The Five Love Languages "The founder of Christian faith wanted love to be the distinguishing characteristic of His followers." (The Five Love Languages, 19)
by Gary Chapman
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Synopsis: Gary Chapman, a well-respected marriage councilor looks at love and marriage and addresses the problems that couples frequently face as soon as the honeymoon is over. He identifies Five Love Languages and their role in an individual’s ability to believe that he or she is loved. The five languages are:
Words of affirmation
Acts of Service
While Chapman declares these to be the five primary love languages, he does acknowledge that there are several dialects within each. He discusses ways to show your partner love in a language he or she will recognize, and argues that a lot of marriages may be failing, not due to the fact that love isn’t being shown, but due to the fact that love is not being shown in a way that your partner understands. For each language he identifies several dialects and gives ideas and techniques on how to show love to your partner in that language (learning how to “speak” your partner’s love language). He also discusses way to discover both your partner’s primary love language, as well as your own.
Review: You have to appreciate Chapman’s ability to keep it short, sweet, and to the point. With all the self-help and marriage counseling books out there, is it nice to find one that you can get through quickly, while still receiving excellent advise on how to improve, or even save your marriage.
As someone who is not married yet, and has enough trouble just with dating, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about love and courtship. Chapman states that “falling in love is not real love because it is effortless.” During the falling in love stage we frequently become obsessed with the other person to the point where anything we are asked to do for that person becomes effortless. Chapman notes that falling in love is more of an instinct that often drives us to do what he calls, outlandish and unnatural things for each other. At some point we come down off the emotional high, and return to the real world. At this point love becomes a choice that is concerned with the emotional well-being of our mate.
While Chapman’s theories on the five love languages ring very true, I still have some reservations about what he says. For example, he notes that one partner may have Words of Affirmation as their primary language, and that a frustrated spouse who constantly criticizes may in fact be doing a great deal of damage since the person is being directly attacked on the front that matters to them the most. This bothers me a bit. According to Chapman, not everyone will have Words of Affirmation be their primary love language. But Psychology today recognizes that one of the major forms of abuse is verbal abuse. I don’t think Words of Affirmation needs to be someone’s primary love language in order for them to be severely damaged by negative words from their partner. Chapman argues that if both partners have a full love tank they will be kinder to each other, but I would be very much interested in hearing more from him about integrating all the love languages into a relationship. One might be more important that others, but I don’t think anyone likes to be torn down verbally, even if it’s the least of their love languages. I was just very concerned about the concept that a person might give a mate who’s primary language is Physical Touch lots of love and affirmation in that area, but might still be nagging or abusive on other areas. Champan touches on this a bit, but I would have appreciated another chapter on how to interact with your spouse in all areas after having found their love language.
Still, overall, this is a very good book that I’ve already recommended to several people. The subject of happy marriages can be a bit touchy in a society with so much divorce and anger. It’s perhaps a sad testemant to all that is going on that as I read this book, I feel both optimiztic and enlightened, and worried that this might just be another fad that can’t really save the marriages around me. Still, concerning the primary idea of finding out how to express your love to your partner and making that effort to let them know that they are loved, I do believe that is an important step in itself towards building happier marriages and closer families.