April 22, 2022, women’s magazine Flair an online article on the theory around the five languages of love by Gary Chapman. According to that theory, the ways in which partners express and receive love in a relationship can be divided into five universal languages of love. Chapman describes the five categories as affirmations, quality time, helpfulness, receiving gifts and physical affection. Each of us would feel most loved and valued by a particular language. According to the theory, it is especially important that you learn to speak your partner’s love language. This would be the ultimate ingredient for a happy and lasting relationship.
The American first introduced the theory in book form in 1992. He used his many years of experience as a relationship therapist as the main source to identify the different languages. Systematic scientific research was therefore not the basis of the theory, but his book was nonetheless that Five love languages sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The theory has been enjoyed by the public for 30 years now, and new variations keep popping up. For example, there are already short tests that you can use to identify your language for apology or appreciation. Love language is also increasing on social media channels such as TikTok. Time to get love language look at it with scientific glasses.
Professor Nichole Egbert (Kent State University) and Professor Denise Polk (West Chester University) wanted to bridge the gap between popular theory and science with their peer-reviewed research from 2006. They first developed an instrument for the language of love and then compared it to a scientific typology. , which includes behaviors that increase relationship satisfaction. This scientific typology was developed in 2000 by Laura Stafford (Bowling Green State University), Marianne Dainton (La Salle University) and Stephen Haas (Ohio State University). It contains seven categories that describe actions that help maintain a relationship. These are the categories of openness, confirmation, positivity, division of tasks, social networking, counseling and conflict management. 110 students in a committed relationship filled out both the love language instrument and the typology questionnaire. Afterwards, Egbert and Polk compared the results. The data showed meaningful relationships between some subscales of both measuring instruments. The proven evidence suggests that the love languages may in fact reflect some behavior within the scientific typology of Stafford, Dainton, and Haas. The fact that the researchers only allowed students to participate is a limitation of this study. Due to their young age, their experience of romantic relationships is usually still quite limited.
Another reviewed by peers A 2017 study looked at whether 67 romantic couples reported higher relationship satisfaction when both partners chose the same love language. This turned out not to be the case. When both partners spoke a different language of love, the woman’s self-regulatory abilities in particular increased relationship satisfaction. These skills refer to the ability to make choices about one’s own behavior and to control the behavior in changing circumstances† The effect of love language on relationship satisfaction, turned out to be quite small. Despite the lack of scientific support, several American couples therapy programs use Chapman’s theory to introduce couples to the languages of love. Researchers from West Virginia University followed up on such a two-hour program and examined the impact it left on 19 couples. Six weeks after training, the couples reported no increased relationship quality or increased confidence in the future of the relationship. The couples felt more empathy for their partner compared to before. Both studies had some limitations. For example, with the self-report questionnaires, the researchers completely relied on the participants’ self-insight. The number of respondents in both surveys was also on the low side.
The number of reviewed by peers studying at Chapman’s love language seems very limited and does not yet provide unequivocal scientific evidence for the theory. There are some studies and scientists who recognize the importance of some elements of love language. For example, an article from South University points to the psychological benefits of giving a gift in a relationship. It is a way of expressing gratitude, interest and appreciation to the other person that would strengthen the bond between two people. Another study showed the positive association between relationship satisfaction and physical touch. This type of research does not constitute scientific evidence for the theory as a whole, but points to the effectiveness of some elements of the theory.
Even a few scientists from the Netherlands and Flanders, who have built up expertise in romantic relationships, were unable to further confirm the scientificity of the whole theory. “I have not yet heard of the language of love in the scientific literature,” said Professor Lesley Verhofstadt, head of the research group Relationship and Family Studies at Ghent University. Dr. Laura Sels of Ghent University and Dr. Henk Jan Conradi of the University of Amsterdam also stated in their e-mail that they were less familiar with the theory. The Critical Evaluation Circle of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (SKEPP), an association that examines views that are particularly unlikely, joined the study. The theory was also unknown within SKEPP’s expert team, and almost no scientific evidence was found.
The theory around love language by Chapman is not based on scientific research, and the limited studies since then have not fully confirmed the idea behind the languages of love. So far, there is still too little scientific evidence to support the whole theory five love languages to approve or deny. Several academic experts in romantic relationships are also unfamiliar with the theory.