The power of love languages

The ‘Love Languages’ concept was first introduced in 1992 by a Southern Baptist Pastor, Gary Chapman, whose book, The Five Love Languages, was intended mostly for married Christian couples. Decades later, the premise of Chapman’s book has transcended the Christian community to resonate with people throughout the world, based on a theory that everyone has a primary love language, a preferred way of expressing and receiving love. There are five in total: quality time, physical touch, acts of service, giving and receiving gifts, and words of affirmation.

When I first heard about this theory, I was sceptical, assuming it was just the latest in a series of trendy personality quizzes, like the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. Indeed, people often use their self-identified love language as a shorthand indicator for their relationship preferences or tendencies, in the same offhand way they might describe their horoscope.

However, there’s also something undeniably resonant about Chapman’s theory, something which you can’t quite shake (and not for lack of trying). Because, at the end of the day, its objective is simple: creating a framework for better communication with those you love. 

It’s not necessarily about finding a partner who ‘speaks’ the same language as you, nor is it about demanding that they learn how. Rather, the intent of Chapman’s book is to encourage readers to focus not just on their love language, but on their partner’s. In other words, it encourages honesty, attentiveness, and behavioural self-regulation. It’s a system for better appreciating the people in your life, whether romantic or otherwise, and learning to communicate with them in a way that caters to both their needs and yours.

Some of us might already instinctively have a sense of what love language we ‘speak,’ but if you’re not sure, there’s plenty of online tests available, though I’d recommend this one. If you’re still sceptical, don’t worry, I get it. Even now, as I write these words, it sounds sort of gimmicky, like I’m a salesman advertising the key to a happier, more fulfilled you. Ultimately, I can’t convince you of the potential power this theory holds, it’s up to you to engage with it or not. 

But if I’m in a position to give any advice, it would be not to forego Chapman’s theory too quickly. Sit with it, keep it stored away. I can’t promise that it will solve all of your relationship issues, but for me, at least, understanding how I and how the people in my life choose to express love has enabled me to communicate better, to respect my loved ones more deeply, to rationalise, to empathise, and to find meaning in conflict. 

Tagged in Wellbeing, friends, family, relationships, love, self-care, What messes with your head