The Love Languages of Highly Sensitive People
Updated: Mar 5
Are you a highly sensitive person, wondering what your love language is? Do you want to learn more about how to love the highly sensitive person in your life?
It takes time to learn how to love someone the way they want to be loved. With highly sensitive people (HSP), it can be a process to truly understand and honor their love language(s). When extending love to an HSP, there are important considerations to keep in mind. If you want to read more about HSPs and specific relationship considerations, such as setting boundaries and communication, you can click here.
The DOES acronym is a helpful review of HSP traits (Aron, 2023):
Depth of processing
Sensing the Subtle
For this week’s blog (in honor of Valentine's/Galentine's), we will be reviewing love languages and its relevance to HSPs. The 5 Love Languages (Chapman, 2015) include: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
Words of Affirmation
Words are powerful for HSPs, who tend to replay conversations over and over again. We may have been told something hurtful in our childhood (e.g., ‘you’re too sensitive’) and remember those words into adulthood. Not only do we remember those words, but they can shape how we view ourselves and how safe we feel navigating the world as our authentic selves.
For these reasons, Words of Affirmation can be a tricky love language for many HSPs to receive. And of course, if we did not receive this love language growing up, it can be difficult to express this love language to others. Nonetheless, it can be corrective for HSPs to hear encouraging, empathic, and kind words, especially if they express a desire to be loved in this way. Some examples include: ‘I am grateful for you,’ ‘You inspire me,’ and ‘I understand you.’ Authentic affirming words make a huge impact; it can help HSPs to feel supported and cared for.
Because HSPs have a rich inner world of thoughts, feelings, and continued processing of past and current experiences, many need alone time to recharge. This is true for both introverted and extroverted HSPs. It is important to support the balance of alone time and quality time.
Take time to understand what quality time means for the HSP in your life (including yourself). Quality time can mean different things for each person; it generally consists of having shared attention without any distractions. Some examples include having deep talks at a coffee shop or engaging in shared meaningful activities like volunteering. Try to be mindful of the location of the hangout, so the noise level and environment is not overstimulating for the HSP. HSPs may also appreciate planning the activity together or having a heads up to mentally prepare for the experience and not being surprised. If you are unsure about location or activity, you can always ask.
Some view Receiving Gifts as a visual symbol of love (Chapman, 2013) during certain events like birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. HSPs may prefer thoughtful gifts over expensive gifts (again this depends on the individual). Typically, it is not about the cost of the gift, but the thought that goes into the gift HSPs enjoy (such as going shopping and finding an item you think your loved one will like). Lastly, gifts do not need to be bought and can be handmade like a card.
Acts of Service
This love language is about action, what we do or what others do for us. Acts of Service may be meaningful for someone experiencing stress and/or in a difficult situation. HSPs tend to be very empathic and attuned to others, so they may naturally offer this love language as a way of caring for others. This is also to say the HSP in your life may benefit from receiving this love language, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed. Examples of acts of service include cleaning/organizing a space (this helps an HSP to feel less overwhelmed), cooking a favorite meal, and making coffee for them.
Consent and feeling safe is really important when it comes to Physical Touch. Keep in mind someone with a history of physical/sexual abuse or did not grow up in a family/culture with physical touch may find this love language difficult to express and/or receive.
For HSPs, who prefer physical touch as their love language, it is important to check in about their preferences. For instance, what kind of physical touch they like, the amount of touch, and where someone is comfortable with touch. Physical touch is about feeling connected with someone and can include a hug, holding hands, and/or cuddling.
Take some time to consider which love languages resonate with you for love languages you like to give and receive. They may be the same or can be surprisingly different. Then, take time to consider your loved ones and what love languages they offer you. It can be a fruitful conversation to discuss how you/they want to be loved. It is never too late to learn a new love language; the chances are, you have more than one.
If you are interested in learning more about your love languages in relationships, you can reach out to us here.
Aron, E. (2023). https://hsperson.com/faq/evidence-for-does/
Chapman, G. (2013). The 5 Love Languages
Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.
Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.