The Five Love Languages

“Can a couple make it in marriage if they disagree on everything?” (Chapman 93). Gary was standing outside the church house in his small hometown. The Sunday morning service had just let out and he was relaxing under a chinaberry tree. This was where the young couple found him and provided the perfect opportunity for him to practice his counseling skills.

Dave and Mary could not agree on anything. They had been married for two years—two rocky years. And they seemed to argue about everything. Young Chapman began digging and discovered some underlying issues.

Dave felt Mary was spending too much time at her mom’s house. Mary responded by accusing Dave of only caring about work and hunting. Both felt neglected and wondered if their marriage could continue.

A bestseller

Chapman has counseled many other couples since the impromptu session with Dave and Mary. In the process, he developed his own philosophy which he shares in The Five Love Languages. Since it was originally published in 1995, the book has sold over ten million copies and continues to be featured on the New York Times bestseller list. As marriages crumble across our nation, couples are looking for answers.

So what are the five love languages? According to Chapman, they are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

He dedicates a chapter to each of these “languages” and expounds on the different “dialects” within each language. He uses real-life examples all along the way and his writing style is very easy to read.

Love is a choice

“I met this girl, fell in love, and I can’t get a thing done. I can’t keep my mind on my job. I spend my day dreaming about her” (32). This is what Chapman calls “falling in love.”

This emotional sensation comes with a rush and slowly wanes with time. He claims that the average “in-love experience” lasts two years (32). As a couple comes off the emotional high and reality sets in, there is a crucial point of decision. Will they embrace their marriage commitment and decide to love or will they jump ship and look for the next emotional high?

True love combines emotion with reason. It is the result of choice, not instinct.

“…Love requires effort and discipline. It is the choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person…Love is the attitude that says, ‘I am married to you, and I choose to look out for your interests.’ Then the one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision” (34-35).

Expressing love that is understood

“Te quiero.”

“Ich liebe dich.”

“Te dua.”

“Seni seviyorum.”

“I love you.”

Choosing to express love comes first. Then comes the task of discovering how to communicate that love. Just as I cannot effectively communicate with a German, Turk, or Mexican until I learn his language, neither will I communicate my love for others unless I learn to speak their love languages.

Love can be expressed in many different ways, just as an idea can be communicated in many different languages. That is Chapman’s rationale behind the five love languages.

The goal is to make one’s love understood. And in order for one’s love to be understood, one must speak their spouse’s love language.

The love tank

Going back to the chinaberry tree, Dave and Mary were not feeling loved by each other. Gary discovered that hunting wasn’t Dave’s problem; the main issue was that he wouldn’t help Mary with household chores. Mary’s problem wasn’t that she would visit her mother regularly; she just wasn’t doing so well at keeping the house clean and serving supper on time.

What filled both of their love tanks were acts of service. And both were not doing so well at serving each other. Through a series of questions, Chapman helped them discover simple tasks that would fill the other’s “love tank.”

After having them write these tasks on index cards, he concluded the session with a reminder. Love is a choice. You do not have to do these things for each other. But if you love each other, these are ways you can show that love.

When one speaks their spouse’s love language and when their spouse feels loved, the love tank begins to fill. When the love tank is full, love is reciprocated. And when love is reciprocated, it becomes so much easier to keep loving each other.

Critique

As I read through the book, I was disappointed at the lack of scriptural reference. While Gary Chapman’s theories make sense, I hoped for more overt biblical content to support his theories.

At times his ideas may come across as “solve-it-all” formulas. The stories he shares sound wonderful and his theories seem great. However, he seemed to leave out a very important piece—the spiritual side of love. He never shares the purpose of marriage love, which is to reflect Christ and His love for the church. And he gives very little attention to the true source of strength to show love and receive love—a relationship with Christ, the true Lover.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the last chapter, “A Personal Word.” This short conclusion shares how Chapman came into a relationship with Christ. He reflects on his personal journey to faith and shares that he has found the inner strength to love through Christ. The verdict is, make sure you read all the way to the end!

Be Rooted

My fiancée Marci and I read this book together early in our courtship. It was eye-opening and exciting for both of us to identify our love languages. This book really gave our relationship a head start in understanding how we communicate love and feel loved.

I definitely recommend The Five Love Languages to anyone who is dating, married, or considering marriage, but with a caution. Any marriage must, first and foremost, be rooted in the Author of marriage, the Lover of lovers. Only then will Chapman’s experienced advice promote a healthy relationship.

Ian Ian Miller lives in Brooklyn, NY and volunteers full-time with a non-profit organization. He is earning his BA in English through College Plus, which he hopes to use to teach ESL, both at home and abroad. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.

Sources Used

Chapman, Gary D. The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield, 2015. Print.

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