Aug 3, 2017

A Love Language Themed Gift Guide

I told Stephanie that I've recently been taking notes on my friends and family members' love languages so I can do a better job of gifting people things they'll really appreciate.  She suggested this post idea and lightbulbs started flickering in my brain like a strand of Christmas lights when you have to troubleshoot which bulb is the broken one.

Anyway, I've written about the 5 Love Languages a few times and I think they're important for 2 reasons: 1) Your effort to show someone you care will be much more impactful and meaningful if you do it in their language instead of yours and 2) It's a good reminder that other people don't think about things the same way that you do.

I'm going to give you brief summaries of each language and then some suggestions for "gifts" for each one since only 1 of those languages is traditional gifts, which can be challenging come holiday time.  Note: some of these really only work well for partners and some are more widely applicable.  Gifts that can't be wrapped can be given as "coupons."

1. Acts of Service (Do Something for Me)

Of course I'm starting with this one!  This is the easiest for me because it's my primary love language.  Acts of service can be anything from doing the dishes to fixing someone's car.  For us acts of service people, taking care of us is the ultimate expression of love.  It's also a challenge to come up with gift ideas because my sisters across the country can't just come over and help me with errands or chores.  So here's a few ideas:
  • Gift Cards - Think cleaning services, car detailing, grocery delivery, food prep (Blue Apron), etc.  Any errand or chore that someone else could do instead.  Better yet...
  • Run the Errand - Sneak out and get their car detailed, organize the garage, tackle that once-a-year cleaning project.  We once did this for my mom: organizing the huge pile of stuff in the basement into appropriate storage containers and cleaning off the mouse crud after the previous system had been compromised.
  • Cook - Breakfast in bed, big fancy date-night dinner, etc.  Go all out and don't ask the recipient to raise a finger.
  • Plan a Surprise - Surprises are fun, but for me it's more about the fact that someone spent the time planning an event and I didn't have to work out draining logistics.
  • Make Life Easier - What's something your recipient hates to do or has to do all the time?  Is there a way you can do it for them, outsource it, or somehow make it easier for them?  You could babysit for a day, give them a gift card for H&R block, or research solutions for any number of problems.

2. Quality Time (Spend Time with Me)

This is what it sounds like - time spent together actually being together.  Not coexisting in the same room, but actively enjoying each other's company.  Ideas:
  • Trips Together - Anything from a local B&B to international travel.  You know your love one's preferences (and your own budget) better than I do.  Alternately...
  • A Night In - If life is crazy and hectic and you know your partner (let's be real, this would be weird for someone else) is stressed out, clear the calendar and schedule a big time chunk of doing only what you want to be doing.  Have someone watch the kids/pets/roommate and play video games, or watch TV, or just talk.  Whatever it is that the two of you like to do.
  • Try Something New - Is there anything you know your gift recipient would like to try?  A new restaurant, paint night, zip lining, whatever floats their boat.
  • Learn Together - Take a class that aligns with a shared interest.  Cooking, pottery, boating, improve, archery.
  • Go Exploring - If you don't have the budget for a trip, but like the adventure aspect, try exploring closer to home.  Are there trails you haven't walked, museums, restaurants, parks, or roads you haven't seen?  This is a good time for spontaneity, if that's your thing.

3. Words of Affirmation (Tell Me How You Feel)

Our culture is kind of backwards when it comes to talking about our feelings, so this can be a challenge - it certainly was for me.  Words of affirmation is literally telling people how you feel.  "I like you", "You're such a warm, loving person", "You make my life better in by ___."  Ideas:
  • Scrapbook/Compliment Book - I didn't really know what to call this, but putting together words, images, and memories into one convenient package is a fun one.  For each of our 21st birthdays, my mom gave me and my sisters little notebooks with "21 Things I Like About You."  Even as a not words person, it was very meaningful and special to me.
  • Other Artistic Expressions of Love - It doesn't have to be a physical book.  You could write a song or a poem, make a video.  If you're not artsy, you could make a mix CD (those aren't dead yet, are they?) or if you're more Microsoft Office-minded, a slideshow!  Just make sure your feelings are specifically written out or said, instead of making it about the images.
  • Card - I think a card could work here BUT it's better if it's homemade or if it's purchased you need to write a few extra sentences explaining why that person is important to you.
  • Home D├ęcor - Poster, wall art, etc. that relates to how you feel about your recipient.  If it's a photo of the two of you, include a caption about why it's memorable, or even just a header over/above the image that sums it up, "Friends", "My Everything", "Fierce."  Whatever!  It doesn't necessarily have to be the message "I like you."  Last year I bought Ryan a poster with the Chinese symbol for "conflict" because it talked about growing stronger and coming out better and that was pretty appropriate for our relationship at the time.
  • A Date Night that Incorporates Word Games - My family has a board game called "The Ungame" which is all about feelings.  It'll have prompts like "Tell about a time when you felt happy/angry/sad" and it's a weirdly serious game.  Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we feel sad, or uncomfortable, or irritated.  But it always elicits emotional responses and it's good practice at talking about feelings.  You could also play The Newlywed Game if you want something funnier, or try the list of questions that are scientifically supposed to help you fall in love, for something more romantic.

4. Physical Touch (I Need a Hug Right Now)

The only important thing to note is that, even in a relationship, physical touch is about much more than just sex.  So holding hands, hugs, snuggling.  Even platonic relationships can (and usually do) incorporate some physicality: hugs, a hand on the arm (at appropriate times in conversation! not in a creepy way), fixing someone's hair/tie/shirt tag, etc.  But gifting for this is a little more challenging.  Ideas:
  • Massage - Spa gift card or personal, if you're comfortable with that.
  • Mani/Pedi/Personal Care - Similar note, but a little less intimate.  (This could also overlap with acts of service because you're giving me money to do personal care.)
Confession: I ran out of ideas for this one, even after scouring the Internet.  This article has some suggestions, but I'd have to ask a physical touch person if doing "physical" things like hiking or dancing are a good substitute for physical contact.  If anyone reading is physical touch, let me know!

5. Gifts (Ooh, shiny!)

This one is the hardest for me personally and I'm not going to bother to make a list because everyone know what a gift is.  Some people like stuff, and that's ok BUT the important thing to note here is that it's NOT usually about the price tag.  Gift people care about the thought that went into the gift and will appreciate anything you can buy them that shows how well you know them.  I've asked a few people and I think most gift people also appreciate cards, so a birthday card or a wedding card will mean a lot more to this group than, say, an acts of service person.

Side note: Sister3 is AMAZING at choosing gifts for people.  She does Reddit's secret santa every year and I think her success is in equal parts due to crazy social media "investigation" (cough, stalking) and being a gifts person herself.  My brain doesn't see an object in a store or online and think, "Oh, this would be perfect for so-and-so" but hers does and she takes notes all year to not forget those ideas.

I started my gift doc in the hopes that I could do what she does but I've since realized it's a lost cause.  I can't be that good, but I can get better than I've been in the past and that's what I'm hoping to do with this list.

What about you?  Do you think about love languages when you buy gifts?  Are you good at coming up with gift ideas for people or do you have to struggle like I do?

Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually


  1. I'm acts of service too, so I was all 'yes yes yes' to everything on your list. John's always asking me what I want and I'm like well, I want you to declutter your t-shirts and socks with holes in them and organize the garage. He doesn't understand how that's a gift to me!
    Physical touch is hard, for sure. I don't know many (any?) people with that as their primary love language, so I have no suggestions!

  2. My husband is 'acts of service' and I'm 'quality time', but our top three are the same (in a different order)... so those two plus 'words of affirmation.' It can be tough to gift those things, but these are great ideas!
    I (think I) am a good gift giver when I have enough time. I have to start now (for Xmas) so I can brainstorm each individual. Lol

  3. I love this post- especially that you give real, useful gift ideas for each language! Though I've done the night in with friends too!

    I pride myself on being a good gifter (and wrapper)! Sometimes I struggle, but I already know who those people are so like Sister3 I plan and keep an ear open for things they may want/need and an eye open all year long. I also do coupons as a stocking stuffer for my mom (who is AoS) and Blue (QT). We also always take a trip for mine and Blue's birthdays and anniversary :)

  4. I LOVE THIS! I love the love languages (David and I are both physical touch and quality time a close second) and I'm not a very good gifter. I also have some very difficult-to-shop-for (ahem David mostly) people on my list so gift guides are always a big help for me. Bookmarking this!

    1. Oh, and as for physical touch, I pretty much only want that from David. For gifts, I much prefer non-physical or consumable gifts that are practical; I actually don't think my love language comes into play there. In fact I don't really like gifts on Christmas/my birthday at all, to be honest, but that's more of my aversion to stuff and dislike of the commercialization of every damn thing talking (and my own pickiness about the things I use/own). But perhaps my #2, quality time, does reflect in how I like to "be gifted" around those occasions. I like to be with family, my siblings and I like to do Christmas/New Years just-us dinners as opposed to gifting for each other. Although I must say most "just because" gifts I've received from friends and family (a care package, David picking me up something from Lush on the way home from work, that kinda thing) I have always appreciated... This is a very unhelpful comment.

  5. so my love language is quality time, but out of your list i like the words of affirmation ones. haha. isn't that weird? i'm just a weird person i guess. i love gifts because i love knowing people know me well enough to buy me something i like, or that they were thinking about me.


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