The Five Love Languages: Reflections on Chapman’s Book

How we give love should fit the recipient

Photo by Azrul Aziz on Unsplash

Dad opened the cabinet door and ran a finger over the plates I’d just dried with a cotton dish towel. My older brother, younger sister, and I were tasked each night to wash and dry the dinner dishes. Criticism was always in the offing. A dirty fork, a wet plate; who would get the negative news?

This year, I committed myself to a monthly theme and a relevant reading. For February, unsurprisingly, I chose “love.” The book I picked for my February read was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages.

Oh, how I wish I had read this book before I ever got married! Married, the first time, that is. As a Christian, it shames me, in my heart, to be divorced. That’s not a judgment of others; I’ve made choices that I, too, must live with. As the unknown philosopher said, “it is what it is.”

According to pastor and counselor, Gary Chapman, the five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each of us has a preferred love language, and we may have a secondary one. 

What’s my language?

After finally getting around to reading this book, I see clearly that my first love language is Words of Affirmation. I own this. I like recognition. Seriously, I love it. But only in small groups, ha-ha. I just didn’t understand that it was a major factor in my relationship needs.

I told the opening story for a reason. A recent Medium article posited that our love language may be related to what we missed in childhood and given my own experience, I thought he might be on to something. In my childhood home, there was little that I and my two siblings could do right. Criticism was delivered regularly. Do something correctly? Well, improvement was always the next goal. 

Looking back on my first marriage, I used to think communication was the problem. And, yes, broadly it was communication, but more specifically, I was not hearing what I wanted; nay, needed to hear…. words of affirmation. I remember asking my husband if he enjoyed dinner and his response was, “I ate it, didn’t I?” We engaged in some discussion and it was clear that compliments were not part of his vernacular. He once accused me of fishing for compliments. (I was a clueless new wife and only 22 years old! But he was also among the clueless.) And that I had a specific need, well, he just didn’t get it.

Yes, we ended up in counseling. I found it useless because my needs were never going to be met at that rate. Sad, I know. I remain disappointed in myself. (I think I know what his love language was; but, it’s too late now.)

I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday. ~Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages

Finding the interpreter

Recently, my husband, Bob, and I were at an oncology appointment. (He has small cell lung cancer.) Lots of discussion about choices of treatments, how to proceed, and so on. Somewhere in that conversation, my husband told the doctor, “She’s my strength” and I patted his hand. I got my daily reward. 

He totally gets me, people. I’m in love, love, love with this man. 

We also express our love to others in our own love language. Yet, that language may not be the preferred love language of our partner, our child, or our friend. What to do, you ask? We have to learn to speak the language of our relationship partners. It’s work! And anyone older than you has probably told you that marriage is labor, or loving another person in any relationship requires some level of work. Hasn’t that been your experience?

I’m so glad I read this book, even if I’m now in my middle years. I plan to listen more and be alert to those cues that reveal the dominant love language of whomever I’m in relationship with. I can make them happy by meeting their immediate needs. 

Can you do that too? We’ll build a gentler, more loving world around us. That’s worth learning a new language, for sure.

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There’s nothing like writing these essays. I love it! I also love writing fiction. My debut historical fiction novel should launch this year. For a sneak peek of the story, sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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