Five love languages – a defence
Last month I wrote a post about the Five love languages which generated a comment with an opinion I suspect is held by more than a few men. I am taking parts of that comment and addressing it below – the comment in bold, my replies in regular text.
I get the whole “Love Languages” but I really disagree with this theory on many fronts. It’s interesting to study and I believe there is some benefit here, but I have never heard of any real data backing it up. Yes, that is anecdotal evidence, but when you have a large amount of consistent anecdotal evidence, it’s reasonable to think there is something there.
I can’t point to a well done study that “proves” the concept. I can point to a lot of folks, many of them highly trained, who agree it has validity. I can also point to a great many individuals who will tell you it has made a difference in their marriages, and many counsellors who say it is a very useful tool in helping couples.
First why is the opus completely on the Love giver (which almost always is the man, more on this later). Why can’t someone learn to appreciate Love in other forms. I know I have my preferences, but I can accept any form and appreciate it. … I think this is kind of like eating: there are foods I like more than others, but I can accept them all. The only reason the food doesn’t nourish me is I don’t accept it (and eat it). Works the same with Love.
The term “language” is poor in this respect since one can learn a new language, and since asking the giver to learn a new languages does seem unbalanced. In many ways food is a better way to think of it – “love flavours” if you will. I can offer my bride love in a number of flavours, some of which she likes, some of which she does not. Learning to like a flavour you dislike is difficult to impossible. In this instance it is clearly the giver who should make a modification. I would also say this is not just about “nourishment”, or should not be. It’s not loving to feed someone foods they greatly dislike while withholding a foods they like. They may be nourished, but they won’t feel very kindly about you.
Second, the book is almost certainly written for women and then applied to men. I’ve never heard hint of a man saying his correct love languange isn’t being satisfied or any other saying communicates this thought in English. We certainly have the ability to actually see when we are loved and not just live with blinders showing us what we want to see.
It is less common to hear a man say something like this, but I have heard it a number of times. I have also seen situations where failing to speak a man’s love language was hurting or limiting the marriage, and have seen very positive changes when his wife learned how to speak his love language. Are women inherently more sensitive to this than men? I would agree they are. But to me this is just another place where the genders are different, and another place where we need to understand the difference and do what it takes to bless our spouse. Just as it’s good for a wife to understand that sex is more important to most men than to most women, and to change her behaviour based on that understanding, it is good for a husband to understand what is more important to his bride and to change his behaviour based on that understanding.
Now any person can now say they are unloved and they got a book to back them up (with Christian backing, no less). Most men I know work themselves silly providing for their family to show their love. Does this even show up on the radar?
I could provide very well for my family and be a horrible husband and parent. Providing alone does not make a man good or loving. In most couples the wife either also works outside the home, or works her rear off at home doing many things needed by the family. Does that get on the man’s radar? The reality is these thing are expected and required, and while it is praiseworthy to do them and do them well, it’s not enough – not on either side. I hear women replying to complaints about a lack of sex by listing all the things they do well, and how they work so hard. This does not make the sexually starved husband feel better.
While it is true they can probably improve in these areas, they shouldn’t be condemned for their wife’s inability to adapt.
If she is, as you say, unable, then what? Where he can adapt, he should; where she can adapt, she should. Marriage is a team sport, with each doing all they can to cover the weaknesses of the other. If he can more easily adjust on something, then he should do most of the adjusting, if she can most easily adjust then she should do most. It seems to me that it’s easier to learn to “show” our love in a different why than it is to change how we feel love. It’s one thing to recognise that something is intended to speak love, it’s another to actually feel it – I personally think that our love languages are something built into us at a young age, and I honestly don’t think we can do much to change that.
The love languages is not presented as a quick fix, or a series of steps. Rather, it is offered as a way of understanding what makes your spouse feel loved so that you can focus on doing the things that make them feel loved. In some ways I think of it as much like what we do at our jobs – we figure out what makes the boss feel we are doing a good job. How hard we work is not important, how hard the boss thinks we work is.
Do some women use the 5 love languages book to try to manipulate their husband? Yeah, I have no doubt that is the case. Have some couples been significantly helped by learning about the five love languages? Yes, absolutely. It’s not going to help every marriage, but for many couples it will make a positive diference.