Q&A: When the Five Love Languages Seem To Fail

We received an interesting email that I wanted to use to propel a discussion about the five love languages.

My wife is an amazing wife and a godly woman.  She has a servants heart and feels that her love language is most definitely service.  I would agree and affirm that about her.  The only difficulty this brings into our sex life is that she often sees sex as being a service that she offers to me.  Even when it was difficult and painful she has never been a refuser by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I’ve never been content to simply receive from her and go on my way. I want her to desire me and receive from me.  She is trying very hard and we’re both trying to encourage each other and not put too much pressure on her.  She wants things to be different but doesn’t know how to change.  We’re both praying for an awakening for her.  I think the 5 love languages is a great model, but it is simply a model and has its shortcomings.  I think one of them, or at least our understanding of it, is deficient in how it can be assumed that sex is going to be fulfilling for people with physical touch as their primary love language.  I can’t accept that as true, I believe God created sex for married couples and not just certain partners in those relationships with a particular love language.  This is something that is confusing us.  We don’t simply want sex to be something that she does to serve me, or even vice versa, but something that brings deeper intimacy and oneness to our relationship.  We would deeply appreciate any advice/help you all could give. Thanks for all that you’re doing to see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

I really appreciate this man’s heart. It’s obvious that he and his wife are focused on strengthening their relationship for the long haul and have lofty, yet attainable goals for their relationship as they walk together with the Lord. As soon as I read this email I thought of a post that a friend made on this topic of the five love languages. I asked him if he would allow me to use his insights for this article and here are his comments about this:

I was just thinking the other day about Love Languages. My DW and I recently took yet another Love Language quiz online which prompted my little brainstorm. I was trying to figure out which Love Language would sex fall under, since my DW has always insisted that that was my LL. My conclusion? It falls under ALL of them! (keep in mind, this is sex as God intended, between a man and a woman in a married relationship)

Words of Affirmation: Honestly…how many of you just lay there and read a magazine or watch TV? In the heat of the moment, praise and adoration for your spouse seems to just kinda flow! There’s just something about making love that really opens up the heart, even in us guys. Admit it, you’re really a teddy-bear inside.

Quality Time: There’s not much more you can do to spend quality time with your beloved. Watching TV together, taking a walk together, etc….there’s always something else to distract you from your spouse. With sex, your attention is 100% on them. The lights are low (or flickering warmly from the top of a candlestick), the music is soft….yeah, there’s a lot to be said about spontaneous back-seat-of-the-car or outdoors-on-the-trampoline sex, but the majority will be in the comfort and safety of your own home. Enjoy, the quality doesn’t get much higher than good ‘ole sex!

Receiving Gifts: God gave us the gift of sex (after we’re married, obviously). I personally can’t think of anything I’d much rather regift for my DW than sex!!! As I told my DW once, I can kiss a friend or a relative on the cheek, I can hold someone else’s hand (prayer circles, for some reason, love to do this), I can buy someone a gift…but sex is hers and hers alone, the ONE gift I will not give anyone else. Period.

Acts of Service: Unless you’re married to the most selfish person out there, happily/healthily married couples typically go out of their way to please their spouse during sex. Yeah, pleasing them pleases you, too, so its a win-win situation, but most are still willing to do whatever makes their DW/DH happiest. If your spouse is going out of his/her way to do the same, both will have their needs met in some mind-blowingly sexy way. If your spouse isn’t actively doing all he/she can to please YOU, well….you’re still having sex!

Physical Touch: Seriously. Do I really need to go in depth here (pun intended)? Insert Tab A into Slot B. Or C. Or D. Whichever the two of you mutually agree upon. Rinse and repeat. For those of us with PT as a primary (or VERY close secondary) language, this one’s a no-brainer. We can high-five at the football game, shake hands at church, hold hands in the movies, enjoy a good massage, even wrap our arms around our loved ones while snuggling in front of a fireplace, but there’s just no adequate substitution for full-on whole-body skin-on-skin entanglement. Well….coconut oil helps, but still…

I would agree that the five love languages is just a model and has it’s short comings, but I think that generally if people are seeking to understand one another, that it is an amazingly helpful tool. When a wife has a love language of service and during sex offers herself fully to her husband, she is communicating in her most heart felt way that she loves her husband. A husband who doesn’t speak this language as primary, doesn’t feel loved which is why he needs to communicate to her what love language he needs her to speak as well. Not either or, but both. You must receive the love your spouse gives which is spoken in their love language as enthusiastically as the love they speak in your language. And sex, as my friend points out, can really be used to speak all five languages, if you are listening for it.

So if my husband spoke in the language of gifts and brought me home some lingerie or something sexy for us to use in bed, I need to respond as enthusiastically to that as I would to him canceling all his plans for an evening to be with me if my love language was quality time. During sex a husband and wife need to get to the point where they can give and receive love in BOTH of their primary love languages. So for the man who wrote in, he needs to fully receive the acts of service his wife gives and appreciate them for what they are, but he also needs to let her know what she needs to do in order for him to hear love in his primary language too. Eventually we need to get to the point where we can speak both our language and our spouse’s fluently and naturally. Like breathing. But this takes time, years of studying one another. Until we are fluent in the love language of our spouse, it feels like we are not being loved when they show love by their love language. In the example of the man who wrote in, when his wife serves him in bed it feels to him like he isn’t being loved because she hasn’t communicated to him HIS language as well, but really she has told him she loves him in the clearest way possible in her mind.

By the way, it is not uncommon for men of ANY love language to say that they want to feel that their wives desire them and to be free to receive pleasure from them. It’s one of the reasons we write this blog, to let wives know that they should be free to express passion and desire to their husbands, but it is going to look different for everyone depending on their individual make up.

So be encouraged to study your spouse and become fluent in their love language. It may not be a perfect model, but by and large it works really well.


  1. It has been awhile since I read the five love lanquages, but reading the original readers’ question, I think there might be some misunderstanding of the concept and they may want to read the book again.

    My understanding is that the book defines the love lanquages as the language we recieve love in, ie Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, etc.

    It appears fromt orginal post that the wife naturally enjoys giving acts of service, but that isn’t nescessarily her love lanquage. The question is- how does she recieve love?

    Once the husband understands how she recieves love, then as an act of the will, an act of selfless agape love, he can chose to give her love in the way she best recieves it, which might not be acts of service.

    I think the suggestions from the other posts about sexual ways to give love are great once you understand what language your spouse recieves love.

    Hope this isnt’ too long-but a short example from our own marriage.

    Acts of service are a huge way that my wife recieves love. So if I chose to serve her by going to the bank, mailbox, dishes, gas in car, etc. she feels more loved, and then her heart is more open to my sexual advances over time.

    Also a word of caution, it is easy to get in the mindset of being mad at our spouse when they don’t give love in our love lanquage, and then to withhold it from them in what we know their lanquage to be. Not the best way to build a marriage- but very easy to do.

  2. This past weekend, I spent several days with other therapists learning from Michele Weiner Davis on her strategies on Divorce Busting®. Every therapist in the room was pro-marriage, and we were there to discuss ways that we could more successfully stem the tide of divorce.

    One of the concepts that Michele teaches her clients is that of “real giving”, which is basically giving to your spouse out of love. All the therapists at this conference (who came from different religions) were familiar with and proponents of the concepts put forth in Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I say all this to underscore the fact that I believe in the philosophy. In fact, I agree with it so heartily that my subject of the week is devoted to the concept of real giving.

    I was, however, deeply struck by some of the language that this gentleman offered about his wife. He said that she find sex “difficult and painful” and then goes on to describe a lack of desire.

    My question is this: has this couple gotten so caught up in their vigilance to be loving to each other (which again, I wholeheartedly support), that they have overlooked something more basic? That perhaps her issues stem from something physiological or psychological which can be addressed and solved? If one has knee out of joint, she doesn’t just pray about the issue, she goes to a professional to get it fixed.

    If sex has been “difficult and painful”, then my suggestion is that the wife see a sex-therapist and/or coach so help her find a way to make sex enjoyable. There is no question that she has the “real giving” portion down pat – in fact they both seem to – and good on them for that! Now, she just needs some strategies to make sex less painful and difficult and more fulfilling and enjoyable. This will, in turn, help both her and her husband enjoy sex more regardless of their love languages.

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