to reach out all the time? If either of these characteristics feels true for you, then initiation is an important part of your friendships. Taking the initiative to talk to a friend you’ve known for a long time but haven’t spoken to recently or starting a completely new friendship can be intimidating in so many ways. But in facing your fear and doing these things anyway, you actually gain that sense of connection you’re craving. 

Quality Time

Are you someone who feels recharged after chatting with a friend? Do you feel like you need to see or spend time on the phone with a friend to know that there’s still a connection? If this feels true for you, then quality time is important to you. Spending time with a friend — whether in person or over the phone — demonstrates to each of you how much you care, and helps to strengthen the connection.

Support

Are you the “go-to” person in your group? Do friends tend to come to you for support? Do people always know that you’ll be there for them? Or do you have that one friend that you confide in? If this feels true for you, then you likely value support as a cornerstone to a healthy and sustainable friendship. Support comes in all different forms. It might simply be listening to what someone has to say when they share about their life. It could look like dropping everything to help a friend. Sometimes, it’s even just letting someone know you’re there for them.

Generosity

Are you someone who will always give to your friends, whether it be your time or something material? Are you always going above and beyond to provide helpful assistance for your friends, or having your friends do the same for you? If you feel pride in giving to your friends, whether it be something they need or simply a little “thinking of you” gift, you’re probably someone who uses your generosity to show how much you value the relationship with that person. This is a form of connection with another person that can help nourish the friendship.

Loyalty

Are you someone who will always stick up for your friends, no matter what? Do you automatically side with your friends’ opinions, points of view, or experiences, defending them out of love for your friends? Do you wish the same done for you? Loyalty in a friendship comes in many different forms, and if you resonate with that feeling of devotion or allegiance to your friends, then this is a language you likely use often to show your connection.

It’s important to understand where your priorities fall within each of these languages, so you can better understand how you communicate with your friends. Having this awareness will help you express yourself, and also ask for what you need in each relationship. This is a vital step to keep a friendship from feeling one-sided or full of resentments.

If you feel like you’re struggling in one of these categories, then I encourage you to explore why that might be. Not everyone is going to “speak” all 5 friendship languages perfectly, but if you’re hung up in a certain area and you’d like some help sorting through it, we’re here to help guide you.

-Beth Sanders, MA, LMHC

Keywords: 5 friendship languages