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An exploration of the unexpected consequences when love languages go wrong.

The 5 Love Languages Gone Wrong

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Levelling up the 5 love languages

The saying “happy wife; happy life” certainly goes regardless of gender, and if we’re partnered, it’s difficult to thrive in our individual lives if we’re not thriving as a couple. So, with the usual note that mental health is also just health, let’s take a look at getting beyond the basics of a well-known, often clumsily-applied model:

The 5 love languages

You’re probably familiar with “the 5 love languages”, as developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. If not, they are:

  1. Acts of Service
  2. Gift-Giving
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Quality Time
  5. Words of Affirmation

The idea is that we each weight these differently, and problems can arise when a couple are “speaking a different language”.

So, is this a basic compatibility test?

It doesn’t have to be!

We can, if we’re aware of each other’s primary love languages, make an effort to do a thing we wouldn’t necessarily do automatically, to ensure they’re loved the way they need to be.

But…

What a lot of people overlook is that we can also have different primary love languages for giving and for receiving. And, missing that can mean that even taking each other’s primarily love languages into account, efforts to make a partner feel loved, or to feel loved oneself, can miss 50% of the time.

For example, I (your writer here today, hi) could be asked my primary love language and respond without hesitation “Acts of Service!” because that’s my go-to for expressing love.

I’m the person who’ll run around bringing drinks, do all the housework, and without being indelicate, will tend towards giving in the bedroom. But…

A partner trying to act on that information to make me feel loved by giving Acts of Service would be doomed to catastrophic failure, because my knee-jerk reaction would be “No, here, let me do that for you!”

So it’s important for partners to ask each other…

  • Not: “what’s your primary love language?” ❌
  • But: “what’s your primary way of expressing love?” ✅
  • And: “which love language makes you feel most loved?” ✅

For what it’s worth, I thrive on Words of Affirmation, so thanks again to everyone who leaves kind feedback on our articles! It lets me know I provided a good Act of Service 😉

So far, so simple, right? You and your partner (or: other person! Because as we’ve just seen, these go for all kinds of dynamics, not just romantic partnerships) need to be aware of each other’s preferred love languages for giving and receiving.

But…

There’s another pitfall that many fall into, and that’s assuming that the other person has the same idea about what a given love language means, when there’s more to clarify.

For example:

  • Acts of Service: is it more important that the service be useful, or that it took effort?
  • Gift-Giving: is it better that a gift be more expensive, or more thoughtful and personal?
  • Physical Touch: what counts here? If we’re shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch, is that physical touch or is something more active needed?
  • Quality Time: does it count if we’re both doing our own thing but together in the same room, comfortable in silence together? Or does it need to be a more active and involved activity together? And is it quality time if we’re at a social event together, or does it need to be just us?
  • Words of Affirmation: what, exactly, do we need to hear? For romantic partners, “I love you” can often be important, but is there something else we need to hear? Perhaps a “because…”, or perhaps a “so much that…”, or perhaps something else entirely? Does it no longer count if we have to put the words in our partner’s mouth, or is that just good two-way communication?

Bottom line:

There’s a lot more to this than a “What’s your love language?” click-through quiz, but with a little application and good communication, this model can really resolve a lot of would-be problems that can grow from feeling unappreciated or such. And, the same principles go just the same for friends and others as they do for romantic partners.

In short, it’s one of the keys to good interpersonal relationships in general—something critical for our overall well-being!

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