this is a [late] submission for the April 2019 Carnival of Aces on the theme of "The 5 Love Languages" hosted by luvtheheaven. to find out more about the Carnival of Aces and see past topics, check out the masterpost [ here ].
content warning: trauma, religion
i don’t remember when i first heard about Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages (5LL) or in what context; my shotty memory can barely even remember what my MBTI type is, despite having taken the Meyer-Briggs personality test numerous times now and getting a slightly different result nearly every time.
i do remember scoffing at the concept of “love languages” itself, however. no offense to those who find such things helpful, but the cynic & skeptic in me can’t help but scoff at self-help books in general—even more so when the subject matter is mental health, relationships and / or “love”. whether theory or research-based or not, the notion of there being five (specifically five) love languages and online tests that can help tell you what yours are was little different to me than the trendy, user-made personality quizzes of the early 00’s—which, for the record, is also how i view other theory / research-based tests, such as 16personalities.com, and the MBTI. regardless of my cynicism and skepticism, however, my curiosity did eventually win out. again. and in January 2018 i revisited the idea of ‘love languages’, trepidatiously sending the test link to my partner of but a mere week at the time.
those who follow my blog or YouTube channel may already know this, but i am both socially anxious and inexperienced when it comes to relationships; that what little relationship experience i had prior to my current relationship was decidedly negative. well, having had years to mull over the good, the bad, and the ugly of my past relationships, as well as my own personal shortcomings. i know now that [lack of] communication has been detrimental to all of my interpersonal relationships—intimate or not—on top of also being detrimental to my own personal well-being; that my social anxiety affects me just as surely in 1-on-1 conversations as it does speaking to a crowd of people.
as such, i knew going into my current relationship that communication was something that both myself and my partner (Caspian) would need to put extra time and effort into in order for our relationship to be successful, especially given that it was a long distance relationship (LDR). we agreed that we would need to be both creative and intentional when it came to communicating and that self-help-book-turned-online-test or not—heteronormative and amatonormative or not—the test itself and its results (no matter how potentially superficial or incorrect) could at the very least serve as a conversational tool.
and so, we took the test.
we both had the same initial reaction of commenting on how accurate or inaccurate we felt our respective results were, immediately followed by noting the differences between our results. this two-fold take on the results exemplifies part of the test’s overall usefulness, in my humble opinion. that is, its usefulness as an interpersonal relationship tool aside, we both find the results useful for understanding our own actions and preferences (or lack thereof), even if in the form of scoffing at how ridiculously wrong something about it was.
to use myself as an example, i’ve never thought of myself as someone who values giving or receiving physical touch. as such, i was utterly taken aback by its rating of 7 in my results. the fuck? if anything, i’ve offhandedly considered myself to be mildly touch averse in the general sense—preferring both family members and strangers alike to NOT hug me even as a form of greeting, for example—and to be very, very reserved when it comes to touch even in the context of intimate relationships for a variety of reasons, only part of which being past relationship trauma. even so, i found myself explaining away my Physical Touch rating on autopilot, not just because i felt it entirely off-point in and of itself, but because i saw Caspian’s corresponding 2 rating and didn’t want them to misinterpret mine—be it in regards to even “just” PDA, let alone sex.
in hindsight over a year later, i can’t help but find the whole thing laughable.
during the course of our relationship thus far, we occasionally come back to the topic of these five ‘love languages’ when discussing random things. sometimes it’s just in the form of an offhanded observation or comment during conversations, like Caspian noticing how my busy lifestyle combined with the timezone difference of me being in Japan & them in the US made them hyperaware of just how important Quality Time is to them, for example. sometimes it was just me mentally taking notice of how my inability to help Caspian out with even the most mundane of things when they get home from a hard day at work, my inability to share food with them when they had none, etc etc—and how, for me, i guess so-called Acts of Service really is something that i like to do for loved ones, even though it would have never occurred to me that that was a thing that mattered to me prior to this.
perhaps this is reflective of my regrettably (to me) Evangelical / Southern Baptist upbringing, but it wasn’t until encountering the concept of 5LL that i realized that despite what i was raised to believe, treating others as you yourself would like to be treated does not necessarily mean that you are doing ‘right’ by that person.
similarly, the inverse is also true; others treating you ‘right’ does not (or rather, should not) necessitate that they treat you as you would treat yourself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…
generally speaking, there is truth in this [biblical] principle, which i guess is why i managed to overlook the principle’s biblical origins in my childhood while dousing with gasoline and setting ablaze to other remnants of my religious upbringing upon disavowing Christianity and religion altogether. having said that, the truth in that principle is only a partial one; a half-baked one, especially if taken at face value without more critical thought… as i’m certain that not only i failed to do.
credit where credit is due: while i have not read the book itself and have zero intention of doing so, learning about Chapman’s 5LL beyond the test itself and implementing some of his terminology & concepts with my partner helped me (us) be more mindful of our differences & similarities. i became cognizant of the fact that when doing something for them that i myself would (consciously or not) get something out of (emotionally, mentally, or otherwise), that that it didn’t necessarily follow that they would feel the same. that Caspian not reciprocating my shows of affection in the same way, to the same degree, with the same level of enthusiasm or at all does not necessarily mean that they feel any differently about me than i do about them.
which when put that way, i’m sure it sounds like that ought to be a given, but unfortunately it’s not. nine years of relationships where me having zero desire to reciprocate a kiss or types of Physical Touch beyond hand holding and being shamed by society and myself for it is an unforgettable reminder that it is not.
while 5LL is by no means without its own flaws and half-truths, it has proven to be a useful tool for me and Caspian; one of many* that we employ to help us with communication and mindfulness of our differences & similarities. for myself in particular, it has been invaluable in helping me navigate my own lack of (and complicated relationship with) Physical Touch, contrasted with the significance that Physical Touch holds for Caspian in expressing love; the significance of which the online test results would have you think is less than it actually is, mind you.
as a concept, a starting point, a conversational piece, a self-diagnostic tool, a whathaveyou—please note that i encourage everyone to take everything as being worth a grain of salt until you personally deem it to be worth more, and even then to pick and choose from it what works for you—i think that there is at least some merit to Chapmen’s 5LL, be it in regards to intimate relationships or relationships in general—including one’s relationship with oneself.
it’s in that vain that i felt like throwing my two cents regarding The 5 Love Languages—not specifically nor exclusively in terms of (a)sexuality or (a)romanticism, but in terms of relationships in general. there’s a lot more that i could say about 5LL beyond just that of its usefulness when it comes to my relationship with my partner, but i know that my two cents is but two cents among many and i hope that gimmicky, lovey-dovey aspect of 5LL won’t be the deterrent to others that it was initially for me from giving it a chance and looking into it.
*for those interested, other communication tools that Caspian and i use / have used include: