Ever told someone that your love language is ‘quality time’, or ‘acts of service?’
While it might have led to a nice moment, there’s no scientific evidence behind it, say Canadian psychologists.
‘Love languages’ are an idea popularised by a 1992 book, The Five Love Languages, written by Baptist minister Gary Chapman.
In the book, which has sold more than 20 million copies, Chapman outlines 5 ways partners express love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
According to Chapman, everyone prefers one of these languages, and couples that speak the same language are more satisfied.
“His work is based on a very religious traditional sample of monogamous, heterosexual cisgendered couples and it is all anecdotal,” says Amy Muise, an assistant professor at York University in Canada and co-author on a paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
“We were pretty sceptical of the claims made so we decided to review the existing evidence, and his idea that we all have one primary love language really isn’t supported.”
The researchers tested the assumptions at the centre of the book by looking for psychological studies that affirmed or refuted them.
“His measure pits the love languages against each other, but in research studies when they’ve asked people to rate each of these expressions of love independently, people tend to rate them all highly,” says Muise.
But the researchers acknowledge that the love language idea is an “intuitive metaphor that resonates with people”, giving them a clear way to improve their relationships.
“It’s something people can really grab onto in straightforward way and communicate something about themselves to their partner,” says Muise.
To counter this, the researchers suggest a new metaphor.
“We would suggest that love is not a language that you need to learn how to speak but it’s more akin to a nutritionally balanced diet, where partners need multiple expressions of love simultaneously, and that these needs can change over time as life and relationships evolve,” says Muise.
It might be scientifically sound, but a nutritionally balanced diet doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as love language, in our opinion.