The Five Love Languages, The Secret To Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman
Worth The Read
I read The Five Love Languages a few years ago. I did not know what to expect from the book but it came highly recommended so I gave it a try. I was so happy to find that it resonated with me so well, and that I could so easily see which language categories my husband and I fit into.
While the book can be a bit simplistic feeling in parts, making you wonder why you need a book to know that effective communication is incredibly important, if you dig in a bit further you can begin to see how it is framed differently. It really focuses on how each individual has a “love tank” that is full or empty.
The Basic Premise
A love language is described as the way in which love is communicated and received. An interesting notion in the book is that most times, husbands and wives speak entirely different love languages. It is certainly the case in my household. While I crave quality time (undivided attention) and appreciate small gifts as a sign that I’m thought of and appreciated, my husband doesn’t need much of either of those to feel loved. Rather, he prefers when I am affectionate, walking by and rubbing his arm or back as I pass for example. And as a secondary language, he likes affirming words (one I struggle with because words of affirmation make me uncomfortable, I’m much better at showing my love and appreciation rather than verbalizing it).
Have you ever worked so hard to make sure the house is clean or great meals are prepared or you picked up a funny little gift or snack at the store and your spouse hardly seems to notice? You get resentful because you’re expressing love to them and it seems like it isn’t worth it? You work so hard, the dinner is on the table or the funny little book you saw is met with a tepid response. Could it be that all of this, while appreciated, is not getting through? He still seems distant and isn’t feeling loved because to him, you’re speaking a foreign language. He speaks X love language and you speak Y and you’re speaking to him in Y and wondering why he isn’t feeling the love you’re expressing. Perhaps what he or she needs is to hear that you appreciate how hard they work and you make it a point to thank them for it or recognize how good they are at their job. Or perhaps they need you to stop the chores and just sit with them and make eye contact and ask about their day. It seems so simple when taken apart.
In the same way, a spouse could shower you with “I love you” a thousand times a day, remark how beautiful you look with your hair down, comment how proud he or she is to be out with you. But other than being “nice” to hear, in general you aren’t feeling loved because of it, rather, you’re lonely and frustrated because his or her job always seems to come first and even when out on a date, they’re checking their phone or discussing their work constantly. And when you say you just want to feel loved, they remark that they tell you 100 times a day that they love and appreciate you.
Why Read It?
The dynamics I describe above are what I felt this book spoke to. We are not wrong for expressing love in certain ways. It is not to say that these ways of showing someone you care should be ignored or unappreciated. But just like you can do an efficiency study to determine if precious time and resources are spent on the right tasks to turn a profit, you can decide to focus your efforts in expressing love to your partner in a way that makes the most sense (to them). And you will likely see a whole lot more return on that investment of time or effort than you ever saw before.
If I could start over reading this book, I would have read it with my husband Matt. I think it would have been very interesting to read each (short) chapter at the same general time or in the same week even, and then taken as little as 10 or 15 minutes to discuss it. A weekend trip away together would be a perfect opportunity to do so, even via audio book on the drive.
We did take the love languages assessment together, but we did so at a time when he had not yet read the book, so I wonder if some of the impact could get a bit lost. I also know of people who do the assessment without reading the book. In my opinion, there is some real wisdom and insight to be gained in reading what each language truly means. It is easy to think that someone who enjoys gifts is materialistic, or someone who wants affirming words is insecure. But reading and understanding what is behind each language and being able to see how you “speak” to your spouse (but he may not “hear” your expressions of love as that at all) is so eye-opening.
My Review and Recommendation
Some do not like the book’s religious undertones, which I respect. If it is not a topic you’re comfortable with, the references to God as a presence in marriage or the Bible as a reference can be off-putting. For me this enhanced the book rather than detracted from it, but in my opinion, the thought-provoking content stood on its own, regardless of your religious leanings.
Overall, I have not personally met anyone who has read The Five Love Languages and did not take away some insight that improved their relationships. This extends beyond being applicable to your spouse. There is now a love languages book for your children, (I will review this soon). I also find that I can sometimes identify the language of those closest to me and keep it in mind as I show them I’m thinking of them or that I care when they need it. I think there are many resources out there to help facilitate a loving and fulfilling marriage. This is not a book to turn to when you’re struggling with a major issue or if you need the feedback of a counselor to assist in resolving bad behaviors or lingering past actions. But if you want to learn how to more effectively communicate with your spouse, and to try a new approach to understanding how they feel and receive (and show) love, this is a great quick read that’s well worth the time.
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