The Five Love Languages (1992) by Dr. Gary Chapman is an international bestseller that has helped many couples improve their relationship. This book is based on the basic principles that (1) each person expresses and experiences love differently; (2) seldom do a husband and wife share the same primary love language; and (3) problems in marriage can come from the assumptions made about how to express love.
One important tool in keeping a marriage healthy is to express love to your spouse in a way that your spouse understands. Dr. Chapman asserts that many struggle with feelings of not being loved when in fact one or both spouses express love in ways not shared by their partner. By recognizing different love languages, more experiences of being loved and loving are possible. Of course there are many ways to show love, but Chapman identifies five key love languages. While each is important, there is typically identification with one of the following primarily love languages:
• Words of Affirmation: This love language involves compliments, appreciations, words of encouragement, and gentle use of language. Positive verbal expressions are experienced as love and insults are devastating and long remembered.
• Quality Time: This language is when love is felt through genuine sharing, listening, and shared time and activities. This language is when full undivided attention is important to feeling special and loved. For this language, distractions, postponed dates, or failure to listen can be very hurtful.
• Receiving Gifts: This love language is not about simple materialism but rather on the importance of the unique effort and thoughtfulness of a specially chosen symbol of love that represents the value of the relationship. The care involved in choosing something special that has unique meaning is experienced as love.
• Acts of Service: Yes, for some cleaning the toilet can say “I love you”. Any freely given “gift” of doing for your spouse can be a way to show love if your spouse has Acts of Service as a primary love language. However, broken promises or laziness may communicate a sense that their feelings don’t matter.
• Physical Touch: This is not just about sexual touch. It is about all affection that can be ways to show concern, care and love. For a person with this primary love language, hugs, touch, and physical affection are vitally important and experienced as love.
Some difficulties in marriage can be avoided by insuring both partners know, understand, and communicate using the right love language. A wife who is longing to have a special date night with her husband may not recognize his “I love you” when he fixes the leaking sink; and the husband needing to hear appreciations for his long hours and sacrifice to provide monetarily for his family may not feel loved with the new watch selected by his spouse. There is no “correct” language, but because each person has a preference, it is important to find how your spouse experiences love and make the efforts to express love using that language.
It is not difficult to identify your love language. Very often, your language (what you want) is how you express love to others. However, if you are unsure, Chapman has a very short and easy quiz in his book and online (www.5lovelanguages.com) designed to identify you and your spouse’s primary and secondary love language. Use of this knowledge may improve your marriage.