Monday, February 9, 2009

So they say that there are five "love languages"...

When I sat down to read Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages a couple of months ago, I must admit that I was skeptical. Coming from a background in psychology (a field which I believe often mis- or over-uses categories and labels), 
I wasn't so sure about the idea that each of us speaks a "primary love language" and that once we figure out this love language (and that of our spouse) we will find ourselves in a healthier, happier marriage relationship. After reading this book, I can honestly say that I believe Dr. Chapman is onto something, and I would recommend it to any couple that would like to deepen their understanding of themselves and their spouse. Here is a brief overview of what The Five Love Languages is all about...

First, you should know that Gary Chapman is a world-renowned author, speaker, and counselor with over 30 years worth of experience working with married couples. He says that time and time again, he would be sitting in the room with a married couple and the wife would say, "After all these years of marriage, my husband never does anything to show me that he cares about me" and the husband would respond with, "I don't get it, I do all of these things to show my wife that I care about her!" Dr. Chapman soon came to the realization that more often than not, these spouses were having trouble not because they didn't care about each other, but because they did not speak the same primary love language. Just as we cannot understand what someone is saying if we do not speak their language - I would not understand a word of Polish, for example - we cannot understand what our spouse truly needs if we do not speak his primary love language. We may be very sincere in our efforts to love our spouse, but if we do not speak his love language then he will not feel loved. The goal is for couples to discover each others' primary love language, learn how to speak it, and work towards healthy communication within their marriage. 

Dr. Chapman says that there are five fundamental ways that we can express and receive love, and that while we may see characteristics of each of these categories in ourselves and/or our spouse, we will probably each fall into one primary category:

1) Words of affirmation
2) Quality time
3) Receiving gifts
4) Acts of service
5) Physical touch

1) Words of affirmation: People who fall into this category benefit immensely from verbal compliments as well as encouragement. The compliments can be as simple as "You look really nice in that new shirt" or "You're really good at making people feel at ease in social situations," but they should be sincere and thoughtful. Providing encouragement will be especially important in situations where your spouse needs to make a tough decision.

2) Quality time: Someone in this category really benefits from knowing that her husband is focusing all of his energy on her. Shared experiences are really important, and can range from watching a movie together to training for a marathon together. 

3) Receiving gifts: People in this category treasure gifts as an expression of someone's love for them. It may be very difficult for a thrifty wife to get used to the idea that her husband really feels loved when she gives him gifts, but she can realize that in giving gifts she is making an investment in the health of the marriage relationship. The gift doesn't always need to be expensive, even little gifts can mean a lot!

4) Acts of service: These individuals feel very loved when their spouse does acts of service for them, and it is important to discern what acts are most appreciated. For example, if your wife lets you know that she really hates vacuuming the house and that it would mean a lot to her if you would take on that weekly chore for her, you can do all the lawn-mowing that you want and she is not going to feel the love! She may appreciate your hard work on an intellectual level, but emotionally she will not feel that you're understanding her needs. Or wives, you can cook all of the gourmet meals that you want, but if your husband would just as well eat pasta 7 night a week and would rather come home to a neatly-ordered shoe rack, then you may be spinning your wheels! 

5) Physical touch: This category is not just limited to sexual intercourse, so it is important to figure out which types of physical touch - frequent hugs, a back massage, holding hands - communicates love and security to your spouse. 

I have been purposely brief because I believe that Dr. Chapman's book is worth reading in its entirety :) In this week leading up to St. Valentine's Day, let's make the commitment to working towards better understanding ourselves and our spouses so that we may better serve each other and practically live out the vows that we made to each other on our wedding day!


Kerry said...

totally agree- this is a great book, and so worth reading! Good choice for Valentines!

Right Said Red said...

Beautiful post Kat! Thanks for sharing this great book with all of us.

Maria said...

I always share this book and the five languages of love in the communication talks my husband and I give at conferences for engaged couples in our diocese. Knowing that we communicate love differently has really helped our marriage!

B-Mama said...

Maria, great suggestion as my husband and I are about to join the "Engaged Encounter" team for our diocese. The book would be a perfect reference!

Kat, thanks for the info. Just wondering, does the book help an individual determine his/her primary language through scenarios or quizzes? I feel like 4 of the 5 really resonate for me... I guess I just need to get going and read it!

MargaretJDMom said...

This is a great book! I have to admit the quizes didn't help me figure out what our exact love languages are (I feel like I am a combo and that my husband is too). What it does do is hit home that people give whatever it is that makes their love tank feel full. So, if your hubby is a deeds of service guy, he's going to think that by giving his all at work to support you and the kids he's showing you how much he loves you when all you want is for him to come home and say you are beautiful or bring you a present or spend quality time etc. I highly recommend it.

I have heard talks on the children's version. Has anyone read it? I'm doing the single parent thing currently due to deployment and I am finding a lot of empty love tanks amongst my little ones.....I am thinking about reading it. Just wondering if its necessary if I have already read the adult version!

Kat said...

B-Mama, I would say that once I read the book, I had a much better sense of what my primary love language is. Most helpful were perhaps the vignettes that Dr. Chapman shares from his experiences with couples - there were some where I found myself saying, "That's us!" and others where I thought to myself, "Well, I thought that this was me, but that's actually not how I would respond to that situation..." I didn't find the quiz at the end to be terribly helpful, but that's just me.

MargaretJDMom, I'll pray for you tonight as you have the very difficult job of taking care of your kiddos without your husband right now! I haven't read the child version but was just thinking about it today. I think it would be worth the read but I would like to hear from someone who has read it. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I would be a lot happier if I received ANY ONE of these five from my husband. I suppose at this point he would say the same about me... I do lots of acts of service but I can never do enough to make him happy because what he really wants is an immaculate house and no chores for himself while I am also working full time to support the family and a nursing mom. I just don't have any time or energy left for quality time or coming up with thoughtful gifts. And as for words of affirmation and physical touch, he is so grumpy and cold with me that these things seem they would just be lies. What does Mr. Chapman say about the situation where both spouses are so stressed out that they can't seem to manage any of these "love languages"?

Kat said...

Anonymous, it sounds like you and your husband are both feeling really burnt out right now, and I'm sure that there are plenty of moms who can relate to your situation. Dr. Chapman describes similar scenarios in his book - couples who feel like the love has gone out of their marriage and who don't know how to get it back. In my understanding, in order for healing to occur it is very important for both husband and wife to acknowledge the situation and decide that they want to work towards change together. It could be as simple as both of you agreeing to read the book separately, and then to talk about it afterwards. Dr. Chapman challenges couples to just pick one are in which they are going to show love to their spouses, and to do this one thing each day for a month. His theory is that if both spouses just do this one thing, there will be a snowball effect and the marriage will begin to improve. For example, if your husband knows that you really love receiving gifts, he could bring you one flower each day, or a simple note, whatever. The point is that he's making the effort. Or maybe you know that your husband would really like to walk in the door and see an organized shoe rack, so you try to make that happen each day for a month. It's worth a try! I know it can seem hard when resentment has built up, but there is always hope and you can start small - love begets love!

Aubrey said...

Thanks for posting! This book is great. It gives us a lot of ways to work on a successful marriage.

I do have the book The Five Love Languages of Children. The love languages are the same but geared toward a grade-school aged child, as the assessment tool is geared toward a child who would be of reading age (or close).

I'm guessing that you could surmise the love languge of your child if you had read the adult version but this child's book is definitely worth a read!

Aubrey said...

Re: my above comment

Let me be more specific: the book is written for an adult to read but scenarios and assessment tool (AT) are descriptive of children; the questions in the AT are simpler and the test is shorter. Hope that's helpful!

Mary Alice said...

I have not read the book, but just knowing about the principles has helped me with other relationships including siblings, in-laws and friends -- Also, understanding this is not just about how you give love, but how you respond to other's expressions of love, for example, I am often not excited when my child, who is a gift giver, presents me with many drawings for the fridge, but since this is how she says I love you, it is important that I give them the attention they deserve.

Julene said...

Another book that is similar but follows more of a gender specific model is "His Needs, Her Needs" by Willard Harley. I would recommend adding this to the marriage enrichment book list in addition to Chapman! It has helped me understand the man/woman dynamic better, and is a great tool for pre/marital counseling.

texas mommy said...

I read this book when we were engaged and it helped me a lot! This was a great reminder to me to think about love languages in relation to my kids as well!