We can’t dissect something without knowing what it actually is, so I’m providing a link and I want you to take the quiz for yourself. Gary Chapman wrote the book The Five Love Languages in 1992, but still holds value (if you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know that I reference this book and quiz quite often in my blogs when I’m talking about relationship issues because it helps you know what exactly you need from your partner). If you follow the link, you will find one for singles and one for couples as well. Below, I have listed the five languages and some examples of how they can be expressed:
**I also want to emphasize here that you should also continue to have your friends and your own interests. One person cannot fulfill everything that we need or want. We need those other outlets and, without them, we will only resent our significant others for not being able to do it all.
If you take the quiz and your current (or last) relationship was lacking in something, but maybe you weren’t quite sure what it is/was, the quiz will let you know because, as humans, we want what we’re not getting. After a break-up, we generally try to find someone who prominently displays features that were missing from the last relationship OR fall back into a pattern of dysfunction (not featured in either book, btw). My top priority for my loved one to express their love used to be “acts of service”. Now, however, that need is being met in spades so “physical touch” has now come to be my highest priority, with “acts of service” second and all others following closely behind. I’m sure that if I got more physical touch and affection, my priority would flip back to acts of service.
For men (and some women, of course), typically, physical touch ranks high on the radar with words of affirmation second (in general). This may or may not change depending on which needs are being met. That’s my point. Once you get something you want, you want something else. That’s why there ARE five love languages, but there are so many other things that the book doesn’t discuss. I read this book in my pre-marital counseling, which I believe is a helpful tool in any relationship, however, my ex-husband turned out to be a Sociopath with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who tried to kill me on several occasions so books didn’t exactly come in handy in our relationship.
There’s another completely outdated and a little bit sexist, but relevant book that we had to read in our counseling called His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr. written in the mid-eighties, although, we read the 1994 version. It was again updated in 2011. One of the first points it makes is “Physical Appearance” and how important it is for a woman to basically “keep up her appearance” (I am hugely paraphrasing what I remember from over ten years ago), but that women don’t mind physical appearance, in men, as much with the right man. This is true, in my experience and observation.
The reason that it stands out in my mind now is that I was super-pissed about it. I’m a feminist and was a super-feminist back then (personality testing revealed high hostility and higher empathy, indicating a traumatized, yet protective person. Shocker!) Getting free pre-marital counseling with compatibility quizzes and what-not can really only be done through a good minister, basically the one who’s going to marry the two of you. But I remember reading the first page and wanting to throw it out the window and scream, “Fuck this!” Initially. But, out of curiosity, I skipped ahead to other chapters and checked to see if it was worth a read. Turns out, it was. It’s from a Christian mindset and I’m not a Christian (I believe in God, but the Bible is just a book written by others on how to act right), but I looked at it more as research on how to have a good marriage.
The reason I bring up this book is because it touches on a point called a “love bank”, which is sort of a rating system for couples to use for checking in with each other. “How’s your love bank today?” If a guy just got laid, he might be 100, while she’s still a two because he’s not holding her after sex so she feels used. (I apologize for the stereotyping here, but that can and does happen.) How this book relates to The Five Love Languages is that it 1) gives a completely different outlook while verifying statistically some of the same general principles as The Five Love Languages and 2) does make valid points about how affairs start, such as beginning emotionally with a co-worker turning to long lunches turning to motel rendezvous, which The Five Love Languages does not. They are complimentary books and, if you’re going to take the time to read one, you should read the other.
If you’ve never been married or in a long-term relationship, especially one where you lived together, you might not understand this, but it’s one of my theories: Either opposites do attract OR, once you meet that certain someone, one of you becomes the more dominant. You can still be a stubborn jackass, but the other person might be a bigger one. It’s like converging tectonic plates, when they collide, it pushes the other up. That means one becomes a little more relaxed because they know that the (now) A+ personality will take care of things. Just my theory.
One of the gaps I find with The Five Love Languages, that His Needs, Her Needs fills in, is whether or not you’re fully meeting someone’s needs. There are a billion other moving parts in a marriage, like a damned Transformer (COMMUNICATION should be #1 in my book, but I’m just a lowly therapist turned blogger, what do I know?). Trust, respect, division of labor, child-rearing techniques, etc., etc., etc. also need to factor in somewhere too. The Five Love Languages attempts to simplify how your partner can fulfill your needs and what to do when those needs change. However, doesn’t emphasize the fact that every one of those “needs” (“languages”) needs to be filled in some form or another for everyone. It doesn’t emphasize enough how important “quality time” is to any and every relationship maybe even above all because, without doing things together or spending time together, there literally wouldn’t be a relationship…
The final, and most important, issue that I have with The Five Love Languages is the fact that is doesn’t at all tell you how you love other people. It’s great to know what you want, but it means nothing if you can’t identify what you contribute and your weaknesses. For example, I’m a gift giver. I antagonize over little details and sentimentalities so that I can find the perfect gift for everyone in my life (and am secretly a little disappointed when they put absolutely no thought into mine, I mean, I’ll take the tiniest bit of thought). However, the fact that my fiancé’s love language is physical touch is, well, difficult for me personally. I didn’t grow up in an affectionate family and we didn’t even say “I love you” until I was twenty and my Dad died. (We say it now like it’s “normal”, but still somehow feels surreal.)
So the book doesn’t tell me how to let my guard down in reference to meeting my partner’s need for physical touch. It doesn’t talk about what to do when you have trauma I already had to teach myself how to love someone unconditionally (that one has backfired like an exhaust pipe in my face), but it wasn’t something that has been taught or given to me. My own mother has gone months and months without talking to me. Same with my siblings. My mother and sister (I don’t think my brother) have even gone behind my back and told other family members lies to turn them against me. I learned about that (for the first time) the last and final time I got kicked out of my house.
That’s when my family totally split. My parents were already divorced and Dad took my side because you never turn your back on family, but the rest of them didn’t speak to either of us for six months before my Dad died. So, yeah, showing physical affection isn’t really my thing and I’m always waiting for the guy I’m with to initiate the public displays of affection, hand-holding, sex, sitting close and cuddling, etc.
I guess that’s just another footnote in the trauma booklet for me and my therapist to work on. Thanx for the read and please feel free to leave you questions, comments, or complaints below.
**All images added are from Adobe Stock or FreePik and title pic designed using Canva.