Why I Chose this Book
One time, I went to the library to look for the book The $100 Startup. While there, I ran into a friend of mine. We talked for a bit. She asked me how my relationship was going. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know it was something to the effect of “it’s not all that great.” She, with a smirk and a look of “here we go again”, recommended two books to me. One was Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married and the other was The Five Love Languages, both by Gary Chapman. My friend wrote both titles down on a piece of paper and gave it to me. I told her I would add them to my reading list.
Several months later, I realized I hadn’t been on overdrive.com as regularly as I used to be and decided to check it out. On the front page of the audiobooks section was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I saw that it was available and though the relationship my friend and I had discussed earlier had ended several months prior, I decided to download it.
The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman has a Ph.D. from Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary. His theological background does come through in his writing, though it does not dominate his writing and can still be enjoyed by someone who does not hold similar beliefs. Specifically, Chapman has a background in anthropology, so he is well acquainted with different cultures and human behavior. Chapman developed his idea of the five love languages while working as a counselor. He recounts the beginning of the formation of his love theory which began with a couple.
This couple had come to him with complaints about their marriage. He advised the two individually to praise his/her’s spouse for their good deeds for a month, I believe it was. At their next visit to Dr. Chapman’s office, the husband was elated. He felt much better about the relationship. They still had more work to do, but he felt that they were off to a great start. The wife on the other hand, felt that the praise was nice, but she still felt that something was lacking. She wished that the husband would spend more time with her. It was in this moment that Dr. Chapman realized that the couple had two different ways of feeling loved. The husband’s primary love language was words of affirmation while the wife’s was quality time. After realizing this, the couple went on to have a long marriage.
Chapman discusses each of the five love languages: 1. Words of affirmation, 2. Quality time/Presence, 3. Gift giving, 4. Acts of Service, and 5. Physical Touch. Each one is accompanied by examples and anecdotes.
Words of affirmation can be as simple as telling your partner that you appreciate him taking care of the bills or picking up the kids. Quality time may mean not simply existing in the same space as your partner, but actually communicating with each other. This type of communication is more than superficial. This act requires opening up to your partner, expressing your emotions, thoughts, and desires. This quality time should be spent without distractions. Don’t try to multitask. Just focus on your partner. Look her in the eyes when talking.
Give gifts. Plain and simple. Acts of service may mean taking out the trash or preparing dinner. Chapman gives an example of a couple in which the husband says physical touch, or sex to be specific, makes him feel loved, but his wife’s primary love language is acts of service. His wife is always complaining that he doesn’t take out the trash or wash the dishes. Chapman instructs the husband to imagine that the wife feels loved by him doing chores as much as he feels loved by her when they have sex! A lightbulb went off for the husband and he then understood the importance of his wife’s requests. Speaking of physical touch, this doesn’t mean only having sex. It could mean giving your partner a massage, holding hands more often, hugging, or giving a gentle caress.
Usually, people will have a mixture of these different love languages, but there is usually at least a primary one and if that one is understood, then it will be easier to have a better relationship. It’s also important not to get hung up on gender stereotypes. You know, “men speak physical touch and women speak acts of service and gift giving.” Chapman even discusses that men are more likely to erroneously believe that their primary love language is physical touch because men tend to be sexually aroused relatively easily. To get a good understanding of what your true love language is, Chapman says to complete this statement: “I truly feel loved by my partner when he/she does ___.’” If the other love languages were taken away, could this one aspect still make you feel loved by your partner? Another potential way to discovering your primary love language is notice of how you try to care for your significant other. Subconsciously, we may treat our partners the way we really want to be treated. This trick works both for determining one’s own primary love language and one’s partner. Each person is unique and should be treated as such. In addition, this principle of love languages can be applied to caring for children as well.
I don’t know if it is good or bad, but Dr. Chapman makes having a successful marriage seem so simple. Maybe not easy, but simple nonetheless. I haven’t tried these methods out yet (wipes away single tear), but I suspect they are very useful. Also, I’m not sure how well these five classifications hold up to empirical evidence, but Chapman’s advice in this book has been spread throughout the world. Therefore, there might be something to it. This book is a short read, or listen. It provides clear actions to take if one is having difficulty in ones relationship. Also, the book reminds me of Deborah Tannen‘s works in that it discusses communication, relationships, and how we all have different ways of expressing ourselves. By understanding these differences we can then have better relationships with one another.
The audio version is read by the author himself, Gary Chapman. In a charming southern U.S. sounding accent, Chapman provides a pleasant personality to his work as well as a great listen.