Why I Hate the "Love Languages" -- by Megan D. OwenFeb 10, 2024
Real talk, I haven't actually read the book. But I have taken the test and I believe that the concept of "Love Languages" (made famous by Gary Chapman) has become such a rock-solid tendril of understanding in the grid of evangelism that I am confident in the words that follow.
Unpopular Opinion: I hate the idea of love languages.
Here is why . . . .
I take umbrage with the fact that we continue to try to create formulas for love. Formulas for love do not real love make. From my understanding, real love cannot be contained in five categories as categorizing love removes the mystery, depth and mystique out of what must be an incredible journey of intimacy, if we are blessed enough to find it. When I speak of intimacy, I'm thinking about the deep intermingling of souls that could quite possibly take us beyond a life-time. Intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy cannot possibly be tied up neatly in a few categories . . . . right?!
Formula: I give her things = she feels loved (WHAT?)
Here is the other noticeable issue for me. As is our default, we LOVE to take concepts and turn them into law. We once saw Song of Solomon, this gorgeous ancient love poetry, made into a series by Mark Driscoll that stole away sexual privacy and beauty for countless Christians (circa 2009). He took poetry and (somehow) gleaned "rules for sex within marriage" from the pages, squeezing away all of the lush imagery, tossing it into the trash and, well, now we have shackles within our own intimacy. Gross.
Here is what I believe: Your "love language" will be whatever you did not receive in childhood. Were you starved for what you needed? Gifts. Could your parents not give you kind words or were you criticized? Words of affirmation. Never got a hug? Physical touch. And so on.
I'm taking it further -- by identifying your love language to your partner, you have now given your partner the responsibility of healing your childhood wounds. Now, we have law again. And it doesn't even work.
Because it is OUR job to heal our childhood wounds.
Second, for survivors of abuse, these love languages may not feel safe. Words of affirmation may feel like manipulation; physical touch may feel dangerous; gift giving may feel unsafe; quality time can feel draining and acts of service smothering. Personally, I MUCH prefer safety as a love language. Safe touch, warm blankets, freedom, sitting in quiet, trust. . . . maybe even fun, dancing or coffee! (coffee can be a love language -- trust me). Safety. Ahhhhh. "You can trust yourself, Megan . . . I will not hurt you, Megan . . . . You are not here to fix me, Megan." Swoon!
And that's just me. And just the beginning.
Because all of us are galaxies unto ourselves.
Part of our incredible uniqueness as being humans created in God's image is that we are all so incredibly distinctive. And we also morph and change and grow in different ways. We aren't stagnant! We take time to know each other and, by doing so, we honor the divine spark in each other. And how do we do this? We get curious and ask questions. We stop judging each other. We stop trying to fit others into our own boxes that will work for us and we just take a journey to discovery. And for heaven's sake -- we listen. We companion. When there are struggles, we figure it out.
Keep loving, growing, learning and companioning with compassion with us. We may start a movement!