The Five Love Languages – a Brief Book Review

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.

Short Book Review of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

(Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure reading this won’t spoil the ending or even content in the book for you, in case you haven’t read it, but it may impact your approach to reading it.)

While on vacation last month I heard an awesome review of the book Eat, Pray, Love, which prompted me to go out and pick up a copy as soon as I got back. I was hooked from the first couple of pages and began to tell other people about it. I found Liz Gilbert’s writing style to be laugh-out-loud funny at times, and painfully raw and gut-wrenching at others, but all in a good way. Sometimes I felt like I was there with her.

I really appreciated how she put her emotions out there and sort of raked them over the coals, no matter how personal they were. I’m actually in awe of that, because it’s never been something I was comfortable sharing, even with close friends. But obviously we all “feel” and we all can relate to others feelings, whatever they are in any particular moment.

Like Liz, I am very open-minded spiritually (as you might have guessed from my blog subtitle) and love hearing about different perspectives and practices, as long as they are not being forced on me or I don’t feel someone is trying to “convert” me. There are many ways for us to express our spirituality and work on “seeing” with our hearts, but it would be tough to maintain any balance in our lives if we spent even one minute criticizing someone else’s beliefs or practices.

So I fully embraced her openness to considering and trying out new things and her earnest approach to seeking and building a relationship to her “God” who is in her, who IS her on a fundamental level. The details of her journey, combined with some sound advice from the lay people who also became her friends at the Ashram, made for an excellent story and I took a lot away from it.

It’s also great to know, as a friend pointed out, that we can (and should) all make our own similar journeys without leaving our families/jobs/countries and going to live in an Ashram in India. We make the journey for and within ourselves, and have all the resources around us that we need to do so.

All that said, I really could have done without the section on her final stop, Indonesia. From the beginning of that section it felt random and forced, for the sake of the book and completing the assignment, and less for the value it added. That last section felt like it took an otherwise unique, interesting and heartfelt story of a spiritual journey and personal path toward healing, and forced it into a format that would best complete a novel.

Still, it was her journey and her book and I feel happy for having read it. I will still recommend it to friends but with the caveat that the first two sections are the meat of the book and if you run out of time, don’t worry about what happens in Indonesia.