Do the Five Love Languages Love Women Too? (Part 2 of 2) | CBE International

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Do the Five Love Languages Love Women Too? (Part 2 of 2)

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On October 19, 2013

As I explained in my previous post, I think it’s important to ask if seemingly harmless Christian books, curricula and other educational tools actually promote our own values when relating to gender.

Here’s a brief assessment of the online assessment quizzes available for Chapman’s popular Five Love Languages:

The quizzes are based on participants choosing between two statements for 30 questions, each statement representing one of the five love languages on which the participant will be scored. First, it should be noted that out of sixty statements on the separate husband and wife quizzes, 47/60 are exactly the same and items are in the same order. Interestingly, all items relating to the gift-giving and quality love languages are identical. The presumed differences between men and women end up in the words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch categories (where 3/14, 7/12 and 3/12 of the statements differ, respectively). The one-to-one correspondence between the statements allows for easy comparison between the few with different wording. Intended to represent the same love language – and

even the same basic manifestation of that love language – the contrasts between these items reveal concerning implicit messages about gender.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

One item changes a reference to ‘love notes’ from a wife to ‘sweet notes’ from one’s husband for no apparent reason. Two more significant differences between the statements however, relate to how men and women’s ideas and persons are affirmed. The loves ‘that my wife listens to my ideas and doesn’t rush to judge or criticize’ while the wife loves ‘that my husband listens to me and respects my ideas’ The husband version seems to put greater emphasis on a need to avoid criticism and since mere mild criticism is sometimes considered a form of insubordination among complementarians, this difference between items is concerning. Another important difference is that the wife enjoys hearing that her husband ‘missed me’ while the husband enjoys hearing that his wife ‘believes in me’ implying that a woman’s identity comes from relationships, while men’s identity comes from accomplishments.

ACTS OF SERVICE

Chores are very stereotyped. The husband apparently does yard work, washes cars, ‘helps’ with laundry, ‘helps clean up after’ the wife (a little insulting in and of itself) and ‘helps’ clean the house while the wife might ‘help’ with the yard work, ‘does my laundry’ and cooks. For the husband, keeping the house clean is an important act of service while the wife appreciates that the husband helps her ‘without me having to ask’. One of the more interesting alterations is that the wife says her husband ‘is good about asking how he can help when I’m tired’ while the husband notes that ‘my wife can tell when I’m tired and she’s good about asking how she can help’. This seems to imply that wives can or should be more perceptive of their husbands’ physical and emotional states than the reverse. A similar disjunction in expectations occurs when the wife helps her husband ‘despite having other things to do’ (i.e. all of that cooking and laundry) while the husband helps his wife ‘despite being busy’. The wording is such that ‘busy’ might mean chores of his own or anything else preoccupying. I can imagine in some households ‘busy’ could mean bathing a child or doing dishes, but in others ‘busy’ might be something more akin to watching SportsCenter.

PHYSICAL TOUCH

The husband likes a ‘back rub’ while the wife likes a ‘massage’ – a silly minor change when compared to others. One of the worst stereotypes of the quiz is the husband loving ‘having sex with my wife’ and the wife’s loving ‘cuddling with my husband’. The implication here is clear: women don’t like sex. Men don’t like gushy things like cuddling. And if you weren’t convinced, there’s also ‘I just can’t keep my hands off my wife’ with pseudo-parallel ‘I love it that my husband can’t keep his hands off me’. Here, not only is the greater sexual desire attributed to the husband, but the husband and wife are clearly set into the roles of sexual initiator and sexual responder.

All in all, many may find the ideas behind the love languages helpful, and a large part of the quizzes offered by the official website are completely harmless, promoting reciprocal expressions of love between husband and wife. However, somewhere along the way, someone found it important to subtly change descriptions of the potential contributions of women and men. Many of these changes promote harmful ideas about identity and expectations for women and men, including (but not limited to) the nature of their verbal interactions, their division of labor and the mutuality of their sexual relationship. If egalitarian Christians are interested in presenting the love languages (or other marriage enrichment material) in a church or educational setting, it would be wise to review teaching materials for gender stereotyping beforehand and to intentionally present the content in such a way that allows for individual and couple uniqueness and promotes healthy equality between partners.

 

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