Why the 5 Love Languages Fail for Many Couples
The 5 Love Languages is a phenomenon in the field of marriages and relationships. It makes sense. The types are an interesting way of categorizing communication preferences in people. Because the majority of relationship issues are related to communication problems, it’s intuitive to assume that offering this tool could help a couple. However, I have seen it have the opposite effect in many of my couples in therapy.
In order to make the Love Languages work, it is important to have two skills that many couples do not have. Couples have to be able to remain grounded during the conversation. In their relationships, people bring their own personal life histories. They also hang onto their relationship experiences. The Love Languages can create an understanding about how you like to receive communication. However, if you or your partner are not grounded, you’re not likely to focus on giving in such a way.
The Love Languages also require something else that many struggling relationships don’t have. This is strong listening skills. Good, solid relationships include people who are able to listen to each other. Many people inherently struggle with listening to their partners. Others increasingly struggle with this ability over time. They have had many circumstances where listening has worked out poorly.
Other relationships struggle because one person feels like they are doing all of the listening. They become tired of offering this generous ear to their partners, and this takes a toll over time. Many of these clients will look to tools like the Love Languages to offer help. Yet, they often walk away with increased frustration, when nothing seems to change.
The barrier to making the Love Languages work isn’t just a barrier to this particular strategy. It’s a relationship barrier. Relationships that are unhappy usually include people who are struggling to give. Although the Love Languages do discuss personal experiences, those experiences will not be heard. This leads to a toxic trend, and the Love Languages can become a weapon in this. Unhappy people will often focus on what they want to change about their partners, rather than what they could change themselves. This can lead to further disconnection, rather than reconnection.
Real change in a relationship comes from changing yourself, and seeing what happens with your partner. This may mean that your partner does identify somethings that can be changed for themself.
There is great risk in this too. If you change yourself, it is possible that nothing will change in your relationship. This could be the signal that this isn’t going to work. At the same time, you have to give it time to change. Old patterns won’t disappear when you try a new strategy of communication and connection. Your partner has to have the time to see that you are serious about the changes that you have made. This increases the odds that you will receive trust and commitment in return.
These issues that plague couples aren’t the fault of the Love Languages. Instead, these issues come from years of breaking down in communication, a destruction of trust, and problems remaining committed to each other. A tool in understanding your primary preferred language of love can be helpful to you, but can you really trust that your partner is trying to implement them in return? It’s these types of barriers that usually lead to a complete breakdown when attempting to utilize these.
Before the Love Languages, there always needs to be a solid ability to manage conflict. You have to identify your own defense mechanisms, and how to disarm them. You also have to identify when you’re on the attack, and how you can be more open as well. Without that, the Love Languages will fall flat, and likely add to the list of frustrations that have cut into your relationship.