A few months back I picked up the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. I am in the research/rough draft stage of a writing a “romance” how-to book and as part of that exercise I kept running across the concept of love languages. I thought I should check it out and I’m very glad I did.
First, what the book is not. It is not a romance how-to book, although it does include some good ideas. It is not an exploration of different kinds of love (e.g. the Greeks had eros, philia, agape, storge and thelema) – there are other books on that. And while Dr. Chapman devotes a chapter to the “in love” experience (aka limerance), it is a book about long term emotional love – love that is a choice. The subtitle of the book is “How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”
The author’s position is that, even though being loved is important to everyone, different people express/receive love in different ways – each person has a primary “love language” that fills their “love tank” the best.
He categorizes these languages as:
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
(For summaries of these, you can read: http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/)
Why are these important to recognize? He suggests that, while all of these expressions are positive, relationship problems can occur when we do not speak the language that is important to the other person in our lives. In my life, I know that my Mrs.’ primary love language is “Quality Time.” In that context, I could bring home flowers every night (“Gifts”), but if I am late from work and just flip on the TV when I arrive, I’ve done the opposite of show her love because I am not giving her the time she needs. I’m a “Words of Affirmation” person, and I suspect that is part of the reason I like to compliment others as much as I do. It is in my nature because that is what fills me personally with self-worth.
The implications of the book are many and I’ll be thinking about them for a quite some time.
So, is it a perfect book? No. As an observational book, there are times when it comes across as a tad sexist as examples are given. While Chapman tries to make the book gender neutral, there are times that this comes across as forced, ironically having the reverse effect. Also, there is no discussion of whether or not a person’s love languages changes over time and I suspect that this is/could be the case. Further, the theory as a whole has the potential to be much like a horoscope, with a reader’s interpretation of specific parts and love language associations being more a reflection of what the person is going through at the time than any intrinsic tendency toward a specific love language or predictive character trait. However, I would argue that even this has value. Last but not least, the book, a New York Times best seller is published by the secular book subdivision of Zondervan, one of the largest Christian book publishers. There are a few references to biblical text given in the book – something to note if that is something that might offend you. Warning aside, I firmly believe that this is not a book just for Christian couples.
Overall, a very good read and potentially one of the most life transforming books a couple can read. If you don’t think you’ll ever get to it, I’d suggest at least taking one of the short tests available on the Love Languages site to find out more about your Love Language preference.
I’ve taken a few of these now just to test them (e.g. http://www.afo.net/hftw-lovetest.asp ) and, while some of the lower categories have come out shuffled, my top pick has almost always been the same – “Words of Affirmation.”
If you have read this book and are comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear your comments.
Dr. Chapman has an official Twitter presence at @DrGaryChapman.