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Plenty of people who got their ex back or found someone better after their breakup and are trying to keep their relationship afloat kept emailing me over the years about what I think of the 5 love languages.
Well, here’s my response. And it’s not pretty.
An Intro To The 5 Love Languages
The 5 Love languages is a short and simple book written by Gary Chapman, a Christian Baptist pastor turned marriage counselor. In 1992, when Chapman published it, it quickly made one hell of a crater in the relationship advice industry. Its ideas spread around the world like wildfire, eventually taking a life of their own.
The book’s popularity became so massive that marriage counselors began using it during their sessions, and relationship experts started preaching about its ideas at their seminars. And don’t even ask how many other relationship books copied or, as they call it, expanded on the work.
By now, everyone and their dog read The 5 Love Languages. And those who haven’t lie that they have. But enough hype, you’re probably wondering what makes this book so fucking revolutionary? Well, here’s the gist.
Dr. Chapman claims that each person has one primary love language out of five available to us— a favorite and most frequent way of giving and receiving affection.
- Words of kindness and affirmations: Your basic expressions of endearment like “Thanks for making dinner, You’re so great, I love you, You look really hot in that dress, You look adorable in that button-up shirt.” People with this love language love to hear how much they mean to their partners.
- Physical touch: Relating to unsullied affection. The partner who has this language will respond best and feel most loved when you kiss, hold hands, hug, or cuddle them.
- Gift giving: All about giving gifts to your partner. These can be either materialistic or abstract. The person who holds this language will feel most loved when you buy or create and give them stuff. Duh.
- Acts of service: Like abstract gift-giving, people with this love language appreciate it most when you help them out somehow: doing the dishes, mopping the floor, taking the time to prepare dinner, etc.
- Quality time: People who have this love language will appreciate you the most when you invite them to an adventure or prepare an activity where you both engage with each other — a.k.a., a date.
The five love languages also have an alternate form — a dark side, per se. For example, if your favorite way of receiving affection is physical touch, its absence will make you feel unloved, unwanted, and if you’re awfully insecure, unworthy.
The Problems With The 5 Love Languages
Chapman’s big claim is that if we learn to identify and speak our partner’s love language, we can increase the overall satisfaction of our relationship and the frequency of loving, affectionate, and argument-free times. Well, I just don’t find this realistic. I find Chapman’s claims vague and farfetched. I would even argue that much of what he says is total nonsense.
For one, Chapman never addresses compatibility issues. In his world, partners are always compatible, relationships effortless, and satisfaction in them is easily achievable if you know your partner’s preferred love language.
These delusions annoy me. Relationships are far messier than Chapman portrays them to be. There’s so much more to them than just finding a partner’s love language and calling it a day.
You need to develop solid communication skills, meet your partner’s needs, keep respect unimpaired, set solid boundaries, deal with logistics, keep sex spicy, and so forth. I don’t know if the guy was high while writing his book, but seriously, maintaining a relationship is fucking hard work.
What’s even more worrying is that the only cited reference backing up Chapman’s theories in The 5 Love Languages is the Holy Bible. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Holy Bible, but the lack of referenced studies means there were no real tests performed on the validity of Chapman’s theories.
Luckily, because of the book’s popularity, I’m not the only one being skeptical of its ideas. Other relationships and marriage researchers began questioning and testing them too. And their findings were unsurprising.
One study proves, for example, that following Chapman’s theory makes us perform relational behaviors such as practicing present moment awareness and empathy or affirming commitment. These behaviors are linked to higher relationship satisfaction but don’t guarantee it. (1)
Another study found that a couple’s love language alignment wasn’t necessarily an accurate predictor of overall relationship satisfaction. The research showed that if you share the same language as your partner, you won’t be any happier than a couple where both people have a mismatch in love languages. (2)
And to top it all off, Chapman also fails to point out that our love languages change over time. The love language(s) your partner finds mindbogglingly sexy now may not be the same love language(s) they find mindbogglingly sexy in two weeks, six months, or ten years.
The Bottom Line
The 5 love languages are just basic ingredients of any loving relationship. It’s not about finding the right one; it’s about practicing all of them as much as possible.
And while they might make your relationships better, they are, by themselves, not enough to save it or turn it around if it ever goes amok. Therefore, don’t treat them as a science, but rather as a glorified horoscope or personality test — a.k.a, don’t take them too seriously.
If you need more help getting your ex back, check out my Radical Re-Attraction Course. With over 8h of video, 300 pages of writing, and personalized 1-on-1 coaching, I'll walk you through every step of the re-attraction process from start to finish.
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