In 2015, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman made its way into the public consciousness and gave way to lots of quizzes for couples and singles.
The main premise of the book—that there is more than one way to interpret and express love—is not new to polyamory. So, I thought it might be fun to look at the 5 Love Languages through a poly lens, offering practical tips for how to help each of your partners feel valued and cared for.
5 Love Languages: How to Show Poly Affection
1. Words of Affirmation
When it comes to declarations of romantic love, we all know the monogamous standards: “You’re the only one for me” and “You’re my better half.” These assertions are super common, yet not at all appropriate when expressing one’s affection in the polysphere.
Skip the clichés and focus on specifics. What do you love most about your poly partner? Think about what makes your relationship unique and why you choose to be together when you both have other options.
2. Quality Time
In polyamorous relationships, quality time is at a premium. If one or more of your partners speaks this love language, it can be difficult to keep everyone happy.
Start by establishing a regular schedule. Set realistic expectations about the number of days or hours you can spend with each of your loves each week, then focus on keeping that time meaningful and free of distractions. Treat your dedicated time together with respect, making an effort to reschedule right away if other things get in the way.
3. Acts of Service
Acts of service in monogamous relationships often include things like, doing the dishes or taking out the trash—basically anything that keeps the domestic peace. While some poly partners do live together and show their love by sharing household chores, others don’t.
The key is to discover what your partner considers helpful and loving, then make a concerted effort to do that thing. My partner has gotten into the wonderful habit of making me my favorite tea whenever I visit him. I don’t have to ask—he just knows to put the kettle on. Even small acts of service can mean a lot.
Red roses, diamonds, chocolates in a heart-shaped box. These are all symbols of romantic love in our society, but are they inclusive of the many types of relationships that one might experience in poly life?
Get creative. Think about what makes each of your partners tick, then bring them gifts that match their interests, or something specific to your relationship. Often the best tokens of affection are the least expensive, like a framed concert ticket, or an unexpected picnic in the park. The best part of any gift is the surprise.
How do you express physical affection in your poly relationships? As I’ve said, it’s important to consider what your partner finds meaningful when speaking their love language.
If your love likes kissing in public, take the initiative and plant one on them while out and about. (Just be sure to have that all-important conversation about PDAs with the rest of your polycule first.) If sex is your partner’s thing, make it your mission to know what gets them off. There’s nothing more awkward in poly circles than making the right move on the wrong partner.
What love language do you speak? What makes you feel valued and special in your poly relationships?