The Five Love Languages | The secret to love that lasts
The five love languages or learning how to make your spouse feel loved helps keep love strong and fix it when it’s challenged. It’s like learning a new language to connect with your partner, and there are five main ways to do it: saying nice things, spending time together, giving gifts, doing things for each other, and physical affection. These are the ways author Gary Chapman talks about.
By Gary Chapman, 1995, 188 pages.
The book “The Languages of Love” has been a popular bestseller on the New York Times list since 2009. It was also released again in 2015 with the title “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Lasting Love.”
Chronicle and summary of “The languages of Love”
Out of all the books about relationships I’ve read, this one stood out the most to me. Gary Chapman is both a marriage counselor and a pastor, so his writing is influenced by his beliefs and religious convictions. However, this doesn’t change the valuable information he shares about love languages, which are relevant to everyone, whether you’re religious or not.
Part one: The Need for Love
Chapter 1. What Happens to Love after Marriage?
Here’s the main idea:
- We all want lasting love, but many marriages face difficulties.
- Magazines often discuss how to make love last
But there’s something they overlook: people have different ways of feeling loved, like speaking different languages. Just as we need to learn a foreign language to communicate effectively with people from other cultures, we must also learn our partner’s “love language” for lasting love. There are five basic love languages, influenced by our upbringing and how our loved ones showed affection. Those who didn’t feel loved growing up may have learned a love language but might not be fluent in it. In marriages, spouses often have different love languages, causing miscommunication. To keep love strong, we must express love in our spouse’s love language. This concept applies to all kinds of relationships, not just marriages.
Chapter 2. Feeling Loved!
This chapter in love languages talks about our needs, especially the need for love. Psychologists and thinkers have always recognized that love is essential to us. But there are different kinds of love, so which one is really important for our emotional well-being?
For children, the most crucial need is to feel loved and wanted. Imagine there’s an emotional tank inside every child waiting to be filled. They want to belong to someone and feel wanted, just like adults do when they fall in love.
However, we don’t entirely agree with Gary Chapman, who calls this “love.” We see it more as a need for bonding, especially in troubled children who need to rebuild their connection with caring adults. Bonding means having positive emotional exchanges, especially between a mother and her child, in a respectful way.
If bonding is missing, and there’s abuse or neglect, the child can be in danger and become distressed, which can lead to violence in adolescence and adulthood. So, while the author talks about filling the “love tank,” we believe it’s about restoring the missing bonding from early childhood, something important from birth to old age.
After the initial excitement of falling in love, that “love obsession” fades, but the need for love remains throughout our lives. Feeling loved is crucial in marriage, and material things can’t replace it. Marriage satisfies our need for intimacy and love.
On the other hand, when couples argue or behave badly, it often means that their love tanks are empty. So, keeping that emotional tank full is just as vital for a marriage as having enough oil in a car’s engine. Understanding this can save many marriages.
One important thing to remember is that a person’s behavior can change a lot when their love tank is full.
Chapter 3. Love at First Sight
When I first fall in love, I see my partner as the most amazing person in the world. Love at first sight is incredibly exciting, and both people feel a kind of romantic happiness. The person in love believes their partner is perfect.
Before getting married, we often dream about a perfect, happy marriage, thinking that we’ll always make each other happy, and we won’t have the same problems as other couples. We believe nothing could come between us.
However, the intense feeling of love at first sight usually lasts only about two years. Eventually, we start to notice some annoying things about each other. We realize our spouse can sometimes hurt us or make us angry. In real married life, there are always little inconveniences, like finding hair in the sink or spots on the mirror. We might even argue about something as simple as whether the toilet seat should be up or down.
The mistake is thinking that this romantic love will last forever. When we’re in the middle of this romantic obsession, it feels like all our selfishness has disappeared. But in reality, none of us is entirely selfless. The romantic feeling just tricks us into believing we are. Once that initial feeling fades, we’re left with two individuals with their own desires, emotions, and thoughts.
At this point, couples can either break up, or they can choose to love each other without needing that constant euphoric feeling of being “in love.”
The difference between the two is about being committed to both myself and my partner. Love obsession isn’t really about love for a few reasons: first, it’s not a conscious choice; second, it doesn’t require any effort; and finally, the person in love isn’t really concerned with the personal growth of their partner.
Being “in love” can make us feel like we’ve reached the highest level of happiness. But it’s important to recognize that love at first sight is more about intense, temporary emotions. To find real love with our spouse, we need a love that combines both reason and emotion. It’s a choice we make, and it takes effort and discipline. True love involves voluntarily looking out for our partner’s best interests.
The good news is that love is a choice. When we say, “I’m married to you,” it means we decide to care for each other. It’s not a dull version of love compared to love at first sight; it’s a deeper, more transcendent kind of love. It opens our eyes to a new way of seeing the world, and it helps us thrive.
It’s worth noting that Gary Chapman talks about love at first sight too quickly because he doesn’t differentiate it from what Francesco Alberoni describes as a budding romance, a phase when people fall in love gradually. Love at first sight is often characterized by intense hormones and euphoria, like what we see in Hollywood romantic comedies. It can happen when someone is emotionally dependent and incapable of genuine love, according to Alberoni. This can lead to drama and relationship problems in the future.
On the other hand, a budding romance also involves hormonal excitement but allows the person to maintain their independence. This experience can only be felt by someone capable of real love, someone free from emotional dependence. It’s a quieter, simpler, and easier kind of love, with no drama or confusion.
Second part: The Love Languages
Chapter 4. Words of Affirmation
Telling your spouse encouraging words is a way to show how much you appreciate them. These words are like little acts of kindness that can have a big impact. They’re simple and straightforward.
It’s important to note that words of affirmation aren’t about making value judgments. Instead of saying, “You have beautiful eyes,” it can be more impactful to say, “I like your eyes.” However, when it comes to men, there are no restrictions; you can say things like, “You’re handsome” or “What a man!” These words are signs of recognition, and men tend to appreciate them. But remember, words of affirmation should come from the heart and not be used to manipulate or flatter someone for personal gain.
These words can also be supportive of your spouse’s goals and projects. By expressing your trust, consideration, and belief in what they’re doing, you convey the message that you’re on their side and willing to help.
The way you deliver these words matters just as much as what you say. Use a kind and sympathetic tone. The tone can change the effect of the words. You can also say them publicly, and you have the freedom to be creative, like writing a love letter.
To put this into practice, start by making a list of things you appreciate about your spouse in a specific way. Say these things to them and try to stop criticizing or blaming. Love doesn’t keep a list of wrongs. If you or your spouse make mistakes, take responsibility and acknowledge them. Forgiveness is crucial for restoring intimacy, and it’s not just a feeling; it’s a firm decision.
If you’re not used to this language of affirmation, you can start by keeping a notebook of kind words and phrases you come across. Recall the ones that resonated with your spouse at the beginning of your relationship. Over time, you’ll build a collection of words you can use with your spouse. Try sharing one each day. Practice will help you become fluent in this language of love.
Chapter 5. Quality Time
Quality time in a relationship means giving your full attention to your partner. It’s about happily doing activities they enjoy and being together, not just physically close. What matters is why you’re doing these things.
For example, if a husband and wife play tennis together, it’s not just about the game but the chance to strengthen their bond. Quality time requires a decision and discipline to prioritize and organize these moments, but it’s worth it.
You can create a list of activities your partner would like to do with you and then make an effort to do them. What’s crucial is that you spend intense, meaningful moments together. Here’s how to make these moments quality time:
- Maintain eye contact.
- Don’t do anything else.
- Listen to their feelings.
- Pay attention to body language.
- Avoid interrupting.
At the same time, it’s about opening up and sharing your feelings with your partner. In essence, sharing an activity together means one person wants to do it, the other agrees to join in, and both understand that it’s a way to express their love for each other. These shared experiences create lasting memories for the relationship.
Chapter 6. Gifts
A gift carries a message: “They thought of me.” You don’t have to wait for a special occasion. The value of the gift isn’t as important as the love it conveys.
Gifts come in various forms: spontaneous gifts (like a flower picked along the way), expensive gifts, or a heartfelt handwritten card with an “I love you.”
Just like other ways of expressing love, you can learn this language too. Start by making a list of gifts your husband received and appreciated. Creating a routine, like giving a gift to your wife every week, can also be a thoughtful way to express love.
Chapter 7. Acts of Service
Acts of service mean doing things that would make your husband happy, like helping with chores around the house or in the yard. In the early stages of a relationship, people often naturally do favors for each other, but it’s important to maintain that willingness to help.
What comes naturally before a lifelong commitment may need a conscious decision later on. This decision is voluntary, and it means you should ask for help instead of criticizing. You also need to realize that what seems obvious to you might not be so to your spouse.
Even if your husband criticizes, it can actually be his way of expressing love, although it’s not the most efficient way to do it.
Acts of service shouldn’t be done out of obligation. You can do favors for someone for years without it being a sign of love, and it might even lead to resentment if you expect recognition or something in return.
It’s important to go beyond societal stereotypes about the roles of husbands and wives. What truly matters is doing what’s meaningful for the other person. For example, Gary Chapman, who once swore he’d never touch a vacuum, now insists on doing the vacuuming himself because it makes his wife feel loved.
Chapter 8. Physical Touch
Holding hands, kissing, hugging, and being intimate are ways to show your partner that you love them. The quality of the touch matters because it can feel either affectionate or hostile. Your spouse will guide you to know what kind of touch they find most satisfying, whether it’s giving a massage, randomly showing affection, snuggling, rubbing their neck, or giving a goodbye kiss.
What’s considered the right or wrong touch depends on what makes both partners comfortable and happy. If you know your partner values physical affection, you can take the initiative by cuddling with them or showing affection in ways they appreciate. People who are receptive to this love language enjoy when their spouse approaches them with hugs, hand-holding, kisses, or intimate moments.
Part Three: Love in Action
Chapter 9. Discover your Love Language
Gentlemen, it’s essential not to mistake physical touch for your love language just because you desire sexual intimacy. Sexual desire is different from the emotional need for love.
To figure out your love language, consider these questions:
- What’s your primary love language?
- What makes you feel most loved by your spouse?
- What do you desire most from your partner?
- What hurts you deeply when your spouse does or says it? It’s likely related to your love language. For instance, is it when your partner doesn’t help with chores or criticizes you?
- What do you often ask your spouse for?
- How do you show your love to your spouse? Chances are, you express love in the same way you want to receive it.
In a practical sense, make a list of your love languages in order of importance for both yourself and your spouse. Then, compare your answers.
To keep your spouse’s “love tank” full, check in three times a week and ask, “What can I do to make you feel loved?” This helps ensure both of your emotional needs are met.
Chapter 10. Love is a Decision
How can both spouses communicate in each other’s love language when they still harbor bitterness from past mistakes? They can start by recognizing their own faults and deciding, “I want to love you in a way you understand.” This creates a positive atmosphere that helps address past conflicts.
While the initial spark of love at first sight can temporarily satisfy emotional needs, it’s crucial for a spouse to continue speaking their partner’s love language to keep those needs fulfilled. If not, the emotional connection can weaken over time, and one may not feel loved anymore.
Fulfilling your spouse’s love needs is a choice you make freely. Gary Chapman believes in making this choice every day, but it’s important to note that not everyone agrees with this perspective. Some believe that each person is responsible for their own happiness and emotions in a relationship.
Certainly, expressing love in a way that doesn’t come naturally can be challenging, like doing chores that were unpleasant during childhood. However, love can motivate us to choose to act differently. We often do things against our nature in daily life, and we can do the same with expressing love. It’s not about seeking intense emotions or excitement but deciding to do it for the well-being of the other person. Love is ultimately a choice, one that each spouse can make today.
Chapter 11. Love Makes a Big Difference
When someone loves me, it means I have value and a purpose in their eyes. This love also has a positive effect on my other important needs like feeling secure, recognizing my self-worth, and getting acknowledgment. It allows me to grow and reach my potential.
Love creates a sense of security that helps us find solutions to our problems. In a relationship, love can be renewed by learning to communicate in your spouse’s love language and making a commitment to do so.
Chapter 12. Loving the One Who is Unlovable
Can you still love a spouse who has become like an enemy? According to Gary Chapman, love is always fixable. He quotes the Bible saying, “Give, and you shall receive,” and explains that if you learn your husband’s love language and consistently speak it to fill his “love tank,” he will eventually do the same for you.
Sometimes, especially in the beginning, loving someone can be more of a choice than a feeling. It might mean reaching out to touch them or saying a word of appreciation, even if you don’t feel it strongly at that moment. That’s why it’s important to have a plan to express love: first, identify your partner’s love language (which can be a task in itself), then make a list, create an action plan, and stick to it.
Chapter 13. Children and Love Languages
Filling a child’s “love tank” is just as important. Children’s emotional needs influence how they behave. You can tell their love language by observing what they do for others and what they ask for.
Interestingly, children can also speak in their parents’ love language. Gary Chapman discusses this in his book “The Love Languages of Children” (although our focus here is not on children but on exploring this book further).
Chapter 14. A Personal Word
Gary Chapman has a dream: he wants the simple ideas he’s shared to help as many people as possible. He believes these concepts can make a positive difference in marriages and families across the country.
His book isn’t meant to collect dust on library shelves. Instead, he hopes it will ignite love in your marriage and in the marriages of many other couples like yours. He encourages us to share this book with people we’re close to.
In the spirit of the book and this blog, which encourage you to take action, this guide is here to help you put the love languages into practice.
As Chris Guillebeau wisely said, “The gap between ignorance and knowledge is much less than the gap between knowledge and action.”
For instance, let’s take a look back at your childhood. Did you feel loved enough by your parents? How did they mainly show their love? Now, consider how these experiences have influenced the way you express love to your spouse.
Make a list of both the strengths and weaknesses in how your parents loved and appreciated you. Do you see any similarities between their approach and how you show affection to your spouse?
“The 5 Love Languages” conclusion
Gary Chapman’s approach is fantastic. He uses simple language, common sense, and plenty of examples to show how everything can change in a relationship when we consider each other’s emotional needs.
In the end, some people may not need to read the book; they just need to know that these five love languages exist to identify their own and their partner’s, and then take action. Gary speaks pragmatically, drawing from his personal experiences as a husband and marriage counselor.
Coaches will find his book doubly beneficial: they’ll learn about love languages and get insights into how he helps couples. His coaching framework often involves listening, asking questions, creating a plan, facilitating action (often by making lists), and checking progress after an agreed-upon time.
However, there are moments of frustration when reading because he discusses certain topics without acknowledging that other specialists have delved deeper. Sometimes, common sense isn’t enough!
There’s also a bias in the book: marriage is presented as an unquestionable truth, and the couple is seen as inseparable. Gary Chapman is clear about his Christian faith, and references to the Bible may bother some readers. Despite this bias, it’s impressive that the book has been so successful.
His restorative practices may have limitations, as he believes that any relationship can be repaired, sometimes even beyond repair. In essence, he believes in miracles!
One drawback is that he only focuses on the need for love. While love is crucial, it’s neither the only factor nor a guarantee of a successful relationship. Relationships also involve energy, bonding, and recognition.
Gary Chapman doesn’t explicitly state that we’re responsible for our own emotional needs. However, when we show recognition and appreciation to others, they are likely to reciprocate, unless they are inherently disrespectful. It’s important not to do this with the expectation of receiving something in return, as that would be a form of manipulation.
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