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  #1  
Old 04 December 2015, 10:52 PM
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Icon105 What's a good research-backed alternative to "The Five Love Languages"?

Because of its reputation, I recently read the book The Five Love Languages.

I was disappointed with the author's nonscientific approach to psychology and, especially, his weird personal story at the end of the book about him encouraging a woman to have sex she didn't want with a partner who said he hated her (hoping that 'speaking his love language' in this way would make him love her).

The book boils down to "Find out what makes your partner happy and do that." This is good advice and there are some relevant insights in the book. But it's entirely based on the author's own experiences and there are only one or two citations, one of which is to a Bible verse.

I looked up Gary Chapman, the author, and found that he also makes appearances on Focus On The Family, a politically active Christian fundamentalist media organization founded by James Dobson. This was also disappointing.

From what I've heard, "The Five Love Languages" seems like the most popular book of romantic advice for couples out there.

Is there a different book covering the same topic that's references peer-reviewed psychological research?

It seems like there's got to be something else out there more deserving of the top spot.
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  #2  
Old 05 December 2015, 12:07 AM
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Based on the anecdote of the author telling someone that they need to have sex with someone they don't want to have sex with, I have to say that you could probably choose any other relationship book at random and be almost guaranteed that it would be better.
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Old 05 December 2015, 12:32 AM
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Sure, it's easy to be better than bad, but I'm hoping for something really good.
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Old 05 December 2015, 12:42 AM
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I've yet to see a self-help/relationship book backed up by solid evidence. They seem to be a mishmash of gender and sitcom stereotypes with a few commonsense pearls of wisdom thrown in, each bit of fact or fiction given a kitchy name--which I don't necessarily object to. As you say, the basic idea that different people are made happy by different things, and the advice to find what makes your partner happy and do that, is solid, and if it helps people to think of, say, fulfilling their partner's desire for physical intimacy in terms of "speaking their love language" instead of "f*cking them so they stop complaining," then that's a good thing. I haven't read the book myself, but I kind of like the idea of putting your partner's needs, and your own, in such terms. We tend to be critical of the ways in which others show affection or wish affection to be shown to them (want sex? You're just using me for my body! Want gifts? You're greedy and materialistic! Want me to listen while you talk about your problems? You just want to wallow in self-pity instead of doing something about it!) and unconsciously regard our preferred means of showing affection as more indicative of true love (I'm not selfish or juvenile for wanting you to hang out and play video games with me; I'm just looking for some quality time together!) So I like the idea of calling all those things "love languages" and imagining people as an international mix bridging cultural gaps by learning to speak so the other will understand.

But yeah, that anecdote, at least as you characterized it, sounds pretty gross.
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Old 05 December 2015, 01:26 PM
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God, this book. Sure, it starts out sounding like a good idea, but it's very heteronormative and gender reductive without even getting into the "I bet your husband would like you more if you put out!" suggestion. It's all "Women like cuddles! Men like sex!" while using love tank metaphors and being confusingly written. One of my favorite podcasts did a hilarious review that points out a lot of its issues, which you can find here: http://read-weep.com/#!/episode.php/...love-languages

I don't know that there are a lot of good, research-based couples therapy books out there because the don't really sell. I've learned most of my couples therapy knowledge from trainings, and like most things in therapy the techniques contained within they are tailored to specific populations. Let me dig around in my note piles and see if I can come up with some names of good styles/researchers.
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Old 05 December 2015, 08:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lancastrian View Post
God, this book.
Thanks for the podcast link! I look forward to hearing about what you find in your notes.
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Old 06 December 2015, 08:05 AM
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The most research based couples advice out there I think are the books by John Gottman.
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Old 07 December 2015, 08:06 PM
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The most research based couples advice out there I think are the books by John Gottman.
This stuff looks excellent. Thank you!
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Old 08 December 2015, 01:34 AM
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Any time! Read it and Weep won me over with their 4 part review of Atlas Shrugged, so basically I love them to pieces.

And my notes are in fact on Gottman! He also works with his wife, Julie Schwartz, on a lot of things, and I find her more engaging than him especially in the longer trainings. He's smart, but he drones sometimes. In writing they're pretty equal.
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Old 08 December 2015, 11:21 PM
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Even he tends to oversell, though, I think.
Quote:
Gottman would not have become a household name, however, without his storied powers for predicting divorce. "He's gotten so good at thin-slicing marriages," Malcolm Gladwell enthused in Blink, "that he says he can be at a restaurant and eavesdrop on the couple one table over and get a pretty good sense of whether they need to start thinking about hiring lawyers and dividing up custody of the children."

So what does it mean to predict divorce? For the 1998 study, which focused on videotapes of 57 newlywed couples, I assumed that Gottman had, in the first instance, sorted them into three groups—will divorce, will be happy, will be unhappy but still married—based on the conflict-variables he believed distinguished marriages that last from those that don't (contempt, little positive affect, elevated male heart rate, etc.). Then, at six years, he'd checked to see how right, or wrong, his predictions had been. That isn't how it worked. He knew the marital status of his subjects at six years, and he fed that information into a computer along with the communication patterns turned up on the videos. Then he asked the computer, in effect: Create an equation that maximizes the ability of my chosen variables to distinguish among the divorced, happy, and unhappy.

The upshot? What Gottman did wasn't really a prediction of the future but a formula built after the couples' outcomes were already known. This isn't to say that developing such formulas isn't a valuable—indeed, a critical—first step in being able to make a prediction. The next step, however—one absolutely required by the scientific method—is to apply your equation to a fresh sample to see whether it actually works. That is especially necessary with small data slices (such as 57 couples), because patterns that appear important are more likely to be mere flukes. But Gottman never did that. Each paper he's published heralding so-called predictions is based on a new equation created after the fact by a computer model.
This article summarizes some of the critiques I've heard of his research methods, though even that doesn't get into what seems to me the bigger problem with conflating correlation and causation in applying that research in couples' counseling. I also really don't know what to think about his thoughts on the roots of domestic violence:
Quote:
"Yes Dear" and What Men Can Learn from Bill Cosby.

RW (interviewer): I remember Bill Cosby having a father-son talk on the old Cosby Show. His teenage son said: "My girlfriend is still mad at me, I screwed up! I said I was sorry, but she won't forgive me. What can I do, Dad? I want her back more than anything." And Cosby says in his Cosby voice: "Son, you're not done til' she says you are done." His son dejectedly says: "Well, how many times do I have to keep apologizing, Dad?" And Cosby says: "Until she begs you to stop." This sounds similar to what has been called your "Yes, Dear" approach, which has been lampooned on the Politically Incorrect TV show. It sounds cliche, but what are Cosby and you really getting at?

JG: There's this great Ogden Nash poem that I think gets Bill Cosby's point, and I'll paraphrase it:
To keep brimming the marital cup,
when wrong admit it,
when right shut up!
It's a great line. It's about respect, it's about honor, and the idea of giving in, of saying I'm sorry, that really honors both people. So what we find is that, first of all, just like Bill Cosby said, the husband is really critical in this equation because women are doing a lot of accepting influence in their interaction. That's what we find and it doesn't predict anything, because many women are doing it at such a high level. But there's more variability in guys. Some guys are really in there and these are the masters. They're not saying: "Yes, dear." What they're really saying is: "You know, I can see some points in what you're saying make sense to me. And there's other stuff you're saying I just don't agree with. Let's talk about it." Now that husband is a different husband from the husband who says: "No. I'm not buying any of this!" Then the husband becomes an obstacle.
If you don't accept some influence, then you become an obstacle and people find a way around you and you have no power. So the violent guys that Neil Jacobson and I studied, they're always saying: "No!" to offers to communicate better. No matter what was said, they would bat it back like baseball players at batting practice. Wham! And they turn out to be enormously powerless in their relationships. I think that's one of the reasons they resort to violence, because they have no influence in any of their personal relationships.

RW: And in couple's therapy, oftentimes when dealing with the aggressor, they're told to basically give up all their power, both illegitimate and legitimate, and so then they're powerless again, and the cycle begins anew.

JG: That doesn't work either. Morihei Ueshiba, the Japanese genius who invented Aikido, had that very point, his whole approach to negotiating conflict, which is you need to yield to be powerful.

RW: When pushed, pull, when pulled, push, and roll.

JG: That's right. So it's not that the guys were saying: "Yes, dear," as the parody went, and, sure, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, anything you say." They were saying: "I can see this point; let's kick this around. Here's my point of view. I accept some of what you're saying but not all of it." Usually the wives will be saying a similar thing. And then they really start persuading one another and compromising and coming up with a solution.
He may still be the most credible relationship and self-help author, but I guess that isn't saying much.
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Old 09 December 2015, 04:51 AM
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Given what's been subsequently revealed about Bill Cosby...let's just say I want to know if he writes a retraction and leave it at that.
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  #12  
Old 10 December 2015, 11:38 AM
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He does oversell, I think in part because he's so focused on keeping couples together as the indicator that his methods are "working." If better communication results in a couple deciding that they have reached an impasse and that they will both be happier apart, then the therapy is still a success in my mind. A relationship that doesn't work out in a less negative, less hurtful way where everyone learns and goes forward as better communicators is still a net good.

His view of abusive relationships is harmful bull. I've never been to a training that said anything but "abuse is wrong and is not about the abuser being 'misunderstood'" so I didn't know about that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
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