The language of love is extremely complex. We all experience love in different ways and have different emotional needs that have to be met. In The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman outlines how we all have our own love language. Each of us has a specific emotional need we need met to feel loved. Therefore, in each romantic relationship, we need to understand our partners’ love language better. Only through both partners understanding the other person’s love language can strong relationships last.
About Gary Chapman
Gary Chapman is an American author and radio talk show host. He is best known for The Five Love Languages series. However, he is also a prominent Christian. He is currently the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up past failures. None of us is perfect. In marriage we do not always do the right thing. We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our spouses. We cannot erase the past. We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future. Having confessed my failure and asked forgiveness, I can do nothing more to mitigate the hurt it may have caused my spouse. When I have been wronged by my spouse and she has painfully confessed it and requested forgiveness, I have the option of justice or forgiveness. If I choose justice and seek to pay her back or make her pay for her wrongdoing, I am making myself the judge and her the felon. Intimacy becomes impossible. If, however, I choose to forgive, intimacy can be restored. Forgiveness is the way of love.”– Gary Chapman
Love is a Human Need
Love is a universal goal for humans. No matter our backgrounds, societies, or preferences, we all want to experience love. However, what is unique to each individual is the type of love that complements their emotional health. Gary Chapman describes that what love means to you is related to what gives you emotional fulfillment. This is why we claim to love people, but also activities and items.
We are all fueled by love. Without love, our emotional needs will be left unmet, and we will struggle to enjoy the other parts of our life. For example, a marriage without love will make it difficult to enjoy other parts of your life. Gary provides an example of a client who struggled with this exact dilemma. His client was wealthy, but material possessions could not fulfill his emotional needs. He was still miserable as his wife didn’t love him anymore.
Communication is the Solution to Relationship Challenges
“Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your spouse’s perspective. We must first learn what is important to our spouse. Only then can we give encouragement. With verbal encouragement, we are trying to communicate, “I know. I care. I am with you. How can I help?” We are trying to show that we believe in him and in his abilities. We are giving credit and praise.”– Gary Chapman
Relationships will always have a honeymoon period. However, this feeling will eventually fade. Therefore, your relationship must be built on a foundation of sound communication.
Gary outlines the stages of love to explain how relationships have to adapt with time. The first phase of love is characterized by attraction and is called the in-love phenomenon. These experiences are obsessive. You instinctively want to spend all your time with this other person. However, this phase is underpinned by our evolutionary drive to reproduce. Therefore, this initial phase is clouded by irrational judgments rather than rational thought. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov found that, based on a study of hundreds of couples, most relationships’ average lifespan was only two years. After our in-love phenomenon wears off, we struggle to maintain our romantic relationships.
It is possible to overcome the period when the in-love phenomenon wears off. The fundamental tool for doing this is communication. Humans have emotional needs that obsessive love cannot accommodate. Gary explains how true love is based on changing your attitude and thinking about others’ needs. Defining your expectations for the marriage and continually sharing and receiving information as a couple will help you meet each other’s emotional needs. This is what true love is about.
Understand Your Partner’s Love Language
As aforementioned, love is unique to each individual. Therefore, people feel and express love differently. Based on this, understanding your partner’s love language is vital for your relationship’s health. Understanding your partner’s love language will take time and effort; however, it is essential for all partners. Even the longest relationships can break down due to one partner incorrectly translating the other partner’s love language. Although partners share many habits, partners will not share the same love language. Hence, it is common for partners to co-exist happily for years. Then, one partner realizes the other has misunderstood them completely.
Use Words of Affirmation to Express Love
Gary uses the Greek philosopher Xenophon’s words to describe how vital compliments are in relationships: ‘Praise is the sweetest of all sounds.’ These words are as valid today as they were thousands of years ago. Words of affirmation will help your love flourish.
Gary recommends providing verbal compliments to your partner as often as possible. However, you do not want these compliments to be overwhelming. It is better when these compliments are simple and straightforward. You want them to be natural and part of your everyday relationship.
You should be easily able to identify areas where your partner excels. This might be in their childcare, how they appear on a specific day, or how well they perform at work. However, suppose you are struggling with articulating these thoughts. In that case, you can use newspapers, magazines, or TV episodes to identify how others use words of affirmation to support their partners.
Words of affirmation can also benefit you—words of affirmation function well as requests. Requests in isolation sound like demands; however, if you sweeten a request, your partner will be more inclined to help. The author provides another example of a client where this approach was successful. The client had been asking her husband to paint their bedroom for nine months. Gary recommended she stopped complaining about his laziness and instead started complimenting him every time he did something productive. Merely three weeks later, her husband started painting their bedroom without even being prompted. Verbal compliments are a much more effective incentive than making criticisms.
Quality Time is Time Well Spent
“Camp out in the living room. Spread your blankets and pillows on the floor. Get your Pepsi and popcorn. Pretend the TV is broken and talk like you used to when you were dating. Talk till the sun comes up or something else happens. If the floor gets too hard, go back upstairs and go to bed. You won’t forget this evening!”– Gary Chapman
It is essential for your relationship that you spend quality time with your partner. In the modern age, we all tend to get distracted by technology. However, each time you choose technology over your partner, you diminish the love experienced in your relationship. As humans, time is one of our most valuable commodities. Therefore, taking time away from your other passions to spend time with your loved one will be well-received.
Gary emphasizes the importance of the ‘quality’ in quality time. Spending time together in the same room is not the same as focusing on each other and nothing else. Spending time together without distractions will help both of your emotional needs to be met. Gary uses the examples of watching a football game together or staring at a computer as poor quality time. Instead, you should be engaging in top quality conversations and activities.
Gary describes top-quality activities as something that both partners want to be doing. The more often you spend quality time together, the more memories you will have to look back on. Gary uses examples of strolling in a park, gardening, or preparing a meal together as sufficient quality time.
Surprise Your Partner With Gifts
Gary describes gifts as visual symbols of love. These symbols are even more effective when they are surprises and occur regularly. It does not matter how expensive these gifts are. It is often a cliché, but it is the thought that counts.
Gary outlines that gift-giving is a common activity across all cultures. It is particularly attached to marital practices in all countries. Some partners will be receptive to gifts and will regard them as part of their love language. They will regard any gift as an expression of true love.
Although partners will often view gifts as an act of love, it is also important that the gifts are of a high quality. Therefore, you should keep track of the presents that you brought your partner the most joy over the years. Then, you can use this evidence to guide your future gift-giving. Each person is unique in how they like to receive gifts and what type of gift they like to receive. The value of gifts is not in the monetary value. Instead, the value lies in the idea of giving a gift, the process of buying or making it, and how the gift is presented.
Gary provides another example from clients in this section. He describes how he saw a couple: Doug and Kate. Doug had previously regularly provided gifts for his wife, Kate. However, he had suddenly stopped because it cost too much. This decision had a significant impact on Kate, as her love language included an understanding that gifts were a sign of love. Therefore, she was not having her emotional needs met. Gary explained to Doug that these gifts didn’t have to carry monetary value. Subsequently, Doug provided Kate with random gifts of affection. These gifts worked equally well as expressions of his love for her.
Express Your Love Through Work
“If acts of service do not come naturally for you, it is still a love language worth acquiring. It is a way of expressing a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others. Albert Schweitzer said repeatedly, “As long as there is a man in the world who is hungry, sick, lonely, or living in fear, he is my responsibility.” Helping others is universally accepted as an expression of love.”– Gary Chapman
One of the best ways to express your love for your partner is to do useful things. Try to think of the tasks that your partner doesn’t like doing. If they dislike doing the washing up, you should offer to do this as often as possible. Going out of your way to alleviate your partner of laborious tasks shows you care for them. However, it also shows you understand the tasks they dislike. These acts are far more powerful when you or your partner have not been asked. Therefore, instead of asking your partner for favors, you should ask your partner what favors you can do.
One of the necessary changes you have to be willing to make is related to traditional gender roles. You should be willing to do whatever chores your partners would like help with. This might mean men have to cook, and women have to fix a shelf.
Gary had the experience of meeting a man named Mark. Mark was brought up in a conventional family where his father did not lift a finger in the house. His dad saw such tasks as women’s work and couldn’t imagine himself cleaning the floors or changing diapers. Conversely, Mark appreciated how important it was to his wife Mary that he lend a hand around the house. So, he let his gendered stereotypes go.
Physical Touch is a Powerful Sign of Affection
Research has shown that children who are shown physical signs of affection tend to live healthier emotional lives than those who aren’t. This suggests how important physical touch is for love.
Suppose your partner’s primary love language is physical touch. In that case, you should engage with actions like holding hands, kissing, embracing, and sexual intercourse. For the latter, you must learn what your partner enjoys. You can ask them what they find pleasurable and tailor your behaviors to their pleasures. It is critical in relationships that both partners learn what the other individual finds pleasurable. One way to consider new concepts to incorporate in the bedroom is by reading up on sexual techniques. It is an excellent idea to experiment, but you should always check your partner is comfortable.
Identify Your Own Primary Love Language
Everybody has their primary love language. Therefore, you will have one too. Gary outlines a specific way of identifying which type is your primary love language.
- Ask yourself what you most often request from your partner. It is often the case that you are asking for something as it fulfills you emotionally.
- Consider what comes to mind when you want to feel genuinely appreciated. Which of these love languages comes to mind?
- Additionally, you can identify your love language by thinking of times when your partner’s behaviors have hurt you. For example, when they have not done something or failed to understand you. Suppose you have been upset by your partner withdrawing one of these love languages. In that case, that is likely your primary love language.
- Your upbringing can also help you better understand which love language is likely your primary one. Try to remember how your parents or carers helped you feel loved while you were growing up.
“Love can be expressed and received in all five languages. However, if you don’t speak a person’s primary love language, that person will not feel loved, even though you may be speaking the other four. Once you are speaking his or her primary love language fluently, then you can sprinkle in the other four, and they will be like icing on the cake.”– Gary Chapman
Comment below and let others know what you have learned or if you have any other thoughts.
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