How I discovered Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages” is a crock
By MEG CRANE
How do we love someone when we don’t know how to love them? This wasn’t a question I ever asked myself until a few months ago when a friend asked me which love language I speak. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
What he was referring to was Gary Chapman’s book series on “The 5 Love Languages.” We chatted about it a bit, but I wanted to know more, so I picked up one of his audio books from the library.
Essentially, Chapman has a theory that there are five love languages: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, presents and affirming words. Everyone has one primary love language. When the people we love do things that speak our language, we truly feel their love. When they do acts that don’t speak to us, we might not understand someone is trying to show us love, according to Chapman.
My partner and I were together for three years before calling it quits. Less than two years later, we’re giving it another go, but having some problems. We’ve realized the issues boiled down to each of us not feeling loved, yet thinking we were frequently expressing our love to one another. I thought Chapman could help as we dealt with this communication problem.
In his book, Chapman goes over many examples of couples who have effectively fixed their relationships by figuring out what their love languages are. In many cases, people show love in the way that they want to receive love, not knowing their actions don’t translate to love for their partner.
Once someone’s love language is identified, their partner can consult Chapman’s list of suggestions for how to show love in that way, or they can brainstorm a list of their own. For people who need quality time, Chapman recommends their partner schedule dates at their favourite place to talk and give them undivided attention. Chapman says investing time and money in learning how to give a good massage would be a loving act towards someone whose primary love language is physical touch.
But is it really that simple? At first, I thought maybe it was. I took the quiz to determine my language. I asked my partner which language he thought he spoke and scrutinized the ways he shows me love, the ways his parents show him love (which, according to Chapman, would influence his love language) and what he appreciates me doing.
I asked him what he does for me to show me love. He wasn’t completely taking me seriously when he answered, but he told me he shows me he loves me by buying me sushi and board games, spending time with me and rubbing my back.
I realized what a load of crock Chapman’s theory is.
My partner tells me he loves me by play-wrestling with me when I’m teasing him, stopping me when I’m telling him what I’m upset about to ask if I want him to listen or give advice, and buying me dinner when I’m broke and have had a bad day.
I show him love by sending silly text messages throughout the day, inviting him to events I wouldn’t really enjoy but think he’d have a blast at and trying my best to give him thoughtful advice when he asks.
Our love language isn’t quality time or presents or acts of service. It is the weird and unique love language of Meg and Nik, which is entirely different than the love language of any of our past relationships, and anyone else’s relationship, for that matter. When I know that someone is doing something for me out of love, I can recognize that and feel it. I know my mom loves me when she buys me groceries, even though I don’t particularly want her to do so. I get that my dad is showing me love by telling people he worries about me, although it drives me nuts. And I’m sure most adults have the same ability to feel that someone is showing them love, even if it’s not in a way that they particularly appreciate.
There aren’t five love languages. There are as many love languages as there are living beings who have ever, could ever and will ever love one another. What you need in a relationship can’t be boiled down to something as simple as physical touch or affirming words. I’ll give Chapman this, it is important that everyone understand their own and their loved one’s love languages. Having conversations with my partner about what I do that makes him feel loved and what he does to try to show me love has helped me understand our complex and nuanced love language better. And learning more about Chapman’s theory did lead me down that path.