Open letter to the 5 Love Languages team

This is an email I sent to the folks behind, a quiz designed to figure out an individual’s love language (Physical Touch, Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service).

The book cover (why “Receiving Gifts” and not “Receiving Physical Touch”, beats me)

The questions in the online quiz look like this:

What exactly does “meaningful” mean? This isn’t hair-splitting, as I’ve explained in the email. Here it is.


As a former linguist, I would like to suggest an improvement to the way questions are phrased. For example,

It’s more meaningful to me when…
* I receive a loving note/text/email for no special reason from my loved one.
* my partner and I hug.

First off, what does “meaningful” mean? The question is not silly, because as Thinking, Fast and Slow teaches us, people answer the question they want to answer, not that which is posed. “Meaningful” is different from “pleasurable” or “comforting” or a number of other emotional states. If “meaningful” means “I am reassured of my loved one’s love for me”, then I would pick receiving the note. But if the question was phrased like this,

If your loved one has one minute to either write you a love note, or hug you, what would you secretly prefer they do?

…then I’d pick the hug IF I knew that my loved one liked to hug me and it was about the same either way to her how she’d spend that minute, because I *know* my partner loves me, and I derive more pleasure from a hug than from a note confirming her love.

Second, “my partner and I hug” doesn’t specify the circumstances of the hug. If I initiated it and she hugged back, it doesn’t mean that much. If she initiated it, it means much more. Generally, unprompted actions from the partner are a much better indicator of their love (hence, meaningful) than their response to my actions.

To conclude, I would suggest that phrasing the questions in the following format makes it clearer for the reader to decide their preference, especially for me, who are often less emotionally attuned to love languages than women:

If it were the same to your loved one to perform X or Y for you, what would you secretly prefer they do?

Thank you,