The Best Gifts to Give Someone, According to Their Love Language

Photo: Getty Images/Caiaimage Paul Bradbury
There's no better excuse to shower loved ones with gifts than being amid the holiday season. But while one family member may love receiving a buzzy product, like a high-tech makeup mirror, another friend might rather have the opportunity to spend time together on a new experience, like a cooking class. Gift preferences often have to do with love language types, a concept created by Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages. In it, he explains that there are five ways a person may prefer to receive and give love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. To this point, finding the perfect gift for people of varying love languages can be a bit complicated.

That's because the way people best receive love can translate to the gifts they find the most meaningful, says therapist Joyce Marter, LCPC. "We need to know our own love language, as well as know and recognize others' so that we can be conscious about how we're communicating our appreciation for one another," she says. "For example, I'm a words-of-affirmation person; I give compliments very easily. [Someone else may] appreciate acts of service, so they may not feel that I am appreciating them in the way that they deserve." Because gifts are closely tied with being signs of affection, it's important that we know the recipients' love language so we may effectively convey our love for someone. (If you haven’t already, take the official love-language quiz. We’ll be here when you get back.)

To make the holiday season even easier, find a breakdown of the love language types below, plus tips for the sort of gifts each may love to receive.

How to give the best presents ever, according to love language types.

1. Physical touch

People of this love language often favor physical signs of affection, like a hug or a kiss, to be a meaningful way to convey love. "Obviously this depends on the boundaries of your relationship," says Marter, "But if it's an intimate relationship, gifting someone with a massage, or even romantic favors may be more appreciated than buying them something super-expensive from a store." In addition to those ideas, Marter suggests gifting a coupon book full of physical favors like a foot rub, a scalp massage, or a long hug (or perhaps something more romantic) for the recipient to cash in. 

2. Words of affirmation

Gifts for those in the words-of-affirmation love-language camp go beyond saying "I love you." "Let them know how you feel about them, what they mean to you, and how they've positively impacted your life," Marter says. For ideas, a letter of gratitude can go a long way, as unique impactful personalizations, like having a message engraved on a picture frame or embroidered onto a pillowcase. 

3. Quality time

Those who feel fulfilled by spending quality time with one another can interpret the practice as a sign of affection. So whether that involves theater tickets, having a special date night, or even spending the evening at home making a meal, the takeaway here it to set aside time for an experience together that will make a memory. "People who value quality time really appreciate those kinds of gifts," Marter says.

4. Receiving gifts

Of all the love language types, receiving gifts may seem the easiest to satisfy, given the nature of the holidays, but that's often not the case. That's because those who prefer to receive love in the form of the gifts specifically appreciate items given with thought that are tailored to them and their needs. Without significance, a gift becomes just another item in a pile of many.

To avoid this, Marter suggests consciously listening and taking note of what the person may want or need. And if you're still struggling to find something they they'll love? "Get better about communicating and asking them if you aren't sure so that you can really get them something that they'll enjoy," she says.

5. Acts of service

Offering your time and service is often the best gift for acts-of-service people. "Recognizing some area where they need support and providing that for them is perfect," says Marter. This can be as simple as offering to help someone paint their room or organizing their office space to ease any stress they might be experiencing as a result of needing to finish these tasks. If you're willing to spend a bit, consider taking care of an expense, like an oil change or bringing their computer to a store to be fixed, and then also run the errand. 

But, no matter your gifting budget, there are plenty of meaningful ways to communicate your appreciation to people who fall into all of the love language types.

While you're at it, learn how to use the love languages to improve your lasting friendships. And here's how to know if you and your partner are speaking the same love language in the first place.

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