Criticism… Oops, I mean Review of “Five Love Languages”

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I don’t even know where to start. This book managed to irritate me and upset me in ways I’ve never experience before.

“Five Love Languages” is a love manual by Gary Chapman. The author is a marriage counselor with an experience of 30 years as he says starting his egotistic book. He claims to know his s**t and comes up with a theory of humans communicating in five different love languages: words of kindness, physical touch, acts of service, gifts and quality time. The key to a successful marriage according to our marriage saving hero is to speak the same love language as our partner.

For instance, if our partner often complains about not being praised it means his love language is words of appreciation. Right? WRONG. If a partner complains about something it just means that he’s not getting the particular thing. There’s no mystical 5 love languages but quite down to earth 5 important elements of a relationship… In other words, to have a healthy relationship you should try to provide it all (plus other things that Dr Chapman doesn’t mention in his book because of his simplistic vision of what relationships are based on). And yes, in this first paragraph I basically stated that his whole theory is BS.

Apart from the fault in the assumption which is the core of the author’s theory there’s a lot more to complain about. For starters the author doesn’t discuss the compatibility of partners AT ALL. Marriage is to him something that must be saved and regardless of whether you entered it as an 18 year old not knowing anything about your preferences or as an effect of an arranged marriage, you just should make it work and there’s a lot of judgment from his side if you don’t. Of course, he has a point when he says that people these days want to move on to the next relationship if the current one experiences problems. Nevertheless, it’s not everyone. Some people really try to make things work but they just married someone they should have never married at the first place. Older and more mature they can enter a successful marriage instead of forcing themselves to save something that at best can make them not entirely unhappy at all times. Working on relationships is important but a relationship can’t be saved at all costs, whether it’s a marriage or not.

Another problem that I have with the book is the whole idea of glorifying work on the relationship. I agree that being in love changes into a deeper and less nauseating feeling after a while. Of course, that the period when you obsessively think about your partner ends at some point. Nevertheless, compatibility is a big issue and the better you choose your partner the less work you have to put into a relationship. The rule is of course: the less work, the better. Dr Chapman seems to entirely disregard that. According to him loving someone is an effort and this is just the way it is. The Christian ideology of finding excessive value in suffering is quite obvious here especially that the author openly draws inspiration from the Bible (the only source referenced in the book).

“Oh, Dr Chapman” (as the people he helps refer to him) claims that if you share household chores, say nice things, touch your partner, give them a gift or spend some time with them, depending on what their love language is, you’ll “fill their love tank” and live happily ever after. It’s all so simple in his world based on love satisfaction focused on domesticity, which is, of course, a very important but not sole element of a relationship. He doesn’t even consider the question of what to do if your husband is into anal and you’re not! (jokes)

Last but not least, the author shares a very dangerous idea that you can love someone enough to make them love you back and respect you. His advice to an emotionally and psychologically abused wife is to just keep loving her husband as her love will improve his behavior and make him reciprocate the feelings. Clearly, it’s not the husband’s fault that he’s being a horrible person, it’s his wife who just doesn’t love him enough. Of course, in his story this method inspired by the life of Jesus works. To teach that is simply wrong. Victims of abuse often feel that they don’t love someone enough and the abuse is their fault. There’s a lot of people who’d teach them that and make them feel guilty because of it. Yet another person dubbed as a specialist in love and an acclaimed author is not needed. Such preaching has a harmful impact on people who need help with getting away from the perpetrator.

Relationships aren’t always easy and they do require work. Helping at home, touching, being nice to each other, giving gifts and spending time together are necessary elements of a good relationship but also quite basic ones. If there’s no substance in the relation all these things won’t help. It’s important to teach people how to enter marriages wisely and not how to stay in them just because they’re married.

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28 comments

  1. ugh all these books make me cringe. Just communicate – say what you want and need, and most of all listen to your partner. And if there is abuse involved – get out!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment. If only love was that simple 😉 I think a good book on a love related topic can help a person a lot, especially if you had a childhood lacking love and you just don’t know how to deal with people (btw Dr Chapman calls these people emotional retards in the book). I’m not against self-help books but it’s nice if they’re helpful and not harmful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. Sure, he has some points. All the gifts in the world won’t make a person happy if they’re lacking touch or affectionate words. It’s also important to focus on your partner’d needs and not on what you think is right to give.

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  2. Let me start by saying well done. You are a better woman that I am. As hard as I tried I actually couldn’t finish this trashbook.

    It’s not even just the churchy undertones of the book that got me. I think ‘Dr’ Chapman has this weird way of making people feel nostalgic about past relationships and actually how you could have done things differently had you known his secret formula. But really this is nothing more than the usual 20/20 hindsight. As you said there are loads of reasons why a relationship/marriage fails and cannot be fixed.

    I am not sure when the book was written. But I did feel from what I read it was written for a previous generation. Where quick quick marriage was the norm. Nowadays things like living in sin are more common and this allows us to figure our whether we are truly compatible with our SO. Lucky sinners we all are!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The book isn’t old enough to fully explain its content. It was published in 1995 and is still sold everywhere. I read it because it was listed as one of the best books about love (pfff) and I thought our Rinsers could benefit from a review.

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  3. oooookay …the venom was a little harsh , possibly you could be right on some points …I haven’t read the book so I might be talking out of turn here. However it is worth noting that this said guru …it is his opinion and his only. Not based on much according to what you stated. There is one statement you made I wasn’t totally in agreement with and it is …
    if our partner often complains about not being praised it means his love language is words of appreciation. Right? WRONG. If a partner complains about something it means that he’s not getting the particular thing.
    Not true …often times we don’t express our true and often times what we do say is the tip of the iceberg or as my father once told me …you may argue about the curtains but it’s not about the curtains. So if our partner complains about one thing investigate and find out if there is more to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe I didn’t express myself properly there. I was referring more to a situation when a partner keeps complaining “you never say anything nice to me”. It means you’re probably not affectionate verbally and you should try to be more appreciative. It doesn’t mean that this is the only way in which you should express the love towards your partner (in Chapman’s words his or her love language). Sorry for the venom but I think this book has potentially dangerous and harmful ideas in it.

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  4. I’m sorry, but this is the most hilarious book review I’ve read in ages (and trust me – I hardly read.)
    Why this country doesn’t hurl life-size Pulitzer-equivalents at you is a mystery I’ll never crack.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure whether your comment is a compliment or an expression of advanced sarcasm. Thank you for it and for visiting our website regardless 😊

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  5. Another reason I type “-Christian, -God, -Jesus” when googling marriage advice (removes any websites containing those terms!). I need reality-based advice, not mythology-based advice! “Make it work” note- life is waaaay too short to be unhappy. Thanks for your review!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have just finished this book as recommended by a friend, and CANNOT AGREE WITH THIS REVIEW MORE. I have been searching for critical reviews as it seems there is a lot of gush over it. However the book irritated me so much (firstly by the christian aspect / biblical references, and later also by so many other things….), yet i finished it (if just skimming through the last couple of chapters out of disgust). He says the same things OVER and OVER again. It is ridiculously oversimplified. His piousness about how he magically saved every marriage where people asked him for advice was nauseating. In all of his stories, the couples lived happily every after just because “love languages”. I have a strange feeling that the other parties in the stories he recounted will recall events differently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tammy! Thank you for your comment. It is extremely oversimplified. “Oh, Dr Chapman” pretends to be a super hero saving marriages. As you know from my review I was extremely annoyed by this book as well. You can’t save every marriage, some people are just incompatible. You’ll never fit a square shaped object into a hole and it has nothing to do on working or not working on a relationship. Also, if someone is emotionally abusive you should leave, not try to “fill in their love tank” (victim blaming, hello?). I must say that just replying to you reminds me how much I was outraged by this book and gets my blood boiling all over again.

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  7. I haven’t read the book, so I’m not qualified to offer an informed opinion. From the short reviews, summaries and YouTube videos I’ve seen, I have a few impressions I’d like to share.

    I thought the language analogy helped explain the theory of communicating thoughts and feelings. I’ve had enough experience with the concepts of affirmation, giving gifts, offering service, sharing time, and physical touch/intimacy to appreciate their role in romantic relationships. I think similar concepts like validation, appreciation, teamwork, commitment,…etc. offer the same benefits for improving communication in other personal relationships.

    The critical reviews were interesting but I was a little surprised to see comments calling the book irritating, outrageous and dangerous. At the same time, I agree that malicious and dangerous anecdotes should be called out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t say that the book has no merit. What he mentions is important but as a package. Please read the book and you’ll probably see why people find it annoying. There’s a lot of patronizing in it and other things.

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  8. I was most surprised at the ‘scarcity model’ that Chapman used uncritically. Even 23 years ago there was an important critique on the assumed scarcity model of love. I wonder if you could comment on that a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Laurent! Thank you for your comment. Are you referring to the fact that he says that you’re either going to work out with your first spouse or with no one, as if there was a scarcity of available matches? Please elaborate on your question 🙂

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      • No. I’m referring to his use of the tank of love analogy. He accepts without question that we have a tank that we fill with love and there is only so much to go around. That’s the scarcity model as opposed to the abundance model.

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      • Thanks for clarifying. Honestly, I did not think about that. I think some people “have an empty love tank” not because there’s not enough love to go around but because they don’t choose it for themselves. In other words, they choose to believe in the scarcity model. The tank analogy was disturbing to me for other reasons. It’s like suggesting that some people like bread and we can make them happy just by giving them enough of it. No one can survive on bread only…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. My husband bought me a copy of this book and printed out worksheets for me to do. I left him at the end of July 2018 because he had moved us in with his parents to “save more money” which never happened. Even when I worked 2 jobs, pregnant, he spent it. His parents are pretty set on their ways, in most I accepted and some appreciated and admired. Don’t get me wrong. I had our 2nd boy in March of 2018 and it went downhill from there. When I got postpartum depression, they put me down and told me that I was just crying to make excuses for not doing anything and so I went and got help. One day the boys weren’t feeling good so we stayed in our room and snuggled (because that as pretty much the only thing that calmed them down) until I had to go to work. I get a nasty message from the husband saying, that I need to grow up and be an adult, (all while i’m working 2 jobs) because I hadn’t gotten much done before I left. So I didn’t come back home. My boys were with my sister and that’s where we stay. Ever since then it has been the same. Putting e down and bringing me up. Along with the book that says to succumb to him being an asshole. He even says that I need to not let things bother me, like en he outs me down. I should just learn to accept it and learn to not be a joke and move on. Joke’s on him soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about your experience but happy to hear you moved on.

      I disliked the book’s message, which to me blamed the victims in bad relationships for not doing enough to make their relationships happy, as if it all depended on one side to make a relationship work in the first place…

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    • You are one smart woman! Congratulations for getting out of a verbally abusive relationship.

      Chapman is Christian fundamentalist. Part of the thinking (which I call “Funnymentalism”) is that the husband is “all knowing” and must be obeyed. You can’t reason with people who subscribe to religious fundamentalism.

      If you are Christian, please know there are many ways to live your faith. Beyond the mainstream Fall/Redemption tradition, there is the creation tradition. One example is Mathew Fox who wrote the book Original Blessing.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this. I thought something was wrong with me when this book made me cringe at so many parts. Everyone seems to love it. I agree that there is some merit to it but, just like you, so many parts made my blood boil. The arrogant sound of the author doesn’t help. After I read the chapter about the woman doing the 6 month trial to properly love her husband I was so disturbed I couldn’t sleep properly.
    Also it crossed my mind that when we want something from a partner that makes us feel good, it can be a good thing or it could be the sign of something not so good. Maybe we read this book and think we have an ‘acts of service’ love language but it’s really quite a lot about wanting our way and having people do stuff for us. Maybe we like gifts so we latch onto that as a good thing because that must be our love language, but really we’re just kind of materialistic. Maybe our ego is tied up with sex so that we seem shallow and our partner feels like they are valued primarily as a sex object rather than a person, but we read this book and determine we have a physical love language, so it’s all good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment! You’re making an interesting point and I agree. What if, for instance, someone is insecure and needs their partners reassuring touch at all times in order to feel good? The idea that they just need physical touch because it’s their love language would make them justify this need, while in reality their insecurity is a problem they should work on. Also, to me a healthy individual needs a little bit of all “love languages”.
      I find this book harmful and stereotype reinforcing. If something doesn’t work out in your marriage or anything else in your life, it doesn’t always mean you didn’t try hard enough or you didn’t do the right thing. Sometimes something just isn’t right for you and you should let it go. Putting marriage on a pedestal of this sort is what causes people to accept domestic abuse, psychological abuse, loveless relationships… It just makes me sad to see people using this book as the basis of their life philosophy.

      Like

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