You Missed The Main Point Of The Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman’s written phenomenon is criticised today by people who have missed the main point of the Five Love Langauges – overdrawn relationships die.

You missed the main point of the Five Love Languages

I remember when the Five Love Languages came out and then a number of years later when it experienced a season of full resurgence and explosive popularity. Doctor Gary Chapman was a pretty well respected Christian author so I was familiar with a number of his titles and have several others, such as some I listed in 6 Books I’m Glad I Read Before I Got Engaged (And One During!). However with the release of the Five Love Languages and the following season of increased attention, his work was catapulted into mainstream psychological lexicon and people of every type of faith background were getting in on it.

Even now I could talk to almost anyone I’ve ever met and ask them what their main love language is and they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s Myers Briggs levels of well known (INFJ for life baby). From the five listed in Gary’s books, mine are words of affirmation followed by physical touch. They have been for decades and I don’t think that will ever change.

It’s a pretty useful conversation piece and was a revolution for marriages, dating, parenting, and even business to a degree.

The original book splintered off into a billion (or seemingly a billion) different spin off variants – two of which I have pictured above in the Men’s Edition and Of Children – and also into events, research papers and a perpetual series of marriage conferences that are still running to this day.

As the years have gone by, there has been an increasing level of humourous to serious criticism against the Five Love Languages. For example I saw this one the other day:

However, there are some more serious pundits who are dismissive of the notion of the Five Love Languages content. For example, Truity a few years ago researched over 500,000 people and concluded there are actually seven love languages. Others question the scientific rigour of the research or even argue that they don’t make a difference to measurable relationship satisfaction.

To those points, there’s certainly some validity. I think even Gary openly suggests towards the end of the book that there may be more, and I have observed a lot of frustration in people when they take their love language to mean that that’s the only way they’re ever going to receive love from other people and they’ll discount any other attempts to love them. That is fraught with danger my dear.

However, in this school of thought, I think you’ve missed the main point of the Five Love Languages, and it’s this:

Overdrawn relationships die.

The central notion behind Gary’s work is that every person has a love tank that either fills up or empties out. Or probably a more pertinent analogy used is the notion of a relational bank account.

I mean, we all get how bank accounts work. Money goes in and the account increases, meaning more money can go out. If you get to zero and attempt a withdrawl, your bank will likely either reject the transaction attempt, or put your account into overdraft. Nowadays you even have one of those Afterpay or Pay in 4 operations as a similar option. If it’s not a blocked transaction and overdraft or delayed payment is allowed, you’ll get a minor form of credit on the supposition that you’re going to pay it back and top up the account fairly quickly. That the account isn’t going to close because at this particular point in time, you’ve withdrawn more than you’ve deposited.

And this is true of how relationships work as well. As Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything – to build, to destroy, to build up, to tear down, you get it. Some times and some seasons you’re going to be the one doing the extra yards, forsaking what you want or need for a time so that the other person can get what they need. Maybe they’re sick, maybe they’re having a mental health challenge, maybe they’re just under too much stress at work or with the kids or with the economy or a big house project or whatever it is.

And just like that bank account, people are able to run the account or the relationship in emotional overdraft, or transfer some money from their other relational accounts… for a time.

But eventually, just like when the bank comes knocking, a limit gets reached, and there is a nasty moment where it means debt collection time, where people may suddenly lash out asking for more equity in the relationship between the two of you, or they implode from a lack of funding that they themselves required to sustain their own lives, or where the account can no longer be used.

And it’s really that simple – it’s not that there are Five Love Languages or 7 or 27 or 281 or 2 and if you don’t talk to me or touch me I’m never ever going to think you care about me – it’s that overdrawn relationships die, and if you’re not putting into the relationship or the person what it needs or what they need, the account won’t increase, they’ll be more reluctant or unable to give to you, and you may even experience the complete closure of the account.

And as it also is with finances, if you max out your credit cards or go into overdraft with multiple banks, you get a bad credit rating and no one will lend or invest in you until you do what you can to get it back.

Now before you get on your high horse claiming that you have a faith based reason why people need to continually give you opportunities and should emotionally and mentally drain themselves to invest in you without you ever doing anything for them, allow me to remind you of some key wisdom repeated time and time again across the aeons of faith:

Give, and it will be given to you. For with the same measure you use, it’ll be measured to you. What you sow is what you reap. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest. God loves a cheerful giver. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. If my people will humble themselves…

You get it. You can fill in way more than those. What you do matters.

Input. Output. That’s how the universe works. And especially relationships. And if you don’t believe that, then the word for you is entitled. Or perhaps more accurately spoilt.

I wrote a while ago a post called How a Warped View of Forgiveness Enables Abuse and Destroys Lives, and another about My Problem With “Covenant vs. Contract”. That your actions matter. That you can’t overdraw your relationships forever. That even though you may go through seasons of being indebted to others, eventually it’s your turn to give back. It might not be the same amount, heck, it may never be the same amount. But it’s gotta be something. There has to be a turning towards and a denial of self at some point to some degree for the betterment of the other.

Not even the most loving, faith filled, optmistic, wonderful person on earth can sustain a relationship like this forever. Sure they may last a few more weeks, months, or even years longer than someone else, but eventually they will not be able to keep it up. Even God reaches a limit. The love endures forever, but the relationship may not if at some point there isn’t a change.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying abandon ship as soon the bank account hits zero with someone. I think we should stay committed, get help, pray, read, learn, seek support, get counselling, ask a friend, do all we can to keep our relationships active and healthy, especially our key and committed ones. But what I am saying is that continual self seeking expectation and stretching of another person or a relationship for an extended period of time eventually leads to snapping, permanent damange, or bankruptcy. Perhaps all three. And it’s not right to have the blame ready to hammer the person who waited the longest and fought the hardest for the entitled actions of the other.

And even if the relationship doesn’t end, even if they do find a way to push through or keep it just topped up enough not to completely close out, it definitely won’t be as happy, healthy, joyous, life giving or the true gift that it’s meant to be while you’re thinking about the least you can do rather than the most you can do.

And when a husband refuses to help out his wife who has been covering and supporting him for years and years, when a wife keeps withholding what she knows her husband needs for an excessive period of time, when the words in your house stay angry or short because you’re entitled to it, when your requirements of others are never measured against your own actions, when you’re always talking about what you need and never ever thinking about or checking what the other wants or needs…

The bank account stays empty, decreasing, and eventually overdrawn, and you’ve missed the main point of the Five Love Languages. It wasn’t the words or the hugs or the gifts or the service or the time themselves, it was the absence of the thought of keeping the account invested in in equal measure.

And in truth, all of us have been given so much. We’ve been invested in, we’re surrounded by people who love us and care for us, there are more than enough people that all of us have had in our lives who have been the ones to put into us. As Pastor Steven Furtick puts it, we can be miss our John because we’re too angry at Peter.

It’s our turn.

And if you want to be a successful husband, wife, parent, student, pastor, leader, volunteer, mentor, business partner or friend, you always have to be thinking about how you can invest in and serve others.

The late Zig Ziglar said “If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere

So be the lender, not just the borrower. Be the invester, not just the consumer. Be the servant, not always the served.

And I suppose there is a flipside consideration to make. As Doctor Henry Cloud would call it, a necessary ending. We all need to give thought to our relationships and make sure we’re keeping them topped up as much as we can, but if the relationship has remained in complete inequity for an extended period and you’re always taking out of your other relationships to serve this one, have a think about what you can do.

And so, you may have missed the main point of the Five Love Languages. Hopefully not. I suppose all of us at times make life a bit too much about ourselves and not enough about the people we said we were going to love, to support, to befriend, to employ, to work for, to coexist with, to do the journey of life together with. If we can do our bit to keep our relational bank accounts with all as topped up as they can be, we will do well and enjoy our lives and relationships a whole lot more.

As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”. We can never control what other people do, and we can only ever control everything we do.

How about you? Do you think people missed the main point of the Five Love Languages?

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