Dr. Jess on Sex: The 5 languages of love

How to understand and satisfy your partner’s romantic needs this holiday season

Gary Chapman’s bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, suggests that each of us has a primary love language — words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch — and that in order to improve emotional connection, we need to learn to speak our partner’s language. 

With the holidays upon us, understanding and catering to your partner’s love language can make gift giving easier and more meaningful, so I’ve put together a gift guide for each love language.

Words of affirmation: Write a personalized card and consider a DIY gift. Last year, Rosedale resident Bruce made his wife a book of memories with photos and commentary from friends and family members.

Consider putting together a photo collage, poem or playlist in honour of your partner and share it with a loving note on social media. Don’t worry about oversharing — one study found that flouting your love online is positively correlated with higher commitment levels.

Receiving gifts: The key to pleasing this type of partner is to give him or her something your partner would not expect. The brain’s most reward-responsive area shows greater activity when there is an element of surprise. 

Gifts that are sure to surprise include a 3D-printed figurine from Selftraits (545 Queen St. W.), a Luckies of London travel map (available at Indigo) upon which you can mark a surprise trip destination, or the new couples’ vibrator: the Sync by We-Vibe (Good for Her, 175 Harbord St.). 

Quality time: Consider experiential gifts, which have been shown to improve relationship quality more than material ones. Take your partner to a sporting event or a concert. Book a room at Le Germain and take two full days off work. Dine in the dark at O.Noir, where cellphones are disallowed. Whatever activity you plan, leave your phone at home. This is a gift — not a typical date — and your partner deserves your undivided attention.

Physical touch: Look for gifts that encourage you to be hands-on with one another: salsa lessons, a couples’ massage class, body oils or an afternoon at Hammam Spa (602 King St. W.).

Acts of service: Prepare a week’s worth of meals in advance or steal one of your partner’s chores for two weeks and send him or her to the spa while you’re hard at work. Accompany your partner to a volunteer job or co-ordinate a new volunteer opportunity (consider ethical volun-tourism) you can attend together. 

If you’re not sure which language to cater to, identify how your partner communicates his or her love to you. That primary mode of communication is likely the one your partner expects in return.

Jess O’Reilly is a sought-after speaker, author and sexologist (www.SexWithDrJess.com).