The five love languages — coined by Baptist pastor Gary Chapman in 1992, per Vox — neatly divide expressions of love into five tidy categories: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift giving and physical touch.

Used by couples and singles alike — many single people can recall breaking down their top love languages on first dates — the five love languages have become a popular way to understand how a person and their romantic partner prefer to express and give love.

But due to new research, the accuracy of the five languages has been thrown into question. Do love languages actually exist? And do they help relationships — or hurt them?

What are the 5 love language types?

According to the Love Languages official website, there are five love languages:

  • Quality time: You value spending uninterrupted quality time with someone you love, whether by going out or doing a hobby at home.
  • Physical touch: You are “touchy,” per Love Languages. If you do not receive physical touch often, you might feel neglected.
  • Acts of service: You value acts that relieve stress or “ease the burden of responsibilities weighing” on you, per Love Languages.
  • Words of affirmation: You value unsolicited compliments and words of reassurance from your romantic partner.
  • Receiving gifts: You value a well-thought out gift. Love Languages makes sure to specify that people with this love language don’t value materialism, but, instead, the gesture and the thought of the gift itself.

Chapman developed the five love languages during his time counseling couples as a pastor, according to The Guardian. “He believed love languages were an intuitive and simple way to teach couples about how to tune into each other’s ways of expressing love.”

In his 1992 book, “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” Chapman dives deep into the five love languages and their role in relationships.

According to Chapman, everyone uses all five love languages at some point, but “most people tend to rely on one love language most of the time,” per The Guardian.

That one love language is your primary love language. And you don’t need to read Chapman’s book to learn your own.

You can discover your primary love language by taking a quiz online. It asks questions like, “Is it more meaningful for you when someone sends you a loving text or when you receive a hug?” and “Would you prefer to spend alone time with your romantic partner or be on the receiving end of their help?”

Understanding your love language and your partner’s love language is, according to Chapman, the key to satisfaction in relationships. He believes that, per The Guardian, “people are more satisfied in their relationships when both partners match when it comes to their primary love language.”

Is there any truth to the 5 love languages?

It makes sense that the concept of love languages is popular. It’s comforting to think that, if you know your partner’s love language, you can cater to their specific needs.

Does your partner value physical touch? Give them more hugs! Is words of affirmation one of your partner’s top love languages? Give them a compliment every once and a while.

But, according to Vox, the language of love is more nuanced than the love languages system makes it seem. Vox reported that the concept of the five love languages has little to no scientific evidence to back it up.

In January, lead author Emily Impett and her fellow researchers published a research article scrutinizing the three foundational ideas of the five love languages: “There are exactly five love languages, everyone has exactly one primary love language, and when you match languages with your partner, you’re happier,” per Vox.

“According to the literature review from Impett et al., there does not seem to be empirical evidence for any of these three principles,” Vox reported.

The literature review highlighted previous studies that found that there are few consistencies between how people experience love — much less consistent categories of love.

Multiple studies have asked participants to categorize what makes them feel loved, and many named things that weren’t any of the five love languages. A 2013 study found that, “The factors produced did not strictly correspond to the five languages defined by Chapman’s theory (1992), but discernible patterns of affectionate styles did emerge.”

Additionally, according to The Guardian, “Three studies, including one that used Chapman’s Love Language Quiz, have found that couples with matching love languages were no more satisfied than couples who were mismatched.”

Impett and her fellow researchers concluded that, “Whereas the love-language measures were developed on the basis of Chapman’s top-down descriptions, a more comprehensive understanding of how people communicate love would require a bottom-up approach.”

Impett and her colleagues described love as a “balanced diet in which people need a full range of essential nutrients to cultivate lasting love.”

Are the 5 love languages helpful at all?

While categorizing expressions of love into five languages might not be as helpful as it at first appears, Impett and her colleagues wrote that the conversation Chapman’s system can spark between couples “provides partners an opportunity to reflect on, discuss, and respond to one another’s needs, which is indeed a fundamental principle in relationship science.”

In an email to Religion News Service, Impett said that reading Chapman’s book is likely more helpful than simply taking a Love Languages quiz. “That’s in part because the focus on finding a partner’s primary love language can be too restrictive and ends up putting people into a box,” she said.

“We are not suggesting that people necessarily are multilingual (skilled at all five behaviors),” Impett wrote in her email, “but that they should learn to be since the five behaviors that Chapman identifies are really important things people can do to maintain their relationships.”

Avigail Lev, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified mediator, made a similar observation in an interview with Forbes: “When we know how we experience love and also understand the ways that our partner experiences love, it helps us create a meaningful, healthy, authentic connection.”

As I took the love language quiz to prepare to write this story, I kept asking myself: Aren’t all the love languages important?

For example, if I came home from a long day at work, wouldn’t I prioritize acts of service and shy away from physical touch? On my birthday, wouldn’t I prefer receiving gifts and words of affirmation over acts of service?

Understanding how you and your partner experiences love is essential for a healthy relationship. But whittling down expressions of love — or love values — into just five categories not only has limitations, but also leaves the door open to neglect other important love languages, as research has shown.