Teddy Allen: The love languages at 30

The global phenomenon that is the “love languages,” an idea introduced in 1992 by pastor and counselor Gary Chapman in his bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, has turned 30. 

Back in the turbulent, free love, Jackson 5 vs. Osmond Brothers, psychedelic, protest-filled, the-Baltimore-Orioles-were-really-good, “Were you at Woodstock?” 1960s, the saying from lots of young people was, “Never trust anyone over 30.” 

Seemed a good idea at the time. 

Then those people turned 30 and learned how much it costs to get a roof replaced and a new transmission and they moved on to other causes, like “Never trust a roofer” or “Never trust a mechanic” and other idiotic trivialities, like “Never trust anyone who claims they’ve been to Woodstock.”  

Then a bunch of those teens from the ’60s turned into roofers and mechanics, so what are you gonna do? 

Funny how life experiences change your way of thinking. 

But human nature never changes. It’s why you can read a poem by Blake or Yeats (a fave) or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love thee?, let me count the cornbreads…” and it means the same — and feels the same — to the reader today as it did all those years ago. 

So from what I’ve heard and learned from experience is that you can trust some people over 30 — my mother comes to mind — and you can trust the 5 Love Languages, which are “Hot Water Cornbread, Sweet Cornbread, White Cornbread, Yellow Cornbread, and Cornbread-Inclusive.” 

I am just joshing. Those are someone’s love languages, I’m sure. I’ll fair catch at least two of them. 

But the real love languages as proposed by Chapman are these: 

  • quality time 
  • words of affirmation 
  • acts of service 
  • gifts 
  • physical touch (not like football tackling or boxing but intimate stuff like holding hands; I shouldn’t even have to write this but I know how some of you think so work with me here). 

Those are good languages. 

The thought of a love language might seem silly to the great unwashed, but if you study the love languages, you might find that Chapman was onto something. We all want to be loved in a significant and specific way. I might not need you to touch me often but I might need you to affirm me. You might not need a gift from me; the gift might instead be quality time with you. 

I might not need you to love the New Orleans Saints; but I might feel loved, genuinely, if you say, “I’m sorry the Saints didn’t win”). If you bet on them, a nice follow-up might be, “I’m more sorry they didn’t cover.”  

Some hard liners will say it’s stupid — until they discover that what they craved and needed wasn’t a mansion on the hill and sweet cornbread after all. Instead, it was a person who listened and affirmed them and gifted them with the cornbread of their choice. 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


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