Over the holidays I finished The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. I had previously read his Love as a Way of Life. Like the previous book, The Five Love Languages started in a rather quiet, understated way and gradually grew on me.
As with many of the books I review, I was listening to this one in audio format, and Chapman’s Midwestern accent initially got on my nerves. But his gentle sincerity began to come through as he got down to business and the book turned out to be very readable (or listenable as the case may be).
The thesis of the book is simple: Each of us has a preferred “love language” – something that most clearly says “I love you” to us. Chapman identifies five of these primary languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Each of these can have various “sub-dialects”. The problem comes when partners don’t know the other’s primary love language.
For example, if you show your love to your wife by giving her thoughtful gifts, but her primary love language is actually quality time – she will come to feel unloved, in spite of your attempt to communicate love to her using a different language. If she gives you words of affirmation, but your primary language is physical touch, or acts of service, you will tend to feel emotionally empty.
Often we try to communicate our love to our partners in our OWN preferred love-language, or in the languages our parents used with each other. But these may not be our partner’s love languages at all. Chapman leads you through questions and exercises to figure out what your primary love language is, and what your partner’s primary love language is. Few people, once they KNOW their partner’s love language, fail to speak it.
Chapman also emphasizes that once the brief period of intense attraction (usually lasting about two years) is over – love is a conscious choice. You can choose to speak love in your partner’s language – even if you don’t particularly LIKE your partner at this stage of your relationship. And these conscious choices WILL fill up your emotional bank as a couple and make your life much happier.
This is a deservedly popular book, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who feels their relationship is less than it could be (which includes most of us).
Below is a short intro to the book by Dr. Chapman.