What means more to you: when your partner makes time for you or kisses you? When he gives you a gift or does the laundry? More than 34 million people worldwide have answered questions like these to find out which of the “Five Love Languages” is actually theirs.

The assumptions behind the relationship test come from Gary Chapman, a pastor and couples counselor from the USA, whose book of the same name, published in 1992, has become a zeitgeist phenomenon over the past 30 years. There are millions of videos about this on social media platforms like Tiktok, and many people even use the love languages ​​as a conversation starter for a flirt on dating portals.

But what is actually behind the thesis of the preferred love language? And is it true that partners should ideally have the same thing in order to be happy together?

At least Chapman is convinced of that. Accordingly, every person “speaks” one of the five love languages ​​and expresses their affection either with tenderness, praise and recognition, helpfulness, togetherness or through gifts. If one partner attaches particular importance to tenderness such as hugs or kisses, while the other primarily wants helpfulness in the form of support around the house, according to Chapman, it is as if they were speaking a foreign language for each other. According to this logic, relationship problems are almost inevitable.

“No evidence for Chapman’s theories”

Both couple therapists and relationship scientists are critical of the concept of love languages. One of them is Amy Muise. Together with two colleagues, the psychologist from Canada’s York University put Chapman’s central claims to the test and compared them with the results of ten empirical studies. Her conclusion in an interview with dpa: “We found no evidence for Chapman’s theories.”

To find out your own love language, you have to take Chapman’s test – but it pits the love languages ​​against each other in the form of either/or questions. “Researchers, however, had study participants continually evaluate individual elements such as tenderness or gifts. They did not have to choose, but were able to express how important the individual elements were to them,” explains Muise.

The result: “People rate all five elements of love languages ​​as very important. That makes sense. What would an intimate partnership be without time for two – i.e. togetherness – or gestures of affection such as gifts or touches?” That’s why, Muise’s advice, you shouldn’t take the test too seriously – its result isn’t necessarily your preferred way of being loved.

In general, Chapman’s metaphor of love languages ​​is not appropriate, say Muise and her colleagues. “We think it’s more helpful to think of love as a balanced diet. All the ingredients are important.” Chapman, however, doesn’t even name some of these ingredients, as Muise writes. Accordingly, there are other behaviors that contribute to satisfaction in a relationship, such as developing effective strategies to deal with conflicts or the willingness to integrate your partner into your own social network.

Couples therapist recommends other terms

The “Five Love Languages” are a rigid concept, says couples therapist Nele Sehrt. “It implies that we are one way and the other and will remain the same. But that is not the case. Neuroplasticity, i.e. the ability to learn and change, remains with us throughout our lives.” That’s why it’s important to keep updating each other about needs and feelings in a relationship.

You could use love languages ​​as starting points. Sehrt recommends different terms than Chapman: “Intimacy instead of tenderness, appreciation instead of praise and recognition, commitment instead of helpfulness, prioritization instead of togetherness and attentive cooperation instead of gifts.”

This is also how Muise would like the “Five Languages ​​of Love” to be understood: as an entertaining way to talk to your partner about what you might be longing for.

However, if you misunderstand the concept as a basis for making decisions when dating, for example, it could certainly be associated with dangers. “There is no evidence that partners who have the same love language are happier together than couples who do not match in this respect,” says the scientist.

Muise also finds it problematic that Chapman’s assumptions can support the idea that you just have to find a partner who is as compatible as possible – and is thus immune to problems occurring. “We know from research that relationships require a lot of work and commitment, and that people who have this mentality are better able to deal with challenges than people who believe in predetermined connections.”

“Relationships are lived more individually”

What both Muise and Sehrt fundamentally criticize about Chapman is his lack of psychological training and the sample of couples on which his theory is based. They were all married, religious, heterosexual and most likely shared similar traditional values.

“His concept uses stereotypes such as: women want gifts. The book is from 1992, nowadays relationships are lived more individually,” is Sehrt’s assessment. “It’s no longer about fulfilling each other’s needs – after all, there are needs that the partner cannot fulfill and that can be lived out in another way by mutual consent.”

But why are the “Five Love Languages” still so popular that even participants in dating shows like “Love is Blind” on Netflix refer to them? “People love intuitive metaphors that help them understand relationships. And they like taking tests to learn about themselves,” says Muise. For her as a relationship scientist, this means one thing above all: “The public is almost hungry for information about how to have a good relationship.”