5 Love Languages: Physiological Proof for Relationships

Are the 5 Love Languages real? Recent research shows the science behind better relationships. Now that COVID-19 lockdown orders are starting up again, properly communicating with your significant other is becoming more important than ever. Whether you’re holed up together at home or forced to talk through a screen, understanding how to meet your partner’s emotional needs is necessary to get through this stressful time together. This can be achieved by learning each other's love languages. 

What are the 5 Love Languages?

The expression of love is different in every person. Gender, upbringing, and life experiences all factor into an individual’s preferred forms of emotional expressivity and intimacy. According to Melissa Ubando, who studied emotional intimacy in undergraduate heterosexual couples, men were shown to report higher verbal and nonverbal affection in relationships, while women more often listed supportiveness as a personal attribute. Given the variability in conveying affection from person to person, knowledge of the different love languages can help you cater your efforts towards your significant other’s emotions. 

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According to Gary Chapman, who first proposed the concept of love languages, there exists five primary love languages and each person “speaks” one of the five. They consist of physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. This concept has been an area of debate since its proposal, and recently, research studies have been conducted promoting the validity behind Dr. Chapman’s hypotheses. 

5 Love Languages in action

Gender, upbringing, and life experiences all factor into an individual’s preferred forms of emotional expressivity and intimacy

Chapman’s theory, as stated before, proposes that each individual has a preferred form of emotional expression within their intimate relationships. These preferences coincide with the 5 love languages. Picture a couple quarantining inside their home together. Let’s name them Jack and Jill. Jack decides to cook a 5 layer lasagna to surprise Jill. Once Jill see’s Jack’s surprise, she runs over, gives him a hug, and expresses how much she appreciates him. Jill then reveals that she created a personalized music playlist for Jack, and they spend the rest of the night jamming out in each other’s company.  


Throughout this hypothetical night, Jack and Jill illustrated the 5 love languages in action. In order, their activities highlighted receiving gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of services, and quality time. These love languages are the 5 basic factors proposed to explain how individuals experience and express love. However, these are basic descriptions of each language, and as shown by Jack and Jill, people can express these languages in their own unique way. 

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Evidence for the 5 Love Languages

researchers found an increase in arousal when participants experienced a love language they preferred

Nichole Egbert and Denis Polk conducted a factor analysis of the 5 love languages by surveying couples on the behaviors involved in Dr. Chapman’s hypotheses. The results were compared to a study conducted by Laura Stafford and her colleagues, who found evidence for 7 relational maintenance behaviors commonly enacted between couples. Egbert and Polk found a link between participant behaviors towards significant others and love languages, along with a similar construct to Stafford et al.’s 7 relational maintenance behaviors. This shows that Chapman’s behaviors may be tied to how couples maintain and improve their relationships, shown by the reports acquired from 110 students and the construct similarity to Stafford’s findings. 


In addition, Echo Leaver used psychophysiological measures to test Chapman’s 5 factors. Skin conduction, heart rate, and respiration rate were recorded from 89 participants who indicated a preferred love language. While these measurements were being taken, the participants listened to guided imagery scripts constructed to elicit experiencing each of the 5 love languages. Using these methods, the researchers found an increase in arousal when participants experienced a love language they preferred. This finding provides physiological evidence for the existence of love languages, based on the results showing each participant had their own individual primary love language that could be found measuring bodily responses.

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5 Love Languages & Couples in Quarantine

communicating with your partner using their preferred love language can drastically differ from other styles of communication

Marta Panzeri et al. surveyed cohabiting couples regarding relationship quality following the start of Italy’s lockdown in May of 2020. The researchers found that some participants, mainly women, reported a decrease in desire, arousal, and satisfaction in their relationships. This was mainly attributed to worry, stress, and lack of privacy induced by the pandemic. 


According to the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation (VSA) model posited by Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury, relationship stability is achieved through utilizing effective adaptive processes in the face of adversity, experiencing few stressors, and possessing few vulnerabilities present both individually and in the relationship. Additionally, using ineffective adaptive processes, experiencing a high level of stressors, and possessing few enduring vulnerabilities leads to poor relationship stability and quality. 


Putting this model into perspective during the ongoing pandemic, which has brought about a constant barrage of unpredictable and variable stressors, couples can be expected to face adversity like never before. Pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as anxiety and depression, on top of incoming stressors can place an enormous strain on relationships. Additionally, based on Marta Panzeri’s research, the pandemic has already been shown to take a toll on relationship quality. Various couples are reporting feeling an increase in stress and worry that their partner either can’t rectify or may be causing themselves. 

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One potential answer to solving the relationship deterioration dilemma brought about by COVID-19 is, you guessed it, love languages. As demonstrated by Echo Leaver’s study, experiencing a preferred love language does induce a measurable response, indicating that communicating with your partner using their preferred love language can drastically differ from other styles of communication. Additionally, Egbert and Polk’s study showed that the construct validity of love languages lies in its similarity to relational maintenance strategies. Therefore, love languages can be viewed as behavioral strategies used to promote relationship satisfaction. Adaptive relationship strategies can be used to combat adversity. Learning your partner’s love language can be a useful tool to maintain a healthy relationship while overcoming stressors. 


How relationship apps like LIFE Intelligence can help

In addition to love languages, the LIFE Intelligence app can be a useful tool in maintaining and improving relationship quality. LIFE Intelligence is a 9-mission (topic) program for complete self, career, and relationship support. It's one of the best relationship counseling apps because it helps you grow both as an individual and as a couple, for complete self-and-other understanding. LIFE is suited to improve your mental health, work productivity, and finally, all things for couple dynamics and relationship satisfaction

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Mission 7 (of 9) is specifically designed to inform us of the different attachment styles, theories, and strategies we can use when learning to love. For example, Mission 7.3 teaches us that providing our partner with a sense of security, feelings of threat and distress can be diminished. Additionally, Mission 7.4 shows us how relationship success can be predicted by the amount of attention and reassurance we provide our partners.

Moreover, LIFE Intelligence provides users with weekly relationship prompts to help deepen connections and rekindle the spark with your partner. By sharing stories, ideas, and opinions, relationships can be strengthened and couple dynamics can be changed for the better.


Conclusion

Maintaining a happy and healthy relationship with your significant other has become even more challenging now that you simultaneously have to deal with a pandemic. Taking the time to learn each other’s love languages and what you each respond to best can help you overcome the new trials everyone is facing with their partners. Furthermore, the LIFE Intelligence app can help you go beyond love languages alone, attacking relationship problems from all marriage counseling and self therapy angles. 

Lucas Bezerra‍
December 18, 2020

References:

Ubando, Melissa. (2016). Gender Differences in Intimacy, Emotional Expressivity, and Relationship Satisfaction. Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research: Vol. 4 , Article 13. 

Chapman, G. D. (2017). The 5 love languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Egbert, N., & Polk, D. (2006). Speaking the Language of Relational Maintenance: A Validity Test of Chapman’s (1992) Five Love Languages. Communication Research Reports, 23(1), 19–26.

Laura Stafford, Marianne Dainton & Stephen Haas (2000) Measuring routine and strategic relational maintenance: Scale revision, sex versus gender roles, and the prediction of relational characteristics, Communication Monographs,67:3, 306-323,

Leaver, E; Green, D. (2015). Psychophysiology and the Five Love Languages. Salisbury University 

Panzeri, M., Ferrucci, R., Cozza, A., & Fontanesi, L. (2020). Changes in Sexuality and Quality of Couple Relationship During the COVID-19 Lockdown. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 565823. 

Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118(1), 3–34. 

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