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This Is So Stupid

The Five Love Languages, Ranked

A couple walk toward a Tunnel Of Love with their arms around each other's waists.
Photo: Graphic House/Getty

What follows is a highly scientific ranking of the love languages described by Gary Chapman in his bestselling 1992 self-help book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chapman’s theory—or, anyway, his helpful if inexact way of reducing humanity’s common need to experience love and intimacy to a manageable number of simple categories of expression—is that humans communicate love with all the complexity you would expect of complex creatures, but that each of us has a particular, almost primal, primary way that we express love, and each of us has a primary way that we are tuned to receive it.

For instance, when my wife tells me I am handsome, she is communicating a lie, but also some nice words of affirmation that express her love and appreciation for me. But those words may not make me feel safe, needed, and loved. In fact, if I am feeling particularly like shit about myself and am inclined toward feeling skeptical when people say nice things about me, those words of affirmation will not land as intended. They may even have the opposite effect, and my “love tank,” to use Chapman’s terminology, will not be refilled the way that it would be if, say, my wife took me out to dinner at my favorite restaurant and invited me to vent whole cumulonimbus clouds of angst and bullshit. I know that she is trying to communicate love with those words of affirmation, and I am sort of distantly grateful for the effort, but in that scenario she’s not really speaking my love language.

According to Chapman, the five love languages are acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Maybe these love languages are distributed evenly across the human population. Who can say? I am not here to provide a statistical breakdown of love languages. I am here to say which ones are the good ones and which ones are the bad ones.

  1. Quality Time
    Quality time is time spent with your partner where you have each other’s undivided attention, or where you are engaged in an activity together. A simple way to gauge the viability of an intimate relationship is to observe whether it is possible to spend time with your partner without wanting to flee over an international border. Spending time with someone is the bare minimum requirement of an intimate relationship. If this is your love language, you do not require very much. Congrats!
  2. Words of Affirmation
    It’s good to tell people what you appreciate about them. For example: I appreciate about you, the reader, that you have the excellent taste and good sense to be reading this ranking of love languages on a sports blog. Sometimes, though, words of affirmation can tip over into awkward prostrating that makes a person feel isolated and even misunderstood. But not you! You are so perfect and wonderful and I just do not know what I would do if you stopped reading this blog for even one second, I think I would simply die, don’t you see how much I need you??
  3. Physical Touch
    I like the good, sincere hug. I also like the firm handshake, the cozy shoulder scrunch, and the warm arm squeeze. But some people are not comfortable with a lot of physical touch, and for these people the shoulder scrunch can be deeply uncomfortable or even traumatizing. You should consider scaling back this love language and replacing those cubic inches of your love tank with one of the other ones.
  4. Gift-Giving
    Now we are getting into the bad love languages. If I find a lovely seashell in the sand and rush back to you so that we can appreciate its beauty together, that is a special little moment between two people who are fond of each other. But if it doesn’t quite work for you because I did not turn over possession of the seashell to you so that you can have it as your own, you might just be a selfish person. If you feel unsatisfied in your relationship because your partner is not giving you enough stuff, consider replacing that partner with a coin-operated claw crane machine.
  5. Being Hit By A Car Driven By Your Partner, With Love
  6. Acts of Service
    I am such a thoughtful and resourceful partner, you tell yourself as you take your partner’s car to be inspected and have its oil changed. But what you are really doing is planting in your subconscious the idea that your partner requires your resourcefulness, which can easily tip over into convincing yourself that your partner is a helpless schlub. And then when your love tank is running low because your partner isn’t sufficiently reciprocating your acts of service, that further reinforces the notion that you are the dynamic, resourceful, and thoughtful part of this pairing, while your partner is both helpless and inconsiderate. Now you have become a resentful partner addled by delusions of superiority. Please replace this love language with one of the better ones, pronto.