Dr. Andrew Bland defines love languages as, “principal value systems by which individuals communicate and anticipate the expression of affection.” Bland, an associate professor of psychology at Millersville University, has studied love languages for many years and has been quoted in national publications on the subject. He conducted research on love languages, which included some Millersville students as participants, with his colleague, Dr. Kand McQueen (formerly at Indiana University—Bloomington, IN).
Marriage counselor Gary Chapman originally identified and described love languages in the early 1990s. He developed his model based on observations from his clinical practice, which he integrated with existing psychological theory and research on relationships and presented in his popular book, “The Five Love Languages.” Chapman proposed that each person has a primary love language by which they prefer to receive affection and that relational distress occurs when individuals do not express affection using their partner’s primary LL, and the message of affection becomes lost.
The five LLs are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Bland says, “In Dr. McQueen’s and my research, it was observed that each partner in a couple reported greater levels of relational satisfaction when their LL profile suggested that empathetic incorporation of each partner’s values and worldview into their own had taken place. In contrast, lower levels of relational satisfaction (and with that, greater degrees of relational distress) were reported when each partner’s LL remained diametrically opposed, which suggested that the couple was merely surviving together in rigidly-defined roles.”
Bland and McQueen collected data for their study in 2017. Bland says, “We asked 100 couples, including some who were Millersville students, to complete Chapman’s “Love Languages Personal Profile,” along with a measure of relational satisfaction. Based on that data, we employed multivariate cluster analysis to develop profiles of LLs in couples while also assessing the degree of relational distress in each profile. We disseminated our findings in “Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice” in 2018.” Their research was featured in “Time” magazine in the summer of 2022 and in “Newsweek” in the spring of 2023.
When it comes to applying love languages to college students, Bland says, “According to both Chapman’s original presentation of the LL model and the research I conducted on it, specific combinations of LLs are not inherently more or less compatible. Instead, what matters is the degree to which each partner is committed to (a) accepting the other as they are and (b) transcending their own self-narrative and, thus, complementing and integrating the other’s worldview into their own. LLs provide a lay-friendly conceptual motif for wrapping one’s mind around that proposition and working toward it with intention. Indeed, for decades, that proposition has been identified by psychologists as a normative developmental task of young adults.”
Lastly, Bland stresses the overall importance of love languages. “LLs provide an accessible method for promoting and cultivating personal growth and wellness in couples as people engage in self-reflection in conjunction with careful observations of and conversations with their partner. Sometimes this can be accomplished within the context of the relationship, usually with the aid of Chapman’s book and/or his “Love Languages Personal Profile,” the latter of which is available online for free. In other instances, especially when there is relational distress, it may be helpful for that dialogue to be facilitated by a therapist. That said, LLs also yield information and perspective that are useful for therapists to guide their practice.”