The 5 Love Languages: Hype or Hope?
~ the secret to love that lasts ~
The 5 Love Languages claims to reveal "the secret to love that lasts". That's a pretty bold statement - does it deliver? Let's review the book and find out for ourselves.
Why Yet Another Relationship Book?
In "The 5 Love Languages" the author Dr Gary Chapman asks:
"How is it that we read on-line '101 Ways to Express Love to Your Spouse', select two or three that seem especially helpful, try them, and our spouse doesn't even acknowledge the effort?"
He answers this question in the first few chapters, and goes on to offer practical solutions.
The premise of the five languages of love book:
- The euphoric "in-love" experience of romantic obsession lasts an average of two years. As it wears off, many relationships collapse under the onslaught of crushed expectations, wounding words, and sullen resentment.
- Traditionally, couples at this stage either split-up, or continue in unfulfilled misery. (Nothing new so far, this is widely recognized to be true.)
- A third option, supported by modern research, is to choose to love each other.
- We all have different emotional love languages, ways we express and feel love. Rarely do husband and wife speak the same language.
- We only truly know our partner's love for us when he expresses it in our primary love language. If your man understands only Greek, there's little point in your telling him in French how much you love him. Repeat it as often and loudly as you want, and he still won't get it.
- So the secret is to learn to speak your man's primary love language.
Disclaimer: I don't do paid book reviews. For the 10 cents I receive if you buy through my Amazon links I can afford to give you my honest opinion.
An example. You always feel loved when your man performs small services for you, such as filling the car with gas. You naturally assume he's the same. So you show your love by welcoming him back from work to a beautifully ordered house.
However, he happens to speak a different love language. His real need is emotional rather than domestic support. So while he will certainly appreciate the tidy yard, he may not remotely recognize it as an expression of your love. At best, he might acknowledge it intellectually, but is still unable to feel it on a deep emotional level.
He feels unloved and lonely because you're not speaking his language, and gradually grows cold. You feel frustrated and unappreciated, and eventually give up on him. And all because you were cleaning the house instead of listening to his dreams!
The theory is we tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when others don't understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language
Keeping The Love Tank Full
A basic human need, of everyone throughout the world, is to feel loved. To be known, and cherished for who we really are, faults and all. Many people in long-term relationships have only a fleeting impression of this precious state. Sadly, the last time some of us felt secure in this way was as young children.
With a full emotional love-tank, your guy will flourish and reach his full potential; as a man and as your partner. Learning to speak his love language will go a long way towards filling his love-tank.
We must be willing to learn our spouse's primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love
The 5 Love Languages
The author describes five languages. Of course, since humans are complicated beasts, each love language has a number of "dialects".
Here's a quick overview of the languages, and some of the dialects:
1. Words of Affirmation
"You were the sexiest guy at the party"
"I know you're worried about starting evening classes. You shouldn't be. You'll kill it, and I'm right behind you."
"That really hurt me, but I'm glad you apologized. Let's put it behind us." rather than "You're such a bastard. My mother was right! I'm never going to forgive you!"
"Could you wear my favourite summer dress one night this holiday?" rather than "You're not really wearing that tonight are you?"
2. Quality Time
The key is that the focus and attention are on your partner. Watching a movie together doesn't count; discussing it afterwards does.
This includes empathic listening, but also opening up and divulging your own deeper beliefs and feelings.
"She's not a fan of the Arctic Monkeys but she willingly came with me to the concert because she loves me."
3. Receiving Gifts
These are reminders of love. If this is your husband's love language, then the cost of the gifts will be nothing compared to the amount of good-will and affection you will receive in return.
The gift of self
Being there, physically present, when he needs you.
4. Acts of Service
Helping out, doing things for him. Confusingly, some acts will barely count, and some will fill his love tank in an instant. You might spend five hours cleaning out the garage and he'll hardly acknowledge your work. Yet spend five minutes on the phone renewing his car insurance and you'll have one happy dude!
5. Physical Touch
Certainly not limited to erotic touch, this might range from resting your hand on his shoulder as you pour coffee, to a protective squeeze in a time of crisis. Again, not all touches are equal; he gets to decide what works and what doesn't.
How Do You Find Your/His Love Language?
Simply reading the chapters and the stories might well reveal your love languages. For me though, my only insight was that gift-receiving was in last place (my wife's credit card celebrated!).
If you're not clear, then there are some exercises and tests you can try:
- What does he do or say (or not do or say) that hurts you most?
- What do you try, or wish, to change about him?
- How are you expressing love. It may be the same way you yearn to receive it.
- If you could only chose to receive "language 1" or "language 2", which would it be? For example, he could only hold your hand in public, or fold the laundry.
There are other suggestions and stories in the last few chapters, an FAQ, and finally a quiz The 5 Love Languages® Profile for Couples.
At the end of each chapter are tips and action-plans. These are simple yet powerful. If you actually follow through on them, your relationship can't fail to improve.
In the interests of fairness to Dr Chapman I'm not going to discuss these further: discover the secrets for yourself.
Style and Audience
This book is very easy to read. You will feel like a wise friend is passing on his hard-earned wisdom. The book is stuffed with stories of struggling couples. I'm afraid I recognized myself a few times - I'm sure you will too.
A couple at any stage of their relationship will find it useful (unless they're dealing with a crisis such as infidelity). If you're just starting out, it may help you avoid mistakes. (Although if you're like my younger self you doubtless think you're different. I still remember sitting in a restaurant, animatedly talking to my perfect future wife, and thinking "Look at those two by the window. They've obviously had a fight and she's silently seething. That won't happen to us." Oh boy!). But it will really resonate with those who have just realised that marriages, after the honeymoon, are HARD.
How I Used It?
My wife and I read this book on holiday together, a chapter a day. Literally together; laying side-by-side, taking turns to hold it up, and discussing it as we went. The whole experience was bonding, and one of the highlights of the holiday. But there were a few confronting moments. To discover that certain gestures of love we had been making for years were neither noticed nor appreciated by the other was hard!
Subsequently, I needed a couple of months of reflection and refining, aided by the exercises in the book, before I began to understand what I really "needed" from my wife. And of course, if I didn't know myself, what chance had she of understanding my needs? My first thought (sex!), changed a few times until I settled with some confidence on my true primary love language (quality time).
Eventually, I wrote it all down in a booklet for my wife; My Guide To Loving Me. This sounds terribly unromantic, but that's exactly the point - romance isn't enough.
I was confused where sex fits into the language of physical touch. After multiple re-readings, I have a suspicion the author is not clear in his own mind on this.
Most men will put sex ahead of food, comfort and praise. Good sex isn't by itself enough for a fulfilling marriage, but it sure is an essential part. If you don't have a deep sexual connection, then you are not lovers and life-partners, you're friends. (And I say this even though my primary love language is definitely not physical touch.)
My advice is to exclude sex when considering physical touch as a love language. Regard love-making as something necessary in addition to speaking his primary love language. And of course, the more you learn each other's love language, the fuller your love-tanks will be, and the better will be the sex.
There is emphasis on isolating just one love language. I feel all expressions of love have value, and the other languages should not be totally neglected.
I could nit-pick about some of the dialects. "Kind Words" and "Humble Words", it seems to me, are just basic emotional intelligence and communication skills. Necessary for a good marriage, but not separate love languages.
The author is a pastor whose Christian beliefs are evident in the last chapter. If you don't share them, please don't let this detract from the value in the remainder of the book.
Finally, I should point out that the academic community has shown little interest in testing Chapman's ideas. There's no real evidence for or against (citation).
The Secret (to Love That Lasts)?
Does it deserve the subtitle? Well, I certainly think it's one of the secrets. My marriage improved after following some of the suggestions. And millions of people agree with me. The book is a #1 New York Times bestseller, #1 Amazon bestseller, and has 10,000 5-star Amazon reviews! If you only ever read one relationship book together, The 5 Love Languages should be a strong contender.
Do yourself a favour and buy it now:
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