Can Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages" strengthen your marriage?
Dr. Gary Chapman is a Christian counselor and the author of The Five Love Languages. He writes about the importance of being able to express love to your spouse in a way that your spouse can understand. He calls this a type of communicating through the use of five "love languages."
Here is a brief summary of the five emotional love languages according to Chapman:
- Words of Affirmation
This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. This involves showing love through the use of verbally affirming statements toward your partner. These words will also build your mate's self image and confidence.
- Quality Time
Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. This includes emotional engagement in each other during whatever activity you may be doing together, even if it is just "hanging out." If this is your partner's love language, turn off the TV, ignore your cell phone and give one another some undivided attention.
- Receiving Gifts
It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don't have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved. This is not about materialism, it is about knowing that you are on someone's mind even when you are not together. Here is where the thought definitely counts!
- Acts of Service
This is about how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, shoveling the snow, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love. For people who value acts of service, "actions speak louder than words" is their mantra.
- Physical Touch These people place a lot of importance on physical affection and touch. Not necessarily sex per se, but hugs, hand holding, an impromptu massage and so on. This physical contact is very reassuring and meaningful to someone with this love language.
Determining Your Own Love Language
Since you probably have been speaking what you need all along, you can discover your own love language by asking yourself these questions:
- How do I express love to others?
- What do I complain about the most?
- What do I request most often?
However, speaking in your partner's love language will most likely not be natural for you. Dr. Chapman cautions in his book, "We're not talking comfort. We're talking love. Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren't connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn't enough." We must step out of our comfort zone meet each other's emotional needs.
Dr. Chapman reports that the number one emotional experience people have is feeling the presence of God in their lives. The emotional high of falling in love is the second highest emotional experience that people reportedly have. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to try and talk some sense into someone who is in the midst of falling in love.
In fact, Dr. Chapman believes that obsessive love can render people mentally incompetent. He writes, "There's not much difference between being in love and being insane." Humans place a critical importance of having love in their lives, particularly the love that a romantic relationship brings.
Fading Tingle and Empty Love Tanks
After the first or second year of marriage, when the initial "tingle" is starting to fade, many couples find that their "love tanks" are empty. They may have been expressing love for their spouse, but in reality they may have been speaking a different love language. The best way to fill your spouse's love tank is to express love in their love language. Each of us has a primary love language. Usually, couples do not have the same love language.
Dr. Chapman recommends that you have a "Tank Check" 3 nights a week for 3 weeks. Ask one another "How is your love tank tonight?" If, on a scale from zero to ten, it is less than 10, then ask "What can I do to help fill it?" Then do it to the best of your ability.
Although the love language concept has not been scientifically proven, it makes a good amount of sense. The key is to remember to use this knowledge to be better at loving your partner. Because both loving and being loved so critical in our lives learning about each individual's "love language" can bring us closer to achieving this goal.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman
PURCHASE ON AMAZON: The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.