Recently I was asked which books about relationships actually help people. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is in my top 10, with the Manufacturer’s Handbook (aka the Bible) in the top slot.
Chapman first published this book 20 years ago and it’s timeless. As a marriage counselor he found that there are five primary ways in which people express and interpret love. According to his website, he also learned that people are usually attracted to someone with a different “love language.”
When I first read this book years ago it opened my eyes. I realized how two people who weren’t speaking the same love language could get very frustrated with each other. Learning each other’s love language teaches you how to give and receive love in deep and meaningful ways; once you know your partner’s “dialect,” you can express love on that wavelength.
Chapman divides the love languages into five categories, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Quality time means what it says; the person whose love language is quality time feels most loved when you spend time with them. It shows them that you care and are paying attention to them. The person whose love language is words of affirmation enjoys being built up by positive and encouraging statements. They thrive on compliments and atta boys or you go girls.
The love language of gifts means that person wants to be loved through gifts, tangible items that took time and/or thought to select. These don’t have to be expensive, but can be, like an example in the book, a cookie. Chapman also says a person can give the gift of self by being present. Those who appreciate acts of service are the people who will be thrilled when you offer to wash the dishes or give them a break from diaper duty. They feel loved when others step in and help them out.
The fifth love language, physical touch, doesn’t necessarily involve sex. Some people thrive on being touched in other ways, be it hugging, kissing, a hand brushing across their back, a playful hair tousle, and so on. Some couples only touch when sex is involved although one or both partners might benefit greatly from other types of physical contact, like holding hands in public or cuddling up while watching a movie.
If you accept the fact that people give and receive love in different ways, it’s easy to see how a wife who wants her husband to tell her she’s beautiful might not be impressed by fancy jewelry despite her husband’s best efforts. A man who wants his woman to hang out with him on the weekends might be turned off if she does her own thing but tries hard to give him compliments from a distance. Someone who likes little surprise gifts to turn up in their lunchbox once in awhile could be less than flattered by an offer to take out the garbage.
This philosophy seems so basic, but it didn’t become black and white for me until I read this book. The end of the book mentions how these principles are applicable to other types of relationships too, especially parent-child relationships. Chapman has another book called The Five Love Languages of Children that explores this subject. Knowing what language your child speaks will help you communicate with them more effectively and get to know them better.
At http://www.5lovelanguages.com/, you can take a quiz to learn your love language(s) and find useful resources that include a blog, videos, a list of upcoming seminars, and information on related books. Overall, this is a book that every couple should read and heed. Knowing what really speaks to your significant other can enrich and strengthen your relationship as well as avoid conflict and cause personal growth.
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