I just finished reading Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate and since it’s been listed under my “currently reading” I wanted to provide a quick summary on it.
Conceptually I think the book is very useful for navigating our personal relationships. Chapman draws heavily on the concept of filling your partners “love tank,” similar to the Stephen Covey writings on “emotional bank accounts.” Obviously to be fulfilled in relationships, we need to ensure we are filling each others emotional love banks, since we cannot run on empty, and if we continue even at half full, we miss out on the full joy that our relationships can offer.
The problem, as Chapman writes, is that we all speak different love languages. In other words, we all experience “love” in different ways. Different things make us feel loved. The book describes five primary languages: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. You must know which of these is the primary love language of your partner in order to make them feel truly loved. We all tend to give that which we prefer to receive, so if ‘physical touch’ is your primary love language, you likely provide that most often to your partner. If however, your partners primary love language is ‘acts of service’ then all your hugs and kisses will only go so far, when what your partner wants may be for you to help with the dishes and the laundry.
Knowing this pattern can help you easily identify your partners primary language… look for one of two things: 1) what do they do most often for you (touch, give gifts, etc.) or 2) what do they most complain about you not doing (you never spend any time with me, etc.). These two questions hold the answer to your partners own primary language.
It should be pretty obvious from a cursory glance which love language is yours (and probably your partners), but for those who need more help, there is a brief quiz in the back of the book to help identify your primary language.
From that standpoint, it’s a great read. However, it could have been summarized in a ~6 page paper, as I felt the book was full of unnecessary words. Knowing Chapman was a pastor, I was prepared for the scripture-based approach, but not for the over-use of archaic 1950’s-style relationship examples. Almost every couple example he used revolved around a man being upset about his stay-at-home wife not having dinner ready/kids clean/laundry done, etc. when he gets home from his job. Some up-to-date, 21st century examples would have made the book feel far more relatable.
Chapman has about 6 more books revolving around this love language theme and all I can think is, surely they all would have fit nicely into the size of this one book. I did appreciate his chapter on children’s love languages and think this a concept many parents today could use… identifying your child’s primary love language to ensure they feel loved by you. If more parents took the time to understand this and to fill their children’s love tanks consistently, we would likely see fewer guns in schools.
Overall – great concept, definitely worth sharing and discussing in your relationships. Love is a verb… it’s not a feeling, but rather something that you do. Knowing is not enough. You must be willing to do the things that make your partner feel loved on a consistent basis. It is, at least, a great discussion starter for you and your partner, and a great step towards enhancing your relationship.