[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for April 2019 hosted this month by luvthehaven.wordpress.com on the topic of “The Five Love Languages”]
I’ll admit the title is me being just tad facetious because this topic physically pains me. As an aromantic I get major hebee jebees when people start tossing around words with romantic connotations particularly when the required reading for this topic is based on a book called “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” (Thank you Wikipeda), but I’m going to suppress my baser instincts that are screaming at me to run for the hills and try to form a rational, and hopefully relatable, opinion on the “Languages of Honest Affection” (there, I fixed the title in my brain so I can stop freaking out over the L* word, *shudders*).
It’s important to note that not all asexuals are allergic to tru luv like I am. One thing I’ve had to internalize for my own mental health is that attraction is a physiological response, meaning it’s not something we can control; like ever, no way, no how. It’s a knee-jerk reaction it just happens and ya have to just deal with the aftermath. It’s like when you brush your hand on a hot stove, your body just reacts and you move away from that hot stove as fast as humanly possible. What you do after that supercharged flinch is what’s actually in your control. Do you kick the stove for having the audacity for being hot or do you run to the sink to cool off your scalding flesh? Knowing that attraction is a weird thing the body just does because, I don’t blame people for feeling attraction and I don’t blame myself (anymore) for not feeling attraction.
Now that all that is out of the way, are these languages of honest affection applicable to me in my non-romantic reality? I’m going to go with “no, not really.” I actually don’t think this model would work in any reality because it’s way too simplistic. It’s like any other personality quiz or your daily horoscope. Sure, it might be true in a very broad, general sense if you only look at positive supporting anecdotal data and ignore quantifiable negative refuting data, but I’m totally bias against horoscopes and I want to keep an open, rational mind on this specific topic.
Physical Touch: It’s actually pretty complicated.
I’m going to tackle each point in reverse order and physical touch as a form of affection is actually hella complicated and I know this because I have a B.A. in Communication studies and one thing they stressed is physical touch is hella complicated and varies depending on the cultural group or subgroup. In the US polite social distance is about 4 feet or an arm’s length away so we tend to get wigged out when we travel to other places and a stranger gets up right in our face to talk to us. Guys walking down the street holding hands will get some looks where I’m from, but is totally acceptable if not expected in other places. French cheek kisses? Hispanic hugs? Where do you draw the line between what’s intimate and culturally expected? Where do you draw the line between what is friendship and romantic? Is it based on what is expected by the individual or what the in-group understands as the social norm? To say physical touch is a “language of love” without addressing all the nuances and meaning that come with physical touch makes this, in my opinion, an ineffective model already.
Acts of Service:
My first thought on this topic is, “I love my country, but I hate my job,” and I think that’s just me be facetious again. I spent two years working as a “professional volunteer” (which was literally my job description) for community service projects so I could receive and education award that would pay off my B.A. I currently work full-time in food service so that I can continue my education. For me personally “service” has too much of a “tit-for-tat” connotation. Everyday I serve people, often times very angry and mean spirited people, because I get paid to do it. When I take that extra step to help out my coworker it’s because that fosters a beneficial relationship that encourages them to help me out later on. If that mentality is applied to a relationship, any kind of relationship, I think that has the potential to negatively impact the relationship. I’ll use the example from the wikipedia article of the one spouse showing affection by doing the laundry and the other spouse is like, “Wtf? That’s not affection. It’s a chore that needed to be done so it doesn’t matter who does it.” In this hypothetical relationship both people are able to do the chore and it was a chore that needed to be done so does it really matter and is it really a sign of affection that one person does it over the other?
I have a much better example; A lesbian couple that I follow and adore on YouTube. One of the ladies is disabled and the other works in the medical field unrelated to the disability, but is more familiar with how the system works than your regular citizen. When they first started dating the abled lady noticed that her new girlfriend wasn’t doing so hot and she knew that things could be better so she used her knowledge of how the medical system worked so that her girlfriend could see all the specialists she needed and sat in with her during all the appoints and asked all the relevant questions so that she could have the happiest, healthiest life possible with the limitations of her disability. The two of them are happily married now and it’s not a matter of whose chore is what because they don’t have a tit-for-tat system and they credit that as one of the reasons they have such a loving and healthy relationship (along with open and honest communication of course). I usually point to them when I want to point out what an “ideal” relationship would look like and I seriously want to know what the secret sauce to their relationship is because compared to them all the straight couples I know look like they’re trapped in Hetero-Hell because social norms instead of Tru Luv.
I don’t think there’s any reality where someone can say, “Look, I did the laundry today as an act of love,” and not sound like an asshole. I don’t think the lady in my example would even classify taking her new girlfriend to every single doctor’s appoint as an act of love more so than as someone in the medical field doing everything they can to make someone’s life better even if they don’t get anything out of it besides making someone’s life better. I just have a really hard time wrapping my head around this language because if you’re doing something for someone for the appreciation then you’re disappointed when it’s not, then it’s not really an act of love if you were hoping to get something out of it in the end.
Words of Affirmation: Now we’re talking.
This is probably the one point where I will agree that this a love language. I’m all for open and honest communication, but something that seems to be overlooked is the listening part. I feel like nobody knows how powerful and appreciated listening to another person without judgment is. Do you know how hard it is to listen to another person without judgment? I practice everyday and I’m still not good at it, but I can tell when somebody does it to me and it feels amazing. Having somebody just listen to you and not judge you feels amazing. When we listen to people our first instinct is to either contradict them, voice our own opinion, or offer advice, but if you can manage to turn that off you have the ability to do so much good for other people. I’m terrible at this because my instinct is to try and fix the “problem” when really the best thing I can do is just shut up and listen. Like I said, I practice everyday and it’s still a work in progress so I want to shout out to people who have this superpower.
Actually no disagreement here. Spending quality time with someone you love is awesome so keep doing that. It’s probably going to look different depending on the person’s involved, I literally can’t think of a downside to this if you can make it happen.
Receiving and Giving Gifts:
Well, we’re back to the age old question of your grandmother gave you a shit gift, what do you do? No, seriously. My Grandmother gave me a Mini Mouse watch that probably had been sitting in her closet for years for my birthday. I hate it and it’s just going to end up sitting in the back of my closet because I don’t even want to look at it, much less wear it. Giftcards are a godsend. It takes all the guess work out of figuring out what to buy and people can finally get things they need or want. The last time I got someone a gift that wasn’t obligatory I got the standard, “Oh, you didn’t have to do that!” Yeah, I know I didn’t have to do that, but I did anyway and you know what? It hurt my feeling when they said that because and that was the last time I gave a non-obligatory gift. So, when my grandmother gave me a gift and I hated it I made sure I said “Thank you, it’s amazing!” Gift giving/receiving sucks. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have the best experience, but it’s not my favorite and I have a really hard time seeing it as a language of love since there are weird social norms about it like saying, “Oh, didn’t have to do that!” when it’s not an obligatory gift. Ugh.
The languages of love seem like any other personality quiz. It’s cute, it’s fun (probably), but I don’t recommend taking it as relationship gospel. If you take the quiz again after lunch you’re probably going to get a different result than the one you took earlier because the results are too generalized to actually be useful. Relationships are complicated because it’s not just 1 + 1 = 2; Humans are infinitely complex and in a relationship you’re taking one complexity with its own wants and needs and trying to match it up with another complexity and you basically end up creating unpredictable mathematical chaos. It’s perfectly human of us to try to fit big, scary chaotic topics like love and relationships into five neat little boxes, but that’s like trying to stuff and elephant into a shoe-box. If being asexual has taught me anything it’s that neat little boxes don’t exist for things like love and relationships and that’s why I don’t think this model actually works for anybody.