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Love languages appeal to students navigating self-identity, relationships

Cherianne Yoon

As second semester opens, many students face a life-altering conundrum that even Shakespeare would admire: picking a prom date among five different boys, each armed with a unique love language, bearing colorful corsages and hopeful expressions on their faces. In this moment of absolute teenage drama, a love language test — a blessing, really — looks like the ultimate solution in selecting the perfect date.

The concept of love languages was coined by Baptist Pastor Gary Chapman decades ago, who said love languages were an intuitive and simple way to teach couples how to understand each other’s ways of expressing love and affection.

According to Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” the love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service and gift giving. 

Chapman’s book said people experienced more satisfaction when they shared a common primary love language compared to when both partners did not. He also said couples would feel happier knowing they were in tune with being able to cater to each other’s wants and needs. 

Over the past decade, social media and pop culture have spread the concept of love languages and different ways to test them for understanding and expressing love in relationships. Many treat the tests as a way to “fix” conflicts with their romantic partners, while others find it a fun, lighthearted way to learn more about themselves and others in their life. 

Psychology teacher Chris Farina said love languages seem to be more of a general idea, rather than an official scientific concept backed with evidence. He also said there are no specific formulas that can identify or create the compatibility of two people.

“When you hear ‘opposites attract,’ it’s right to a certain degree,” Farina said. “There are areas of the relationship where if you guys are relatively opposite, that does work. And there are areas of relationship where if you guys are pretty opposite, that actually is going to cause a lot of conflict.”

Farina said similar or complementary traits are a more significant factor in a relationship than love languages.

“One of the things that research seems to bear out is that in both platonic and especially romantic partnerships, one of the things that you’re looking for is a balance of both what they call, complementarity and similarity,” Farina said. “Similarity (is where) you guys want to share certain values and interests, while complementarity is where one of you is a little bit more dominant.”

Senior Athya Paramesh said the idea of love languages may have influenced student relationships at Paly.

“Love languages are definitely something that was popularized on the internet,” Paramesh said. “A lot of relationships are really influenced by the internet and online dating, and there seems to be a connection between technology and the way that we get into and find relationships.”

For Paramesh, being able to identify and communicate what your love language is to a partner or loved one is important in maintaining a healthy relationship. 

“Because love languages are obviously about communication, if you are communicating with someone you care about in one way, and they’re communicating with you back in another way, you might not perceive (it) as being affectionate,” Paramesh said. “I think understanding how someone communicates is really important, and then also understanding how you communicate is reflective of how you want to be loved.”

Senior Carlin Lee, who has taken a love language test, said understanding her love language is integral to gaining awareness of how to make other people happier.

“My love language is acts of service, which is a little complex because to others, acts of service means doing small things for people,” Lee said. “But for me, it kind of manifests in that I’ll make time for you or make plans, and genuinely (try to) make the other person’s life a little easier or a little better for them.”

Junior Samantha Fan has also taken a love language test. Though her result seemed accurate to her, Fan said figuring out how you express affection should be a self-discovery, rather than relying on surface-level tests.

“Oftentimes, the components that make up the idea of love languages is just the bare minimum in a relationship,” Fan said. “Yes, someone can prefer to have quality time over receiving gifts, but you still need to spend time together to keep a relationship healthy.”

Moreover, Fan said when someone’s love language clashes with their partner’s, it may come off as invasive or as a “red flag” in the relationship. 

“Sometimes love languages are used in a way that promotes toxic behavior, especially when someone’s love language (is) physical touch or physical intimacy,” Fan said. “(In that way), it can be used in a way that doesn’t promote a healthy relationship.”

Though there are not many prominent drawbacks to analyzing love languages, Lee said when people start to scrutinize someone’s love language, they may start to use that as justification for categorizing and boxing people into cliches. 

“With personality tests like these, people can really over-exaggerate or spread misinformation and can make it out to be something that’s more serious when it’s just meant to be something that’s really light and fun to do for the purpose of a little bit of insight,” Lee said. “But when you base your entire personality on your love language, or just talk about it constantly, it can get a little toxic.”

Paramesh said focusing too much on one part of these tests or concepts can reduce the original intent of trying to become more open-minded and learning more about yourself.

“We, as humans, try to quantify and categorize love in a lot of ways,” Paramesh said. “We see that with things like the MBTI tests, and it’s like, ‘how can I break myself into as many little boxes as I can so that I can see whose boxes match mine?’ Once you start fixating on love languages as a part of your relationship, you miss the whole other multifaceted aspects of it.”

Though the concept of love languages is not an immediate fix to relationship problems, Lee said they can be an encouraging first push for those who are pursuing a healthier relationship.

“Love languages are really good for putting labels on stuff that’s hard to explain out loud,” Lee said. “It helped me learn a little bit more about myself and how I express my love to other people. So take a love language test if you haven’t yet, because they’re really fun.”

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Cherianne Yoon
Cherianne Yoon, Staff Writer
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