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Exploring Nick and Charlie’s Love Languages in Heartstopper

Updated: Jul 8

Relationships, and the way we relate to people, are integral to people’s emotional wellness, and typically feature heavily in our talk therapy journeys. Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book "The 5 Love Languages," outlines five distinct ways people experience and express love. As a massive fan of the Netflix TV series, Heartstopper, I thought I’d explore how these could apply to the main characters, Nick and Charlie.


Here are the five love languages, as defined by Dr. Chapman-


1. Words of Affirmation

This is love and connection expressed through spoken or written words. I.e. compliments, verbal encouragement, and expressions of appreciation. "I love you," "You mean the world to me," etc.


2. Acts of Service

Here, we do things for our partner to show our love. Eg. chores, errands and actions that make their life easier, or more enjoyable. The partner feels loved when their other half takes time to do something special.


3. Receiving Gifts

This is about the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift; the present represents love and affection. Handmade gifts or something based on the partner’s interests or preferences are often ideal.


4. Quality Time

This involves giving undivided attention to one’s partner. Putting away distractions and focusing entirely on each other. This can be sharing meaningful conversations, engaging in activities together, or being present in the moment.


5. Physical Touch

Here, we express love through physical contact. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, or any other form of physical affection. Physical presence and touch are powerful emotional connectors for the person who prizes them.


So, let’s look at how Nick and Charlie ‘emote’, in terms of their love languages, in Alice Oseman’s masterful TV series (and the original web-comics and books), Heartstopper.


Charlie Spring’s Primary Love Language - Words of Affirmation


Words of Affirmation are key for Charlie. Conversely, we can see in his toxic initial relationship with Ben (and in the bullying he experienced) that words can be cutting, devastating & harmful to Charlie. He internalises harmful words (undoubtedly contributing to his mental health struggles), & ‘introjects’ negative words & beliefs.


On the other hand, he’s lifted emotionally via affirming words, notably from friends. Clearly his family (or maybe more specifically, his parents), aren’t highly emotionally mature / literate, but he’s learned with his friends to communicate quite openly. (Although as Tao explains in series 2, Charlie didn’t share his experiences of bullying with his friends, and seemingly supressed the pain.) Charlie’s relationship with sister Tori does become more open as the series go on, and he does share a beautiful scene with her in season 2, where Charlie shares that he worries he ruins other people’s lives, and his sister comforts him. Actor Joe Locke has said: "It's the turning point where Charlie realises that he needs to sort things out.” 

Charlie positively glows when Nick uses words of affirmation; in series one, Nick tells Charlie he really likes him at the arcade, and it seems as if Charlie really did need this explicitly stated, even though Nick says, wasn't this obvious?

Later at the beach, Nick tells Charlie he likes him 'so much'; and when Charlie wants to confirm they're boyfriends, Nick says he thought this was already established, via all the times they ‘made out’. It's as if all of the affirming and affectionate actions weren't quite enough for Charlie, who needed verbal confirmation. Charlie’s emotional fuel-tank gets filled up with every one of Nick’s compliments or simple affirmations of connection and support.

We end series 2 with Charlie considering telling Nick he loves him (via text). They’ve just had a deep conversation that ended with Nick saying, “I love your hair. I love your eyes. I love …”; his words fading into an unfinished sentence as Nick’s Mum returns home. The Season 3 premiere, suitably titled “Love,” reportedly picks up with Charlie eager to tell Nick that he loves him, according to Netflix, and the anticipation by fans of the bathroom scene from the web-comics and book, where Charlie does so.


Charlie Spring’s secondary love languages - Physical Touch and Quality Time


I feel that physical touch is another significant love language for Charlie. His interactions with Nick often include holding hands, hugging, or simply being close to each other. The little fireworks that spark from their hands is a great representation of this.

These affectionate gestures provide Charlie with a sense of security and affection, reinforcing the bond between them. On a number of occasions, Charlie initiates kisses (and of course initiates the famous first kiss in series one), and when the couple start to explore intimacy whilst away in France, Charlie is often the one to take the lead. He actually comes across as quite brave and bold in that sense.


I feel that Charlie, who I believe is an introvert, has the next love language of quality time; he escapes the main room of Tara’s birthday party in France, and even the prom, to spend quiet time with Nick (and after the prom, their friends), and they clearly spend plenty of time just being friends and soulmates, and hanging out together.


Nick Nelson’s Primary Love Language - Physical Touch


I feel that Nick resonates strongly with physical touch. His affectionate gestures towards Charlie, such as hugging, kissing, and holding hands, are essential expressions of his love. Nick often leans into Charlie, and we see him ‘recharging’ with a hug. Nick frequently takes Charlie’s hand to lead him somewhere, and in the early montage of passionate kisses in series two, Nick seems to be initiating the intensity of the intimacy. He’s also often seen looking at Charlie’s lips and presumably wanting to kiss him, which again suggests that this is his way of connecting and expressing love. Nick definitely takes physical intimacy one step at a time though, as we saw in France when the pair discussed future intimacy and desires.


Charlie also relates strongly to this love language of physical touch, which makes him feel secure and cared for, and it allows Nick to convey his feelings in a tangible way. The comfort and connection derived from physical touch plays a crucial role in their relationship, definitely one of the most hopeful and optimistic, within youth / LGBTQIA+ TV programmimg.


Season 3 isn’t out yet at the time of writing, but we know that there's more intimacy in store for the couple. I feel that Nick will be very keen (in their beautifully boundaried and consenting way) to explore the more intimate nature of their relationship, because physical touch is so important to Nick, as a way of connecting. Charlie may be younger, yet he can be the emotionally bolder of the two, and providing he feels emotionally safe with those words of affirmation from Nick to boost his self esteem, I am sure Charlie will also be very keen to explore further physical intimacy with his boyfriend when they both feel ready.


Nick Nelson’s secondary love language - Quality Time and Words of Affirmation


I think Nick values quality time highly, cherishing the moments he spends with Charlie. Whether they are engaging in deep conversations or simply hanging out, Nick finds joy and fulfilment in their shared experiences. These moments of undivided attention strengthen their relationship and allow Nick to express his love through presence and engagement.

Nick is also very happy to escape Tara’s birthday party and the prom to spend time with Charlie, and they clearly prize just being together, like going to the park, or playing video games. In terms of his personality, Nick feels to me like he’s evenly split between being an extrovert and an introvert, with a foot in both camps.


I feel that Nick’s next love language would be words of affirmation. He expresses his feelings openly and honestly to Charlie, for example reassuring his boyfriend during tough times, and communicating his emotions verbally, to help build trust and intimacy. (Nick was also very open with Tao in series two, telling Tao in France in series two that he's good looking, and also that Charlie loves him, towards the end of series one, when Tao and Charlie had fallen out. But it would be nice if Nick had other friends that he could connect with and confide in at a deeper level, as he can with Charlie; as Nick sometimes seems quite emotionally isolated). Also, despite seeming as if he wants to tell Charlie he loves him at the end of series two, it’s reportedly Charlie who says it first, in series 3.


The interplay of love languages


Charlie and Nick’s characters share some common love languages, which helps them connect on a deeper level. By understanding and embracing each other’s love languages, they build a relationship grounded in empathy, support, and genuine affection. To conclude, their story serves as a beautiful reminder of the importance of recognising and honouring the different ways people give and receive love; and if we can understand our own primary love languages and that of our partners, we can deepen our relationships and work out what may be causing conflict or stuckness.

By Kathy Carter


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