words of affirmation

Words of Affirmation: What are They and How to Use Them in Your Relationship

Everyone has a different way of expressing and receiving love. While some equate this feeling with spending time together, others prefer physical touch or receiving gifts. Some people, meanwhile, like it when their partner offers help in any way they can or showers them with compliments or words of encouragement.

The concept described above is referred to as love language, developed by author and pastor Gary Chapman, Ph.D. According to him, there are 5 love languages, which define the way we show and receive love from other people. Although all of us can relate to most of these languages, it is likely that there’s one that will stand out or speak to us the most. These include:

  • Words of affirmation – written or spoken compliments that show love, affection, and appreciation.
  • Physical touch – non-verbal communication or the use of physical touch to show love.
  • Quality time – spending focused and uninterrupted time together.
  • Receiving gifts – being thoughtful or giving gifts, surprises, or tokens of love to their partner.
  • Acts of service – providing help/support to ease stress or burden of responsibilities.

“Words of affirmation” is one of the most common primary love languages. If this is your partner’s love language, it only means they get a thrill when you pay them with compliments or say words of encouragement. Telling your significant other “I love you” on a regular basis or congratulating them for a job well done is one example of using words of affirmation.

What are words of affirmation?

Words of affirmation focus on verbal expressions or expressing emotions through spoken or written words. As previously mentioned, those who have this as their love language feel the love and appreciation of their partner when they shower them with compliments, as well as acknowledge their work and effort. 

Here are a few examples of words of affirmation:

  • I love you.
  • You mean so much to me.
  • I am so proud of you.
  • That new outfit looks great on you. 
  • I am always here if you need help.
  • I feel lucky/blessed to have you in my life. 
  • I feel loved/appreciated when you…
  • Thank you for…
  • I admire how you…

While words may not carry enough weight to some people, those whose love language is this find meaning and value to spoken and written words. This is also the reason why negative and critical comments can hurt them more. As these people value words a lot, harsh criticisms can be particularly painful for them. 

How to Use Words of Affirmation 

If this is your partner’s love language and you’re not so great with words, you can always practice. Choosing your words carefully and searching deep in your heart why you love and care for your significant other can help. Here are a few things to remember when using words of affirmation in your relationship.

Be genuine 

Authenticity is the key when expressing your emotions. If your partner’s primary language is words of affirmation, know that they value the intentions and feelings behind your words. It is also likely that they’ll be able to tell if you’re faking it or just saying things to them. Back your words with genuine feelings and be specific when paying a compliment or expressing your love and affection.

Avoid shortcuts or rushed compliments. Saying “You’re lovely, can we go now?” can come off as dishonest and insincere. 

Say “I love you” often

Gesture matters, but for those who gravitate towards words of affirmation, saying “I love you” often is greatly appreciated. It reaffirms that you have a strong and positive relationship and it makes your significant other feel good. Letting someone know you love them can also demonstrate intimacy and vulnerability between two people.

There are several ways to say “I love you” without actually muttering these three words. These include: 

  • I am yours. 
  • You are my favorite person.
  • You complete me. 
  • You bring happiness to my life.

Do take note that even simple phrases can also mean “I love you”. Saying  “I am sorry” could also indicate the same thing, as this means that you take responsibility for your action and want to make things right. The same can also be true for saying “have a great day” and “take care”.

Express it in writing

If you find it hard to say what you feel face-to-face, consider writing a highly personalized message. Do take note that your partner or significant other will appreciate it more if you craft your own words instead of quoting a movie or copying something online. They will find it more special and romantic if the message comes from your heart.

Choose your words wisely

People with this love language value words a lot and can be overly sensitive to negative comments. This is why you need to be careful about your choice of words and the way you say them. Think before you speak and avoid being too critical or condescending. If you feel the need to say something constructive (like criticisms), try to squeeze in some compliments to make your feedback less hurtful.  

Know the words that speak the most to your partner

Find the words or phrases that your significant other loves hearing the most. While some prefer compliments or words of encouragement on a daily basis, there are also those who love phrases that acknowledge their work and effort. Just be sure to tailor your words or message so they feel personal and well-thought-out. Being too generic or vague can come off as fake and insincere. 

It can also be helpful to create a list, especially if you feel like you don’t have a way with words. Listen and search for affirming words and customize them to fit the situation or your partner. This can help increase your vocabulary and allow you to come up with something new, fun, and creative when the situation demands it. 

Be creative

Instead of just saying nice things plainly, think outside the box or find creative ways to communicate your love. You can try sending them an unexpected text saying you were thinking of them or leaving random love notes inside the house. You can also write them a song or put together a customized playlist or give them a pep talk before a big presentation at work.

Show empathy

This is particularly helpful when your partner is feeling down. Recognize how they are feeling and try to picture yourself in their shoes to understand things from their perspective. It is also important to be empathetic while acknowledging and validating their emotions. Show care and concern when they tell you their problems and let them know you have their back whatever happens. 

Notice the little things

Don’t just mention or compliment the obvious things. Recognize and acknowledge the little ones or those that are usually taken for granted. Take note that people who have this as their primary love language also tend to notice and remember details in other people’s lives. Doing the same for them can make them feel important and loved. 

What to Avoid If Your Partner’s Love Language is Words of Affirmation

Since words mean so much to people who have this as their primary love language, be sure to avoid harsh or highly sensitive and negative comments. Here are a few other things to avoid if your significant other’s love language is words of affirmation.  

  • Don’t give fake affirmations. They can do more harm than good.
  • Don’t just copy-paste words or phrases. Make them personal or adapt them to the situation or your partner’s preferences. 
  • Don’t make compliments for the sake of saying or making them. State your reasons and be sincere.
  • Don’t disregard your tone or mindlessly say things. Say words like you mean them.
  • Don’t just assume they know that you love and appreciate them. Tell them through spoken or written words.

How Counseling or Online Therapy Can Help

If you’re having a hard time expressing your feelings or understanding your partner’s love language, help is always available. Consider online therapy or getting relationship counseling. Talking to a licensed mental health professional can help you navigate your emotions and learn effective strategies for creating a strong bond with your partner.

Online therapy can also help you learn more about not just your partner’s love language, but also yours. This can help both of you put them into practice, which can then improve your relationship. Online therapy, furthermore, offers a safe space to talk about your issues about love and explore your concerns surrounding this emotion and your relationship. 

Show your partner that they’re loved and appreciated using their love language. Get support or seek online therapy if you need to. Do take note that the right resources and professional guidance can help you express your love better and build a healthy relationship.

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more