Written by renowned marriage and family therapy counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts offers an ideology that teaches 5 fundamental ways to express love in marriage and other significant relationships. The ideology stresses that people express their love for one another in various ways and that to identify them is to open the door to healthy communication. Taught from a Christian perspective and written primarily to help couples improve their marriages, the focus of the book is on loving more effectively, which can apply to any relationship. Chapman has discovered that we each have a primary love language, and often communicate our love to others from the perspective of how we prefer to be shown love. Loving from our own perspective contributes to dysfunction in the relationship because we are ignoring the love language of the spouse, or loved one, which is most likely different from our own. As a result of not loving one another according to the primary love language of each individual, our “love tank” runs empty, and this is what contributes to the discourse in our marriages and other close relationships.
Using a communication model, Chapman has termed the 5 love languages: words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch. Words of affirmation concentrates on using words to affirm the other person, which will in turn increase their self- image and confidence. Receiving gifts is a universal act across all cultures that expresses to a person that they are valued and being thought about. Acts of service requires doing something considerate for a spouse or loved one that requires an investment of time and thought that will lead to that person feeling special. Quality time involves giving one’s spouse or loved one their undivided attention in order to show them how important they are to be with. Physical touch means giving physical attention, such as hugs and kisses, back rubs, massages, outside of sexual activity in order to awaken the love within one’s spouse or loved one. Often, an individual communicates using more than one of these love languages, however, Chapman resolves that there is always one dominate to the others.
According to Chapman, just as with spoken languages, each love language has a variety of dialects, meaning there are specific things that one can do that may speak to a spouse or family member more than another. Chapman believes that learning our spouses or family members love language will change the climate in the house and promote a more loving environment all around. Citing the divorce rates as 40% of first marriages ending in divorce; 65% of second; and 70% of third, Chapman makes a great case for why loving better might save more marriages.
Chapman’s ideology works from the assumption that all marital problems stem from a lack of speaking the effective love language, when in many cases there are more severe problems contributing to the marital breakdown. The model does not consider deeper issues like drug and/or alcohol problems or personality conditions that might prevent the spouse from being consistent with the love language behavior. That one’s love tank needs constant filling by our spouse reflects a more serious problem and Chapman’s ideology negates this core issue. There is a root “why” question that needs to be understood before one can effectively address the “how” question that will move a relationship in the area to be permanently healed in that area. A love deficit is typically indictive of a basic need not being met early in life. In order to change this within an individual needs more cognitive restructuring as to the individual core beliefs need to be addressed or the spouse is likely to run the risk of falling back on their old behavior.
Considering this is written from a Christian angle, my thinking is that Chapman would point out that only a relationship with Christ can truly fill our love tanks. While unconditional love from our spouse communicated in our primary love language will make our marriages more healthy, no one person can make us happier people - only we can accomplish that through our own submission to the joy from a life in Christ. Chapman points out that we spend a lot of time loving for ourselves when we should be loving for others, yet encourages a self-centered approach to giving love in order to get the love that we need.
From a self-help perspective, I think that Chapman does a great job showing the importance of recognizing that we do not all communicate the same in love and that we should be both conscious and considerate of that in our relationships. On the other hand, because family is the the core relationship in our world, I believe that in order to reverse the divorce rate, we need to investigate the deeper human issues that are affecting us individually before we can expect a simple model to revolutionize the way we love and communicate. All in all, it is a great read and a basic step that could help any couple or individual toward developing a healthier relationship.