The Five Love Languages in Outlander

Written by: Janet Reynolds

Gary Chapman's wildly popular book, The Five Love Languages, has been on the bestseller list since 2009. The basic gist of the book is this — we all give and receive love differently. The key to success in maintaining a relationship, he says, is to know how you and your partner like to give and receive love and then — wait for it — actually let each other know that and then do it. He's been married 45 years, so I think we can all agree he's on to something.

Anyway, we decided to apply the five love languages to our favorite Outlander couples. After all, this series is nothing if not an epic love story. Were couples like Ian and Jenny, and Jamie and Claire, love languages experts before their time?

First a few housekeeping details: I haven't spent years studying this. I looked at the overall concept and took the quiz myself. (You can take it here; you know you want to. Just be sure to come back.) In other words, feel free to weigh in with your own ideas of who might be what. Conversation (always polite, of course) is welcome in the comments.

Also I'm limiting myself to seasons one and two of Outlander. I've read all the books (some twice, some three times) and know about a bunch of interesting couples coming down the pike, but I'm not a fan of limiting a blog post to only those who have read ahead. You can certainly weigh in below with other couples-to-come, however — just type spoiler alert before you begin to write. Consider yourself warned, people.

Chapman boils down the five love languages this way, all of which are pretty self-explanatory:
• gift giving
• quality time
• words of affirmation
• acts of service (devotion)
• physical touch.

Each of us has a primary and secondary love language. In our most successful love relationships (which obviously range beyond our mere partner to include friends and all variations of family), we prefer to receive love a certain way. And if we aren't shown love in a way that resonates with us — if, for instance, we only feel loved by words of affirmation but our partner thinks gift giving is the way to reach our hearts — then it's almost as if we're not actually loved. Or it can feel that way. It's the proverbial two ships passing in the night.

Basically, the way to figure out the best way for your partner to receive love (which can obviously work to your benefit) is to see how he or she gives it. Listen to what they complain most about NOT getting from someone they care about and what they request most often. The idea is that people naturally give love the way they prefer to receive it. If you match those up, bingo. Happy match.

It's trickier than that IRL, of course. Not all of us know how to/feel comfortable asking for what we want. (BTW family, if you're reading this, I'm all about words of affirmation, with physical touch and quality time tying for second place. This actually surprised me because I thought tests acts of devotion would rank higher.)

So let's look at some Outlander couples. We'll start with some of the secondary couples.

Colum and Letitia

Colum is clearly an acts of service kind of guy, followed probably by words of affirmation. We see that in everything from the annual fealty oaths the clan members must give to his anger when he feels as if people who matter to him haven't done the right thing. Remember his rage when he discovered Dougal was collecting money for the Jacobite Rebellion behind his back? Or Colum's anger when he discovered Jamie had married a Sassenach, undermining his plan (at least initially) to have Jamie take over the clan until Hamish was of age?

Letitia is a bit more of an unknown. She and Colum seem to have a good working relationship. She certainly gets the need to show him acts of devotion. I mean she has sex with his brother so that Colum will have the heir he needs for clan stability. But what makes her tick emotionally? I'm going with acts of devotion as her primary, with maybe words of affirmation as her secondary.

Suzette and Murtagh

Murtagh is clearly an acts of devotion man. The list of how he shows love — from killing a boar with a knife for the woman he loved to his many acts for Jamie — is long and impressive. He's also a man of few (but often so on-target) words, so he's definitely not a words of affirmation person. Instead Murtagh's secondary love language is quality time. His entire life is devoted to helping and being with Jamie. With Suzette, he seems to value being with her whenever he can. In that conversation with Claire after she discovers the two of them in bed, he leaves to go spend time with Suzette.

Suzette is, like Letitia, a bit of a mystery. She is a servant who literally makes a living through acts of service. But that's not love. Instead, I think physical touch is her primary love language — and not just because she and Murtagh start their relationship by tumbling into bed. She fusses with him when he's dressing for the robbery, and pecks him on the cheek and affectionately touches him whenever they meet up. Touching matters to her.

Alex and Mary

Alex is clearly all about acts of devotion. He watches over Mary after she has been raped, and, in what has to be that act of devotion to beat all acts of devotion, he ensures that she and their unborn child will be protected by his brother's fortune and place in society after he is dead by arranging Mary's marriage to Jack Randall.

For Mary, words of affirmation seems to be her primary love language. Their relationship begins with talking and is built on talking and writing to each other. "He supports me," she tells Claire defiantly when they accidentally meet up in the apothecary's shop. Their love is seeded by words, by Mary feeling that she has finally — literally — found someone she can talk to. Her secondary love language is acts of devotion, which is one reason she and Alex likely work so well together in their short relationship. She works at L'Hopital des Anges, and bamboozles her family so she can secretly take care of Alex. To pay for medicine, she pawns her jewelry.

Ian and Jenny Murray

Like the other Outlander men, Ian's primary love language is acts of devotion. He and Jamie got whipped together as young boys and fought side by side in France. No wonder he responds so deeply to Jenny's refusal to let him die when his leg is amputated. She is speaking his love language loud and clear. That's because Jenny, too, shows love through her actions. She puts her body on the line when her brother is whipped by Black Jack Randall. She gets on a horse hours after giving birth (!) and throws herself in front of a British soldier's horse and brands said soldier during her mission to save Jamie when he's on his way to Wentworth Prison. Both Jenny and Ian manage Lallybroch on their own during extremely trying times, with no idea of where Jamie is or when/if he will ever return. And yet when the Laird does return, they step back, ready to assume their secondary place in castle life.

Jamie and Claire Fraser

Like Ian and Jenny, Jamie and Claire speak the same love language — in spades. And it is because of this that they unite so strongly and give each other — for the most part — what they need. In that sense, they are the perfect match. While the marriage might have been arranged and a question of convenience initially, that Jamie and Claire speak as one is clear almost from their wedding night.

Both of them show love through acts of devotion, with physical touch as their secondary. Claire literally lives her love language as a healer, constantly reaching out to help others. Her acts of devotion toward Jamie start before she even realizes it, as she helps reset his dislocated collarbone. He holds her on that horse, covering her in his plaid and offering her a dram of whisky.

Their love literally allows them to save each other repeatedly. In "The Reckoning," Jamie takes on BJR with nothing more than an unloaded pistol and his bare hands. In "The Devil's Mark," he takes on an entire mob. Claire braves Wentworth Prison to save Jamie and later in the abbey literally goes with him into the depths of his tortured soul to pull him back to life and love after he is raped and tortured by BJR. In season 2, Claire has sex with the king and along the way ends up murdering the Comte to redeem their relationship, while Jamie offers — for the second time — the ultimate of devotion: He sends Claire — this time successfully — back to safety through the stones.

In some ways, physical touch is simply a variation on an act of devotion, an extension if you will, as you give yourself to another and provide loving touches that you believe your partner will enjoy. It's not surprising, then, that Jamie and Claire unite here, too. Just how closely the two are aligned is clear almost from their first kiss. "Does it ever stop? The wanting you?" Jamie asks early in their relationship? The answer, then and in the books, is notably no. In season 2, it's worth noting that Jamie and Claire spend much of the season at odds until they return home to Scotland. Season 2 also featured virtually no sex and little intimacy between them. Just further proof of how things can go awry when a couple is not being true to their love needs.

Compiling this list of Outlander couples and the five love languages, it was interesting to see how strongly acts of service/devotion were, in general and to the most satisfied couples, particularly. Is this selfless behavior the "best" love language for showing love? Or was it simply more common in a time when people's — especially men's — behavior and mores were so clearly based on what people did? You supported the Jacobites or you didn't. You supported your laird or you didn't. Are certain love languages more prevalent in certain times?

I don't have the answer, but I do know this. The course of true love may not run smooth, but if you speak the same language, you can figure out how to get back on track.

Are you a Five Love Languages fan? What do you think of the traits we assigned our couples? Do you have theories about the love languages of some other Outlander couples coming our way? 


  1. Lovely post Janet. I must say I thought that Jamie's primary love language was words with touch as his second before I read the article through. Claire's I would have said touch as she so often uses her hands to reach out to Jamie when he is in distress.

    I first came across Gary chapman's books through his 5 Love Languages for Children and found it very helpful with raising my son. It's always interesting when the people you love have a different love language to your own. I think taking the trouble to find out theirs is, in itself, an act of devotion. It means that you want the best for them and to give them what they need in the best way possible for them, rather than you.

    Perfect Valentine's Day post.

  2. Jayne
    Jamie certainly is wonderful with words so I totally get your point. I think if I had focused on the books instead of or in addition to the show, I might have included that in the analysis. But for the shows, I stuck with acts of devotion as you know. Bottom line, we all speak several love languages. I don't think the line is completely clear.

  3. Before reading your post, I too, would have said that both Jamie and Claire were tactile. Your comments regarding acts of devotion set me thinking. Jamie saves special things for special times, like the pearl necklace on their wedding night, the Apostle Spoons before the birth of Faith...but he also gives her constant proofs of his love. He kisses her when he arrives and when he leaves. They have each others backs, too, constantly showing devotion. She would stand in front of a freight train for him, and he for her. I think that is the magic of their love. For pretty much as far as I have read (was reading The Firey Cross when I had to go back to read Voyager again, it is my favorite of the far...)so I cannot say they respond this way throughout. One thing is certain, I have known what my love language is since I read a book back in the late '80's on the subject...and Jamie and I would get on great physically/intimately, not necessarily entirely sexually...but I'm not as strong as Claire and he really demands a very strong woman. Like Janet above says, I think the line moves. Sometimes we need one form of love at other times we need and give another. The line isn't static, it's constantly changing along with us.

    1. Roansmom I also think adding the books to the analysis makes things move a bit more. There is of course so much good dialogue in the books that never makes it into the show that might affect the words of affirmation part of love languages. Maybe it's that Claire and Jamie know how to read what each other needs at the moment that makes them such a wonderful couple? Yes, they have their misses--we all do. But they do seem uniquely good at finding each other's center again.

  4. Why did this make me cry?!?! Is there a love language that involves lots of crying when reading about love languages? Thanks for this really cool post and a new perspective on the relationships of some of our favorite couples.

  5. What a wonderful post Janet,forever love will live Jamie's&Claire's devotion&love,but do admire also Ian's&jenny's love & devotion,but Mary's&Alexe's love is truly heart renching!

    1. Thanks Zsuzsip. It was fun to write and think about...It also made me think about my love language and what I think my husband's is. Real life imitating art? :)

  6. Once again thank you for another lovely written article, I must say I've been getting more and more attached to this blog. I heaven't read this Language book myself and confess I hadn't heard about the concept until you mentioned it here.
    I missed a mention about Frank and Claire Randal, who where the first couple we got to know, both in book and series. According to Claire's words they had been inseparable before the war and while she's still strugling with her feelings towards Jamie, she keeps cherishing those years back, what leads us to believe that they had a very harmonious and sexual relationship and spoke enough languages as well...
    The Outlander series is indeed, apart from the wars, misunderstandings, tragedies and time travels, like you said, an epic love story, or epic love stories I might add.
    For we have other wonderful functional and "multi-languaged" couples, like Fergus and Marsali, Bree and Roger (as epic as J&C's), Ian and Rachel and so on.
    Please allow me to wander a bit and mention a character that I came to like and respect and I am really looking forward to seeing how is going to develop in the series: John Grey. He's been a long friend to Jamie, loving him deeply (not so) secretely and doing the most altruistic gestures directly and indirectly towards him, which, in my humble opinion, make it also an epic, platonic and disfunctional love story. He even plays the part of Claire's husband for a short time and a very considerate and caring one, correct me if I'm wrong. He and Claire also share some languages, even the most unexpected, physicaL touch... And I felt my heart melt for their shared grief and despair over their love and loss for Jamie... He was there for all of them, Jamie, William, Brianna (more than once), Claire (both as friend and husband) and even, why not Ian. And all in the name of love... For the one he could never have a direct/love relationship with...These seem like a lot of languages to me.
    Really sorry for the long comment, I just needed to share this with you. Can't wait to know your opinion about it!

    1. First I CAN'T BELIEVE I DIDN'T MENTION FRANK AND CLAIRE!!!! While their relationship didn't ultimately work, Claire was indeed in love with him originally and of course we know that in Voyager the issues in their relationship and the ways in which they don't speak the same love languages will become so very clear. But it would have been fun to discuss what we did see in the first season and then hint at Voyager....I might have to write another version of this after season 3 :) and 4 :)
      I agree that John Grey is certainly an interesting character and shows his love clearly for Jamie even though it is not reciprocated in the way he hopes. They remain very close friends, however, and certainly you can show love in a friendship I think. I think John Grey is an acts of devotion person. Look what he does for Jamie with William and then later with Claire as you mention....

  7. I think JAMMF being the King of Men speaks all the love languages fluently, LOL. When you said Murtagh goes back to Suzette after his talk with Claire, i always assumed he was getting back into her bed. Which is what I think his idea of what quality time entails

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