Love Languages: Good or Bad?

Everywhere I look it seems that I run into someone carrying around one of Gary Chapman’s books on Love Languages. There are plenty to choose from and it seems that he’s left no demographic untouched. There are Love Language books targeted at adults, teens, children, singles, and men. There’s a Love Language devotional, small group resources, and books explaining the “heart” behind the love languages as well as the love language that God speaks.

The main thrust of these books is that human beings give and receive love in five distinct ways.

1. Acts of Service
2. Touch
3. Words of Encouragement
4. Quality Time
5. Gifts

Chapman observes that there is usually one (or maybe two) of these languages that speak more profoundly to us. He refers to that as our primary love language. The problem, according to the books, is that we tend to show love to others in the same way that we receive love. To use the book’s language we too often think our spouse, children, and friends have the same primary love language that we do.

Early in my marriage I remember wondering how my wife could possibly say that she didn’t feel loved. After all I had emptied the dishwasher, cleaned up the kitchen, and picked up around the house. What more could she possibly want? I operated under the theory that nothing says, “I love you” more than an orderly home.

I still remember when I first heard the concept of Love Languages and it dawned on me that my wife might not be wired exactly like I am. It had never even crossed my mind that picking up my dirty socks didn’t communicate love to her. When pressed to think about what her love language might be, it became pretty obvious that it was Words of Encouragement not Acts of Service. I had made the all too common mistake of assuming that she was just like me.

As a practical step you might want to identify what your primary love language is and then do the same for those closest to you. But don’t assume that you’re correct in your assessment of others. Take the time to discuss this with them and see if you’re on the right track. Ask them what makes them feel loved.

In one sense I think that the Love Language concept can be very helpful. But I think that there is another sense in which this same concept can also be very dangerous to a relationship. Next week we’ll look at the dangers associated with the Love Language philosophy. If you want to get a head start, check out this article by David Powlison.

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