Among my friends, a skeptical bunch if ever there was, there’s a certain reverence reserved for the love languages. Are they corny, reductive and heteronormative? Perhaps. But once we move past the caveats, our discussion of the languages are usually about how helpful they can be in framing communication issues in our relationships.
Why do the love languages continue to appeal even to people who might otherwise look askance at a personality quiz? I think the language of the love languages themselves has a lot to do with it.
Chapman articulated five discrete methods of giving and receiving love, a simple organizing framework for needs and desires that often feel irretrievably complicated. Without precluding talk therapy or courage journaling or other more time-consuming efforts to tease out why we are the way we are, the love languages offer a quick way in. Take the quiz, discover your love language, get busy improving your relationships. It’s attractively efficient and action-oriented.
The love languages get at a fundamental premise of self-help teachings — that we all want to be loved, to feel connection to one another. Or, as my colleague Ruth Graham wrote in Slate in 2015, begrudgingly admitting that Chapman’s theories might hold some water, “When it comes to loving and being loved, even the most jaded and worldly often feel deep insecurity.” She added, “If we can find some comfort and direction in a mega-best-seller with a tacky cover, so be it.”