In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to explore a book by Dr. Gary Chapman called, The Five Love Languages – The Secret to Love That Lasts.
I was first introduced to the book about 5 years ago, by my brother. He had read it and thought it I would appreciate it as well. To be honest, I didn’t read it. I didn’t want to. I was afraid it would tell me that I had to be someone I wasn’t in order to make my relationship work.
At the time, things were kind of rough between my husband and I. We had only been married for a few years and we were still working out how to cohabitate. Prior to getting married, we dated through a distance relationship. Every other weekend, or at least when we could, we’d alternate taking the 2-hour drive to spend the weekend at the other person’s place.
Type A’s Don’t Like to Share the Sandbox
Once married, we discovered that living under the same roof wasn’t easy. You see, we’re both Type A personalities. We’re both independent, stubborn, sometimes hostile, impatient, and somewhat controlling individuals, with a lot of ambition and drive. When you put two Type A personalities together under one roof, tempers flare and sparks fly from time to time. It’s pretty much inevitable.
My husband and I didn’t know our personality types going into our marriage – and even if we had, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything.
Nonetheless, putting together two Type As is a challenge. But it is one that we have been, and continue to be, committed to sharing. It’s not always easy to figure out how to collaborate and run a household together. We don’t always even remember that we’re on the same team. But we manage to come out of any dispute still grateful that we have each other. Although my feathers always seem to remain singed a little longer than his.
Relationships Aren’t Perfect
My husband and I can look back at our earlier years and laugh at how often we butt heads when we were starting out, but it wasn’t very funny at the time.
Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t perfect now either. It’s still a work in progress. But it’s 100x better than it was because we’re both committed to learning how to do things better. We have a better understanding of why things are difficult sometimes and we have more compassion for one another and the emotional ups and downs that we experience. We’re better at talking things out. We’ve grown up together.
And now, thanks to Dr. Gary Chapman, we’re learning how to fill each other’s “emotional love tanks” so that we both feel fulfilled and loved in our relationship.
About Dr. Gary Chapman
Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of many books about marriage and family (including several other titles within the 5 Love Languages series). He can be seen nationwide speaking to thousands of couples during marriage conferences, as well as heard on two nationally syndicated radio programs, Building Relationships and A Love Language Minute, currently aired on over 200 stations.
A lot of what he shares through his books is based on over 35 years of pastoring and marriage counseling as well as 45 years of marriage to his wife Karolyn.
Dr. Chapman and his wife raised two children, now grown, and currently live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he serves as a senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.
The information he shares in his book is simple yet can have a profound impact on any relationship.
I’m not an affiliated with or associated with Dr. Chapman or his book in any way. Although I have included a link to the book on Amazon using my affiliate link which may give me a small commission if you choose to buy the book after clicking the link. But my opinions are mine alone. I’m merely sharing it with all of you because I think it can provide a shift in perspective that many of us need and for which we have been searching. The “missing piece” so to speak.
We’re Speaking Different Love Languages
According to Dr. Chapman, many of us in relationships (and this includes you if you have friends, parents, spouses, children, siblings or any other humans in your life that you care about), … we try to express our love for one another but we fail because we’re speaking different languages. And we don’t even have a clue we’re doing it.
After 35 years of experience as a marriage counselor, Dr. Chapman has heard it all. In fact, he’s heard it all so often that he noticed a pattern: everyone he counseled has a “love language” or a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. He also noted that people are strangely drawn to those who speak a love different language than them.
We all have a love language and we will typically fit primarily into one of the five key categories that he identified.
They are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Exploring the Five Love Languages
Words of Affirmation
For those with a love language of Words of Affirmation, actions don’t always speak louder than words. In fact, unsolicited compliments often mean the world to them. While being told “I love you” is essential, hearing the reasons behind such a statement can send their spirits soaring. If you speak this language, you enjoy hearing how much something you do is appreciated. You feel loved when someone tells you they’re proud of you. Being told how special you are to someone or what he or she likes about you can be particularly uplifting. On the other hand, snapped remarks, aggressive tones, derogatory comments, and verbal insults can leave the person feeling shattered. For an individual with this love language, harsh words sting, and the pain does not heal quickly. Being the object of verbal teasing or harassing can also damaging. If negativity continues, the harm to the relationship can have a cascading or building effect since the words are not easily forgotten.
For those who crave quality time, nothing quite says “I love you” like someone’s complete, and undivided attention. This type of focused attention is crucial. It doesn’t mean just being in the same room with the person while doing separate things. Quality Time means being genuinely present – cell phone tucked away, TV or laptop off, silverware down, chores or projects on standby, and making quality eye contact. When you can do this for someone with this love language, you make them feel truly special. They feel valued and as if their feelings, and thoughts matter to you. However, distractions during quality time, such as texting, television shows, social media or any other digital component can be extremely irritating and insulting to someone who speaks this language. Failure to listen while he or she is talking, dismissive words or behavior, as well as missed or postponed dates for quality time can be equally painful to this individual.
The love language of Receiving Gifts doesn’t mean materialism. The love, thoughtfulness, and/or the effort behind the gift is of the utmost importance. If you speak this language you love to receive gifts that show you how well someone knows you, that say you’re cared for and serve as a reminder to you that he or she was thinking of you while away. You love to receive gifts that could not have been given without careful consideration and thought. The more unique the gift, the more you feel treasured above whatever sacrifice may have been required to get the gift for you.
For those that speak the language of gifts, the absence of everyday gestures (good manners, a friendly greeting, the holding of a door, etc) as well as missed anniversaries or birthdays, or a hasty and thoughtless gift can have disastrous and detrimental effects.
Acts of Service
The act of service love language includes anything that can be done to minimize the burden of tasks or priorities. An equal share of housework speaks volumes. You may be wondering, can doing the laundry or washing your spouse’s car really be an expression of love? The answer? Absolutely! If you speak this language then your favorite words to hear would sound something like “Let me do that for you” or “I did that for you, because I knew you’d want it.” When someone does something for you, it makes you feel like you’re understood, your preferences and what makes you unique are noticed, and he or she values your happiness. On the other hand, laziness, guilt trips when asked for help, being left to finish chores alone while others play or relax, broken commitments, and causing more work or an unequal balance of work, can be extremely hurtful to someone who speaks this language. All of those types of things tell this type of person that their feelings, their time, and their happiness just don’t matter.
The language of Physical Touch isn’t just about time spent in the bedroom. Not surprisingly, a person with this as their primary language is very touchy. He or she enjoys hugs, public displays of affection, backrubs, foot massages, snuggling, holding hands, and other thoughtful touches throughout the day. If this is your primary love language, kisses are wonderful gestures of love. Touches such as a gentle touch of the arm, or shoulder, or a caress of your face make you feel cared for and treasured. Physical Touch includes being physically present and accessible. Watching television together or sitting in close proximity during a meal or an event, an arm around the waist or shoulder, can all be crucial gestures for an individual who speaks the language of physical touch. Extended work-related travel, being physically nonchalant or distant, an unwillingness to publically caress or hold hands, and especially physical abuse can be especially painful and traumatizing for someone who speaks this language.
Why Do the Five Love Languages Matter?
We all need to feel loved. We all have our own “emotional love tank.”
When it’s full, we feel content, secure, and loved.
When it’s empty, when we feel frustrated, alone, threatened, angry, and utterly unloved.
What makes one person feel loved, may not make another person feel loved. And that’s why these love languages matter.
Here’s an example:
Let’s imagine for a moment that Daniel spent three hours detailing Marie’s car because he genuinely wanted to do something special for her. All she wanted was 10 minutes of his time to talk and share how their days had been. For Marie, it seems as if they never talk anymore. She feels isolated, alone and she’s frustrated.
Dan doesn’t understand why she’s so unhappy. He does so much for her to show how much she means to him. And she doesn’t know why he’s so busy all the time and never seems to make any time for her anymore.
They’re both communicating their love for one another, but they’re speaking different languages. The messages are getting lost in translation.
We All Have a Primary Love Language
According to Dr. Chapman, we all communicate primarily with one of the five love languages. Some of us, once aware of the five categories, may be able to quickly pick out our primary love language. Take my husband for example. Even before reading the book, we accurately had him pegged with Physical Touch as his primary love language and Words of Affirmation as a close second.
Others of us, like myself, may not be able to discern our primary love language without help. And actually, I appear to be some kind of an anomaly because I don’t have a primary. Four out of the five categories came back the same for me. I’m not entirely sure what to do with that new knowledge just yet. For now, at least, I guess that means my husband has options and pretty much anything he does will help fill my tank to some degree.
However, this also means he has to tread more carefully because so many different areas can be triggers of genuinely hurt feelings for me. I think we’ll need to be somewhat creative in finding a solution that fills my “emotional love tank” while not depleting it at the same time. I’m up for the challenge!
The Key is in the Understanding
Once you understand your language and the language of your partner or spouse, the things they do or say start to have a different meaning for you. Even if Acts of Service is not your primary language but it’s one of theirs, you can start to appreciate the things they do for you. Your “emotional love tank” can begin to fill up even if the other person isn’t speaking your language.
When they go out of their way to speak your language, it has that much more impact. It’s moments like these – where we can start to communicate – that can have a life-changing effect.
The book makes all of this easy to understand. As you read it, you’ll start to see your relationship with a whole new perspective. Even past relationships or those of others will be different. Words, physical touches, acts of service, time spent together – all the things that once were lost in translation will start to have real meaning. Even couples that had drifted so far apart that they were ready to call it quits can begin to feel fulfilled, valued, cared for and loved again.
“Speaking the right love language can make all the difference!” – Dr. Gary Chapman
In the Beginning, Everything You Do Says “I Love You”
At the beginning of any relationship, love is exciting and easy. It requires minimal effort to “feel loved” when you’re “in love,” because your partner seems so perfect. It doesn’t matter how you communicate in the early stages because everything you do says “I love you.”
And then, reality begins to set in. You start to see flaws and annoying traits in one another. True love doesn’t look so true anymore. It feels like work and part of us still wants to believe that love is easy or at least that it should be easy because it was before.
“Making sure that the one you love feels loved requires commitment, understanding, and effective communication.” – Dr. Gary Chapman
Uncover the Secrets to Lasting Love
The Five Love Languages is a New York Times bestseller with more than 5 million copies sold.
The book is filled with simple yet profound moments that will make you think, “Aha! I get it!” You’ll be more motivated and more confident than ever that the relationship you’ve always wanted is truly possible. Love really does exist!
“Maintaining healthy relationships is a daily, lifelong pursuit.” – Dr. Gary Chapman
Discover Your Love Language Right Now!
Even without reading the book, you can find out what your primary love language is right now by going to www.5lovelanguages.com and clicking the “quizzes” menu item. Select Love Language to start the quiz.
The quiz can be completed in a matter of minutes and the book, which provides a LOT more information, can be read in about 4 hours (at least according to the length of the audiobook version I have). Through the book, you’ll also learn how to recognize someone else’s love language even if they haven’t taken the quiz. This is incredibly helpful in any situation at home or at work or while out with friends.
The insights you will gain from Dr. Chapman’s book won’t fix a struggling relationship overnight. There is still plenty of work to do. But by learning the other person’s love language as well as your own, can give you the power to improve your relationships for the rest of your life. We only get better at things that we practice.
So if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to get the book or borrow it from your local library or your favorite digital platform like Hoopla. At a minimum, at least take the quiz to learn your primary love language and then have your partner or spouse do the same thing. Let’s all start communicating!
Learning your love language – and that of your spouse, children, friends and other loved ones – could be one of the most important things you ever do for yourself and your relationships.
Featured photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash