The Five Love Languages Gift Edition:
How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary D. Chapman, 1995
(Read 2012, reviewed 2015/2017)(amazon.com link)
“In the context of marriage, if we do not feel loved, our differences are magnified. We come to view each other as a threat to our happiness. We fight for self-worth and significance, and marriage becomes a battlefield rather than a haven.”
While some may call this a Christian book, the ideas are for almost everyone. Is it the best book for a healthy marriage or relationship? Likely not, but it’s a powerful enough compliment to any short list of books on romantic relationships.
I will never forget the sadness of asking my mom if she’d heard about this book, to which she replied “Oooh yeah, we read that book decades ago!” with an arrogance about the statement. Read, but never practiced.
Like the “love” graph from the other book, Chapman notes that the average “in love” experience lasts about two years. That makes sense to me more and more from a scientific/biological perspective. Twenty-four consecutive menstrual cycles for monogamous couple without a child developing? Of course after 9-18+ such “unsuccessful” menstrual cycles the “chemistry” between any such heterosexual couple would begin to weaken. There may not have been strong evolutionary pressure for this apathy to develop, but it certainly is logical.
The “love tank” concept as how “full” the person’s love “meter” or “tank” is. How close to empty (serious argument in the relationship) or full (contentment, peace, and reciprocity) is the other person? And this written in a book decades before the “gamification” of life we see today!
Chapman suggests a “tank-check” game, where a few times a week we ask our partners “from 0-10, how ‘full’ is your love tank?” Good advice.
He also suggests, if one is completely ignorant of the others’ love language, that we test one language a week for five weeks, knowing that we’ll see significant differences when we’re “speaking” that person’s language.
How to figure out our languages
I have suggested three ways to discover your own primary love language:
- What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply?The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love languag
- What have you most often requested of your spouse?The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most love
- In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse?Your method of expressing love may be an indication that that would also make you feel loved.
I do strongly disagree with one statement:
In fact, true love cannot begin until the in-love experience has run its course.
That “biological” or MHC or “matched-opposite” match in a partner can form rapidly, and I totally disagree that the couple must take years and pass through the ‘infatuation’ phase of love first. Me and my partner knew there might be something deeper from the night we met: both ending long relationships shortly before we met each other, and both joking within a few weeks about who would be the heart-beaker versus the heartbroken if/when our relationship ended. I knew consciously before she did, but she knew subconsciously, too, that our relationship would be one for decades and generations. And all this took place far before the infatuation/in-love experience switched over to long-term/companion/”true” love. Chapman is wrong indeed.
But I wonder if he himself still even believes what he wrote.
The five languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
Compliments. Do more, and not back-handed insults masked as compliments! This may not be either of our strongest love language, but it is the easiest to give and can really pay dividends more than the others!
Make requests rather than demands. The latter treats the other person like a child.
- Quality Time (aka Quality Conversation)
Funny, in 2017 this “clicks,” but I missed it completely in the past: quality time often (if not always) means quality conversation. A good, stimulating conversation while walking in the park can be better than a short vacation to a distant expensive destination! Makes perfect sense to me now. And even in new “experiences” together, which almost always means unique forms of visual — or sometimes visual + auditory/sensory — stimulation, more knowledge of neuroscience and male/female differences only helps me appreciate these novel experiences more. I am so thrilled to be on a media fast this year.
We must be willing to give advice but only when it is requested and never in a condescending manner.
That’s an excellent life lesson. Only give advice when requested, and never condescendingly. I recall it from How to Win Friends and Influence People, among other books. Good listening is hard work. I look forward to having teenagers to test my patience and listening skills!
Where do you begin? Make a list of all the gifts your spouse has expressed excitement about receiving through the years. They may be gifts you have given or gifts given by other family members or friends. The list will give you an idea of the kind of gifts your spouse would enjoy receiving. If you have little or no knowledge about selecting the kinds of gifts on your list, recruit the help of family members who know your spouse. [and more]
Both of us have gifts as our weakest “language,” but more and more she enjoys giving (and would likely enjoy receiving) small but potent food gifts: small dark chocolates, cheeses, surprising fruits when there are no more in the house, etc. It isn’t urgent or a priority, but I should improve, and love the “bocadito” concept.
- Acts of Service
First, they illustrate clearly that what we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after marriage. Before marriage, we are carried along by the force of the in-love obsession. After marriage, we revert to being the people we were before we fell in love.
That’s perhaps one of the best reasons to find a strong, true, “matched-opposite” love and go for it full force: the continual growth of one self. Permanent change, rather than reversion to one’s “old” self.
Still, I don’t think it’s that simple, and I think that mature young adults (regardless of age) who are truly biologically matched can easily overcome this trap and continue growing both together and independently.
- Physical Touch
Wives often assume that their husband’s love language is physical touch.
Indeed, though I’d change the words to women/men in general. Following that sentence, he notes how the miscommunication regarding physical touch spirals downwards leading to sadness for both.
Plus, what exactly physical touch means will change. Having corrected a /lithium deficiency and noting a better sense of smell, I notice mine changing subtlety with her cycles. And I look forward greatly to my hormones changing dramatically (though not to the order of magnitude as hers’!) when she’s pregnant and we’re young parents. All parts of life, but modern Americans must understand that physical touch means more than simply orgasm, and sometimes it means more than even sex in general.