The Five Beta Love Languages

I’ve been doing some research recently to start developing much of MMSL into a couples retreat. There’s a backstory here, and it may all collapse into a heap so I’d rather not say what I’m up to just yet. My long term goals involve in-person teaching sessions, so whether this particular project gets the green light or not, I’ll end up with material to use so it’s all good.
So I said to my new friends,“tell me what you’re currently using.” and they showed me the list of books and DVDs in use. I’d never heard of half of it, and the other half was just the (yawn) same old feminine-beta-emotions-romance-do the-dishes-the-man-is-wrong stuff. Basically it’s a cross between a bad Oprah episode and David after the Dentist. But being a good researcher I ordered used copies of what I hadn’t read yet off Amazon.
At this point I should mention that for a number of years I went to a private Anglican school and have therefore sat through formal ceremonies so long, I have considered quietly removing my appendix with a paper clip to relieve the boredom. I consider that training for wading through the slush pile of traditionally published books I regrettably ordered off Amazon.
Save one…
“The Five Love Languages” is excellent. Oh to be sure it’s just like every other Christian book in that it takes far too long to actually get to the book’s original content. The good bits are heavily packed in the Styrofoam of faith to ensure the non-religious would never want to read it. It is badly wrong in that it completely ignores sexuality and anything remotely approaching Alpha, leaving nothing but a baby soft Beta.
But that Beta is utterly perfect and on point.
If you want, go read the book. There’s like a trillion in print and you can probably get an older copy for $0.01 plus shipping off Amazon. Or, cribbing the summary of the Five Love Languages from here.
Words of Affirmation: Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time:  In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts:  Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service:  Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch:  This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
The basic premise of the book being that each person usually has a primary love language that really connects with them, and the other ones are simply nice/pleasant/okay. I think that’s an excellent insight.
So when I do something expressive of love and commitment (Beta!) to Jennifer like buying her flowers (Receiving Gifts), she likes it, it’s okay, but it doesn’t really make her swoon. Likewise when I tell her I love her, and say nice things about her (Words of Affirmation), it’s the same thing. Nice, pleasant, but she doesn’t melt on me. She does respond well to Quality Time – she gets a little mopey if we’re apart for too long and we both like walking together and just hanging out. She does like being touched, but I’m all over her like a rash, so I don’t think she ever lacks for Physical Touch to ever want it.
But when I do housework, cook dinner, yard work, help her out, go grocery shopping with her… a.k.a Acts of Service… she perks right up and just beams at me. So while all the love languages are good to do at least once in a while, when I want to use a little Beta to hit Jennifer’s sweet spot, Acts of Service are quick, easy and guaranteed points. Not just once in a while, every time.
The giveaway is that Jennifer is constantly doing me little Acts of Service. She actually seriously likes bringing me a sandwich for example. She ironed a couple of shirts for me on Sunday simply because “it makes me feel all wifely”. Um… okay, you can iron my shirts if you want.
If you read carefully above, “I’m all over Jennifer like a rash”, my love language is Physical Touch. I endlessly touch her and playfully maul her like I’m a Labrador puppy.
Gifts do nothing for me – for my last three birthdays I asked for a toaster, a laundry basket and a bathmat. I do like functional items, but that’s about it. Words of Affirmation are nice. Quality Time is nice. Ironing my shirts and bringing me sandwiches are nice… But I feel loved when she touches me. Scratch my back a little and I am yours.
Sometimes when I’m writing Jennifer just slides up to me and runs a hand across my shoulders in passing. It works. I love it. How easy is that?
Ladies, gentlemen… once you figure out your partner’s sweet spot for receiving Beta comfort building, you could probably cut down your overall Beta interaction efforts by half, and yet win twice as many points by getting everything on target. It’s like the difference between a shotgun approach and a sniper rifle.
If you don’t know what they like the best, just experiment and try everything. You’d find it soon enough. Often what they do to you is the giveaway of what they want for themselves.


  1. Anonymous says:

    The fact that you point out that the Five Love Languages are COMPLETELY Beta is AWESOME! I remember trying to fix a relationship or two using this method and it didn't work. Sure they like it but there is absolutely nothing ALPHA about this approach . . .maybe planning a date if the love language is quality time, but that's it. In short, the balance is really needed!

  2. Looking Glass says:

    Yeah, the book gets recommended a lot because of its very functional core for understanding comfort building. Although it does bring up a good point that the Christian side of relationship advice always does seem to assume all men are unrestrained Alphas, weird that.

    There's also a practical application for "major shit test alert" involving the primary one for the other person in the relationship. Hitting the proper Beta spot is double points, but missing is also a potentially critical failure. So that's the flip side of the issue.

  3. Terry @ Breathing Grace says:

    There's a mini-book version of the Five Love Languages that's been published as well. I have that one.Cuts right to the chase.

    I think it's great that you can see the value in a book that's overtly Christian despite your lack of faith, Athol.

  4. Eric S. Mueller says:

    Love languages is decent. If you haven't read Love and Respect yet, that one is good and does drift into alpha territory. Like many Christian books it's basically the same chapter over and over again, but the stories change.

  5. Clever Brian says:

    First off, Athol, you're a life saver, and I've been meaning to email you a thank you for a long time with my story and a heap of praise. I'll do that later today.

    I love this book, despite the sluggish start and the excessive Christian language. There is an important caveat to the 5 languages that can help a lot of people out further, which is that each language has sub-languages. Not everything within the scope of one language will work.

    My wife is primarily a Quality Time person, but its games that really work for her. A board game, two-player video game, FRPG, or even a good drinking game engages her. She also likes team accomplishments, like going on a canoe trip, but not as much. Some other kinds of quality time simply don't work at all. Trying to help her with arts and crafts is a good way to annoy the hell out of her.

    Once you have your wife's love language it can be really helpful to keep narrowing it down. Most people have a couple of big buttons that you can become a real adept at pushing to make them feel loved and comforted.

    Also, I find putting the five love languages into action is the absolute best tool in the beta game arsenal. All the Alpha in the world doesn't help a wife of 13 years stay interested if you haven't hit that comfort button lately…

    …But when you do, in the properly flirtatious manner, all of the Alpha behaviour you've been using over the last day or two can pay off all at once.

    Thanks again for the amazing 'blog, Athol!

  6. Encourager says:

    "developing much of MMSL into a couples retreat"

    Oh my goodness. I hope this isn't something that ends up on HBO.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Couples retreat? Like the movie? (the one where one husband dropped his shorts) If there's nudity involved–sign me up, I'll be there with bells on :-) LOL


  8. Athol, I wonder the preference of language here depends on the personality of the person. Using MBTI, an INFP like myself likes quality time or word of affirmation, while and ESTP may like act of service.

    I also wonder how personality play in terms of the alpha/beta ratio needed to keep the relationship going. I have a gut feeling that an ESXX need more doses of alpha than an INXX. Or each person like a fixed alpha/beta ratio, but like different "types" of alpha (e.g. Making decisions vs sensual teases)?

    Do you think it's worthwhile to look into that?

  9. Athol Kay says:

    NGII – I have no clue about the love language thing matching up to MBTI.

    I do think the ESXX needing more Alpha and the INXX needing more Beta is probably a factor though.

  10. Anonymous says:

    ENTP that *loves* high alpha and high beta. Must be high stimulation. Not sure the MBTI will always map. Just as some people can have more than one love language. Yes, mine is primarily words, but you better believe i'll flounder without touch, too. Bonus that my man is touch primary and words secondary.

    Please, for the love of all things, go on the road!! Your assessment of rxisting workshops is accurate. And sent me into years of counseling.

  11. I read it a long time ago and came away thinking it was like an overlong Christian Cosmo quiz. But upon further reflection and after seeing a couple I know improve their marriage by following it somewhat, I now think it's brilliant. Here's why:
    Women LIKE Cosmo quizzes, that's why it's such a popular feature in women's magazines. It's chick crack. So this comes in under the radar for them; they enjoy reading it enough that they miss the reframing. Love Languages isn't about what you're feeling; it's about what you're doing. Behavior influences attitude as much as attitude influences behavior. Once the wife begins to behave in a more loving way, whichever Love Language he "speaks", her focus shifts to doing, to pleasing rather than on whether or not she's pleased in the relationship. Thus begins a virtuous cycle, a postive feedback loop.
    If one does try to speak her love language and she perceives that as an attempt to get laid more often or regain her affection, it's a losing proposition = too beta. If one comes at it from the perspective of the captain learning to inspire and keep happy his first mate, that's different.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Love languages helped enormously in our marriage, since DH and I speak opposite languages as our primaries (our secondaries match up).

    I wrote a LOT of page-long poems to my husband when we were first married, but regarded chores/errands as just … chores. Oops! His love language is works, and so that made him feel really unloved.

    Things on his end really improved (a long time later) when he finally got that I wanted his time/attention, not his paycheck.

    So I bring him beverages and he takes me out to be alone…. and everybody's beta pool is nice and full.

    Alpha? He's alpha as all-get-out. Not an issue.

  13. This sort of discussion illustrates why the "Golden Rule" is a fail in personal relationships. In fact, The GR is a huge projection, assuming someone else is just like you. Someone told me to go with the Platinum Rule – treat someone how THEY want to be treated.

  14. Athol Kay says:

    Badger – hmmmm, Platinum rule… adopting that.


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