I’m sure you’ve all heard about the concept of ‘love languages.’ There are a bunch of steamy quizzes you can take online that claim to tell you what your love language is. Basically, they evaluate your answers and tell you how you like to be shown love, and how you like to express love to others. Surprisingly, there are several different versions of this quiz made for all kinds of different people. There’s one for people in a relationship, single people, people in the military, teens, one specifically for men, and yes, even one for children.
What are the five love languages, and what do they mean, you ask? Well, according to Gary Chapman, they are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. ‘Words of affirmation’ means you love to hear people’s support and encouragement for you the most. When you’re having a tough time, some loving words from others like “Wow! You’re really rocking that outfit today!” will really cheer you up (despite you showing up to uni five days a week wearing the same hoodie and everyone knowing it). ‘Acts of service’ means enjoying the times when people around you do things for you as a way to show you they love you. You’re the kind of person who loves it when someone cleans the house when you’re out, makes you some food when you’re hungry, or holds your hair back when you’ve had a few too many shots. Receiving gifts is pretty self-explanatory (no shame in being a little materialistic, am I right?). If your love language is ‘quality time,’ that just means you like being in the company of other people, soaking in the sexual energy of togetherness. When they’re with you, it’s important that they focus only on you. ‘Physical touch’ means a lot of affectionate and intimate touching expresses your love for others and that you enjoy when others do that with you. This can include hand-holding, hugging, cuddling, or a crisp high-five that hits just right. Oh and of course, the most intimate, sex.
As you’re reading those descriptions, you’re probably trying to put yourself into one of those five categories. Which do you like more: having someone making you a really nice meal when you’re hungry but too lazy to make something yourself (and too broke to buy food), or having someone pay full attention to you when you’re catching up with them? Would you rather get more hugs and cuddles from your significant other, or would you rather them surprising you with a small gift? Do you prefer having someone always showering you with compliments, or literally showering you?
Having a tough time choosing? Me too. Why? Because I’m indecisive… but also because in a situation like this, you’re being told you can only have one way of expressing how you love, and that you should only enjoy one way of receiving love. The concept of love languages exists in pop culture because it’s easy and fun, and who doesn’t love being sorted into a category with a label assigned to you that you have to stick to?
Is there any scientific basis for this concept? The short answer is no. What researchers have shown across the years is that people like to be shown love in multiple different ways. That’s right; you can enjoy the sexual intimacy of a high five AND a surprise choccie bar from your partner’s Countdown trip. We love all types of love. We’re definitely not limited to just one way of loving. These love languages aren’t definitive. Your relationship isn’t doomed just because you did the quiz and got ‘words of affirmation,’ while your partner got ‘physical touch.’ Certainly, these five ‘languages’ are valid ways to express love (this point is clear enough, as Chapman’s book is a best-seller), but they should be considered more as vehicles for people to use to convey relationship maintenance methods. In other words, these five behaviours are probably better understood as methods people use to convey their intentions and maintain their relationships.
For example, if you believe that doing more things together would be beneficial for you and your partner, you may use the quality time love language and acts of service love language in conjunction (like Netflix and chill, but more along the lines of Netflix and doing the dishes. I know – it’s as sexy as it sounds). Similarly, if you wanted to show to your partner or friends that you’ll always be there to support them, you may want to use words of affirmation and acts of service or a mix of the behaviours to do so.
You may be wondering; are there gendered differences in the way we express love? The types of gender roles we see portrayed in media are pretty repetitive, so it’s obvious that some of these portrayals become strongly associated with different genders. It might be assumed that men like to express and enjoy the love language of physical touch more since they’re always the ones who are portrayed as wanting sexual pleasure (the sexy time), whereas it may be assumed that women prefer to spend more quality time with others, or that they’re more materialistic and easily wooed with gifts.
In reality, researchers have found, in a study looking at heterosexual married couples, that there really aren’t many differences in how people express love. Men and women were equally likely to express love through affectionate behaviours in everyday life (surprise! Archaic gender norms and Hollywood media don’t reliably predict behaviour!). The only minor differences these researchers found were that men showed love by initiating sex, sharing leisure activities, and doing chores around the house together – importance is placed on doing things together and shared time. Whereas with women, love was shown through compliments, expressing less negative attitudes and behaviours, so ultimately being more accommodating. Surely, these trends are subject to so much change, as the construction of gender roles continue to shift.
The next time you see those posts made by social media influencers circulating on social media about how you can find out the secret to how to enhance your love life through understanding love languages, or ads that say ‘Men! Here’s the way to win over the person you love!’ (that’s right, those boys on Tik Tok need to calm down) please remember my words. People profit from writing books and making quizzes like that because everyone wants to know the ‘right’ answer and the ‘right’ way to do something but the truth is, there is no single way to express love or to receive love.
When you tell people how you like to be shown love, it’s okay to list a bunch of different ways. There’s nothing wrong with wanting some cuddles and also some nice supportive words to go with them; we’re not some unidimensional character on the latest Netflix teen drama. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with liking it when someone gives you gifts all the time and still wanting quality time together (please leave me and my materialistic ass alone). You do you, don’t let a website or societal norms dictate what you can and can’t do to love.
However, it is the sex edition of Craccum this week! Go get down and dirty, and show that special someone some love through some steamy physical touch (even if that special someone is just yourself).