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A pen laying across a love letter

In our first year of marriage, I wrote Jake these cute little notes that I left around the house before I’d leave for work. After months of me doing this a few times a week he said, “you know, I really don’t care if you keep leaving these for me, right?”

That totally stung. I thought I was being so thoughtful in expressing my feelings for him. Why wouldn’t he want it? This is exactly what I would have loved for him to do for me.

He appreciated the gesture, sure, but it wasn’t adding anything to his “love tank.”

After reading The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, we realized this scenario is so common.

You see, Words of Affirmation is MY primary love language. I was trying to love him the way that I wanted to be loved. I wanted to know he was thinking of me or had something special to tell me. My intentions were good, but they were ultimately in my own interest and not his.

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A Love Languages recap

The 5 Love Languages was written by Dr. Gary Chapman, an author, speaker and marriage and family counselor. After years of helping couples through similar problems, he realized that there are 5 main ways that people give and receive love. He calls them love languages.

Along with that, our “love tank” is our emotional gauge of how well we are being loved. Something hurtful, neglectful or not in our love language can cause a withdrawal from our love tank. The deposits come when our spouse clearly communicates their love to us in a way that we can relate to and understand. This makes learning to speak your partner’s love language imperative to their emotional security in your relationship.

If you want to read a more in depth summary and review of the book, you can check out our post: The Power of Love Language Loving.

We’re going to be breaking down all 5 love languages. We’ll give some practical ways you can express each and share a few ways to avoid costly withdrawals from your spouse’s love tank.

We’ll start with Words of Affirmation.

What are Words of Affirmation?

If this is your primary love language your love tank gets filled when you hear how much your spouse loves and appreciates you! You believe that words and how you say them truly have power. You don’t have to be a “talker” to prefer Words of Affirmation, you appreciate written words as well.

You enjoy compliments, encouragement, empathetic speech, and kind words. You are sensitive to the way people speak and take tone of voice seriously. Demands don’t sit well with you; you would much prefer to be asked nicely. You take appreciation seriously and probably are the first to offer up praise when someone does something well!

We don’t all express our love this way or understand how to do it. So to get a better idea of how we can love our spouse who needs Word of Affirmation, here are 15 ways you can do it! (Download a printable version here)

Writing a thank you note on a post it

15 ways to love through Words of Affirmation

  1. Write a simple note

    Put it on the bathroom mirror, steering wheel, in their lunch, etc. Bonus points if it’s unexpected!

  2. Tell someone else how great your spouse is

    The more you get used to talking positively about your spouse to anyone, the easier it will be to come up with things to say. Dr. Chapman also uses a family member as an example. When you compliment your spouse to their family, they may tell your spouse how highly you spoke of them. It is an unexpected and highly enjoyed way to hear how you feel.

  3. Make a list

    Make an ongoing list of the traits you love about your spouse. You could also do one about the things they do that you appreciate. Use a date night to tell them your additions or just let them know every day! The notebook full of things you love about them could even be a very meaningful gift you give.

  4. Your new haircut looks great!

    If you have a household calendar, you probably have access to when they are going to the salon. Learn to take notice of their hair or outfits and give compliments accordingly.

  5. Send a text

    Let them know that you’re thinking about them, that you saw something that reminded you of them or you can’t wait for them to get home.

  6. Listen

    Learn to listen actively. This means without interruption or distraction. Don’t think of what you’re going to say next. Ask questions if you forget part of it. Listening more often will help you learn to retain longer conversations.

  7. Use your words to motivate them

    “Honey, you’re so organized, I know you can get the job done!”

    “You’ve got this!”

  8. Compliment and encourage your kids

    Both men and women love to hear their spouses engage positively with their children.

  9. Affirm your unique bond

    “I’m glad you’re my friend”

    “I am so happy to have you in my life”

    “You really help me …”

  10. Initiate apologies

    Be sincere and initiate an apology instead of waiting for them to come to you.

  11. Empathize

    Listen for cues of their feelings and affirm them before you try to help your spouse through them. Knowing that you recognize their feelings and are there for them can sometimes be more powerful than solutions.

  12. Towards men - communicate respect

    “I really appreciate the decision you made”

    “Thanks for fixing the __ for me”

  13. Towards women - affirm your love

    “Who you are is exactly what I want”

    “I love having you by my side”

  14. Make it specific

    It’s good to say “I’m proud of you!” It’s even better if you can be more specific, “I’m proud of you for working so hard the last few days to get that project done, it turned out great!”

  15. Set an alarm

    If Words of Affirmation do not come easy, set an alarm for the same time every day. It may sound forced at first, but it will actually get you in the habit of speaking. Once it becomes easy for you to remember to say what you’re thinking, then you can let it go. But this is a great place to start!

Things to avoid

Everyone’s love tank naturally empties, so it’s important to communicate your love for your spouse regularly to keep their tank at a healthy level. However each love language does come with several types of interactions that will cause costly withdrawals.

For Words of Affirmation, you’ll want to minimize the following behaviors:

  • Criticism

    Words are a powerful tool and can cause a lot of damage. Once spoken it takes A LOT of effort to right the damage they did. A criticism is expressing your disapproval based on perceived faults. It leaves no room for improvement. It’s basically an adult way of name calling: “You don’t ever help me around the house, you are so lazy.”

  • Not acknowledging effort or not thanking them

    Even if it’s a chore or role they have chosen, a lack of acknowledgement can make them feel invisible or used.

  • Nagging

    Nagging is a request dripping with your disapproval - you’re most likely nagging because you feel they aren’t living up to your standards and they know you feel that way about them. Ask them nicely and be sure to say thank you. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

  • Complaining

    There are much better ways to deal with your dissatisfaction or annoyance with something than complaining about it. Come to your spouse with empathy to discuss things that you don’t like and work together to find a solution.

  • Check your tone of voice

    Something said sarcastically or insincerely can immediately be picked up and cause doubt or insecurity.

Someone who’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation may be more sensitive to these negative actions. But in reality, EVERY relationship needs to ditch these behaviors in order to be healthy.


We hope that this list gives you a jumping off point to become more fluent in expressing your love through Words of Affirmation.

Be sure to grab The 5 Love Languages book if you’ve never read it. There’s nothing quite like learning straight from the source!

Take the 5 Love Languages official quiz if you haven’t already. It’s much easier to get started when you know your primary love language for certain!

We made a printable for you! Stick it on your fridge or save the list to your phone - either way keep it as a handy reference while you become proficient in your new language. Download it here.

Next, we’ll be discussing Quality Time.

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CommunicationIntimacyLove LanguagesMarriage AdviceOneness
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