Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Five Love Languages
by Gary Chapman

Subtitled How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. First published in 1992. Audiobook read by the author.

I was already familiar with Gary Chapman's five love languages before I listened to this audiobook. I'd attended a few workshops on the subject, and I'd listened to The Five Love Languages of Children on CD. But I decided to read this one because my church women's group planned to discuss it at their February meeting. As it turned out, I attended an award ceremony with my daughter that night and missed the discussion - but I'm still glad I read the book.

The book itself is highly readable, with examples and anecdotes illustrating each of Chapman's theories. In some cases he shows how he developed the theories, and he also offers concrete suggestions for those who want to apply his teachings to their lives.

Here are a few of my responses to the concepts Chapman presents:

  • Similar to my belief that thinking about happiness makes me happier, I am convinced that thinking about love makes me more loving.

  • I am also convinced that love is spoken in more than one language. I identify strongly with the idea that my personal love language is "words of affirmation" - which is immeasurably more meaningful to me than the love language of "receiving gifts." I would assert that any one who is seeking to be more loving or caring - to his spouse, to her children, to his friends, even to her employees - can benefit from learning a "second" language (and a third, fourth, and fifth) - simply because the more ways one can express love, the more likely one is to effectively communicate those feelings.

  • In considering that premise, I was reminded of a Luann comic strip I once read on a terrific sex education pamphlet, one that was advocating abstinence for teens. In the comic strip, Luann is advised by T.J. that if she wants to say no to sexual activity (part of the "physical touch" language), then she needs to develop more creative ways of expressing her feelings for her boyfriend. In other words, she needs to know how to speak more than one love language.

  • On the other hand, I am not comfortable with the idea that I (or anyone) has one (or maybe two love languages) and that I will feel loved if my husband speaks to me primarily in that language. For example, though I do believe that "receiving gifts" is the love language that I enjoy least, I know that I would be saddened, maybe even angry, if my husband neglected to purchase and wrap some gifts for me at Christmas time and simply told me that he loved me, complimented me on my Christmas attire, and praised my cooking and decorating efforts. In other words, I believe that there is a time and place for each of the love languages - and therein lies my concern with Chapman's theory. One must be willing to express love multilingually, rather than putting a simple label on the object of one's love and limiting expressions of love to that language.

  • My brilliant and hilarious friend Karen expressed this problem well in her review on goodreads of The Five Love Languages of Children: "I'm Karen, a girl with lots of personality quirks, one of which is that I dislike pop psychology books that tell me I and everyone else fits into one of their created, fictitious descriptions. ... My issue is not with this book specifically, but with the idea in general. All this labeling, categorizing, pigeonholing, and simplifying people into tidy little groups. I know we all have similarities, but if you really want to love someone, get to know them. It takes time and effort, but that would be a better use of your time than reading this book."

  • Nonetheless, I recommend The Five Love Languages. It's a good start to learning to better love those in our circles. After all, thinking about love makes one more loving!


1 comment:

  1. My husband and I just did a presentation on Relationships to a large group a week or so ago and used this book as one of our references as we prepared! Small world. We had studied it a few years ago and bought it for all of our kids.

    In defense - I agree, that as your friend stated, we all don't fit in to nice cubby-holed little spaces as far as people and personalities. However; it's all about relationships!! I think that's all Gary Chapman is saying. When we discover another person's love language we do it because we have invested time and effort (TOP -time on project if you will) into knowing that person. None of us wears a sign stating our language. I don't think the author is saying that. It took me a long time and a lot of introspection to truly nail my own language. But as we invest that time into a relationship with another we need to leave ourselves out of the equation a little more and focus on giving to them with something/some act of service, etc, that will fill their bucket instead of ours. An interesting thing happened with one of our former daughter in laws. Her love language was physical gifts. She showered all of us with them. Well we are not a gift-giving family in that respect and we said thanks and tried our best to appreciate all of her efforts. We instead, did many acts of service for her. We spent time with her. We allowed our son and her to live with us for a period of time, we spent lots of time with her, we did everything we could to express our love to her. But in the end it was not her love language. Was that the reason for the break-up, probably not but we both regret that we were not more educated about the idea of love languages!!

    I think it is all so personal and that, as most books are, the love languages are a jumping off point, a place to get started. We then personalize what we've learned and try to adjust using some of the principals.

    Thanks for a chance to voice what percolates in my brain. I'm like you, I felt it was a thoughtful book and has many truisms that I need to apply in my life to enrich the relationships I have. It's definitely a book worth reading!