Does your partner place an unusual amount of significance on the spoken and written word?
If they get a thrill when you demonstrate sweet expressions of appreciation, compliments, gratitude, and encouragement, it's likely that their primary love language is words of affirmation.
What are words of affirmation?
Words of affirmation are any spoken or written words that confirm, support, uplift, and empathize with another person in a positive manner.
If someone is drawn to words of affirmation as their love language, marriage and family therapist Michele DeMarco tells mbg, it's because they believe words really matter and help them give a literal voice to how they feel inside.
Examples of words of affirmation
- I love you.
- You are so special to me.
- After all of this time, I'm still so crazy for you.
- It really impressed me when you…
- I couldn't have done ____ without you.
- You inspire me to….
- Did I tell you how grateful I am that you are my partner?
- You deserve all of the praise at work. I see how hard you've been working.
- I just wanted to let you know I'm proud of you.
- I really appreciate you when you do...
- I am here if you need me. I'm always in your corner supporting you.
- I feel so loved when you...
- I am proud of you because...
- I want to take the time to thank you for how hard you work around our home.
- You look amazing. Is that a new outfit?
- I am proud of you for always trying your best, whatever it is.
- It makes my heart melt watching you take care of ____.
- I value you doing _____ when you are tired.
- Thank you for being so sweet and loving to my family and friends.
- I'm the happiest when you make me laugh.
- You have the cutest crinkles when you smile.
- I find you so attractive and gorgeous.
- I'm lucky that you are my partner.
- I love our beautiful life together.
- I love how your eyes sparkle when you...
- Thank you for making me feel safe and loved.
- You did such a great job doing ____. Tell me more about it.
Words of affirmation as a love language
Author and pastor Gary Chapman, Ph.D., developed the love language system from his years working with couples as a marriage counselor.
He reasoned that there are five love languages we all enjoy and experience on some level in our relationships—words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, touch, and gifts—but that we all have one or two dominant styles that we prefer for receiving and giving love.
By figuring out your and your partner's governing love language styles, it should theoretically help you both feel more seen and loved in your partnership.
"Love is the strongest and healthiest form of human bonding and belonging. It's that generative 'felt sense' deep inside that ties and binds us—emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually—to another person. Language is a system of symbols and rules that people use to express and share meaning. So, a love language, you might say, is how we communicate or share the deepest, most essential parts of ourselves," notes DeMarco.
In relationships, Di Leo asserts it's important to clarify what your love languages are with each other so you two can sync up with each other and align better.
The other languages revolve around action, touch, physicality, and time, while words of affirmation is centered on the importance of verbal expression.
To people who are very into words of affirmation, they are uniquely aware of how powerful and beautiful words can really be. Words can be used as a way to tear someone down or build someone up.
Since written and spoken language speaks directly to their heart, people with this love language will show their loved ones affection through effusive words, terms of endearment, and sweet little nothings, which are really sweet little everythings.
Why some people need words of affirmation
For people who gravitate toward words of affirmation, they find fulfillment through positive reinforcement via compliments or praise that shines light on something they did or who they are as a person.
To some, words may not seem that meaningful, but to people whose love language is words of affirmation, underneath each word is an ocean of meaning and significance that is working to either strengthen or weaken the relationship's bonds.
"Appreciation is at the heart of having words of affirmation as a love language. It recognizes quality over quantity and substance over appearance. It promotes empathy and compassion, increases intimacy, and helps to keep us calm and content," DeMarco explains.
She adds, "It comes down to inclination—a person's natural way to act or feel. Some people need to hear or read love's meaning, while others prefer to show not tell. The importance here is less in the why and more in the that—especially that one knows their own inclination, as well as their partner's."
Dating someone whose love language is words of affirmation
If words aren't your thing and you're dating someone whose love language is words of affirmation, don't worry.
What matters is that you are tending to your words with care and getting down to the root of why you love your partner when you speak.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for using words of affirmation:
Express them often
Take the time to be verbose without being disingenuous or saying things for the sake of saying them.
If you see a moment to encourage them in some way, go for it. Chapman likens love languages to the analogy of filling a love tank.
Think about it this way: By refueling their appetite for affirmation (with the right fuel!), they will be overflowing with gratitude and approach the relationship from an expansive place when they feel supported.
If saying them out loud is hard, write them out
If it's hard to tell them in person, you can always use the written word or texts so it gives you more time to measure out your words in an impactful way.
The act of crafting a highly specific and personalized message matters more than repeating a line you heard in a movie or copy and pasting a poem you found online. They will value it infinitely more when it comes from the heart.
Words are everything. Both good and bad
"Words matter; that means the good ones, as well as the hurtful ones," DeMarco says. "People are sensitive to what's being said, not just how it comes out. Meaning is everything, so choose your words carefully and mindfully in the moment. Slow down. Think before you speak. Choose your words wisely."
If you must say something negative, try couching your constructive comments in between compliments so they are able to hear it without being defensive.
Be authentically yourself
If they chose you as a partner, that means they are already in love with who you are as a person. If you aren't a natural wordsmith, don't sweat it. It's normal to be tongue-tied if you aren't naturally expressive with your words.
DeMarco suggests being yourself. Get creative, be funny, and express yourself, in your voice. "Show that you know them specifically, what they need to feel loved. Love is not a one-size-fits-all. Pay attention to what your partner responds to," she says.
Know what words your partner likes most
"The trick with words of affirmation is understanding what kind of positive phrases speak directly to your partner," Di Leo says.
Some people prefer statements that aren't directed at their appearance and prefer to be celebrated for their contributions, or they may want more acknowledgment on a day-to-day level.
It's important to move away from the generalities of the theory and focus on being hyper-targeted with your partner so you can show up in your partnership the way that they need you to, on an individual level.
Think outside of the box
Put Post-it notes on the mirror, send them a sweet text message, or write them a silly little song.
"Not only will your partner be appreciative, but they will also remember it as being brave and heartfelt," says DeMarco. "While your partner's need for words is not necessarily your natural strength of comfort zone, they won't expect perfection. Rather, they'll be appreciative of your effort that much more."
How to ask someone for more words of affirmation
Are you the one whose love language is words of affirmation? Here's how to communicate that to your partner:
Don't be afraid to bring it up
Effective communication is everything. The longer you wait to bring it up, the more you are delaying your own happiness. "Don't wait until you're in a torrent of resentment or a deluge of sadness before you ask for more words of affirmation," says DeMarco.
Have a direct, open conversation about love languages
Fishing for compliments or praise can be frustrating for your partner because it can come off as complaining instead of a request. Flip it by turning it into a conversation where you bring curiosity and openness to the table and address your ask directly. When you see them make an effort, take the time to thank them so it doesn't feel one-sided.
Approach is everything
"The idea is to help your partner understand how to express their love and appreciation in a way that is most receptive for you. Be clear about what you need. Be calm in your affect. Be confident in your being," says DeMarco. Show up as an example and clearly state what you need and why it will help you feel safer in the relationship. This act of vulnerability and you standing up for your needs can help intensify the trust in the relationship.
Finally, return the favor
"Consider helping your partner help you by leveraging their own love language style. Speak to people where they're at," advises DeMarco. If you're asking them to put in effort to help you feel more loved, create more possibility by also being proactive to their own love language and how they can feel loved. By putting forth conscious effort, the relationship will feel more transcendental in its limitlessness.
If you're reading this because you want to show your partner some love, take a moment to applaud yourself for embarking on this path of intentionality and conscious loving.
By taking the time to celebrate, support, affirm, and reinvest your partner with words of affirmation, it will serve to invite more love into your life.
Julie Nguyen is a writer, certified relationship coach, Enneagram educator, and former matchmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. She has a degree in Communication and Public Relations from Purdue University. She previously worked as a matchmaker at LastFirst Matchmaking and the Modern Love Club, and she is currently training with the Family Constellations and Somatic Healing Institute in trauma-informed facilitation.