Gary Chapman authored a book entitled The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Originally published in 1992, the book’s relevance to enhancing relationships is timeless. Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help couples and families learn how to speak to one another.
When being “in love” moves from becoming a temporary emotional high to a longstanding, enduring commitment the rules change. When we are ‘in love’ our partner can do no wrong and our desire is to make the relationship last forever.
As we come to know each other over time, however, being in love becomes more of a choice–a decision–than a state of being. A key ingredient to lasting love is the decision to learn what pleases the other as well as one’s self.
Chapman identifies five languages of love that can be helpful for building and maintaining enduring relationships. They are:
- Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
- Love Language #2: Quality Time
- Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts
- Love Language #4: Acts of Service
- Love Language #5: Physical Touch
What is needed is for each person to know the expressions of love according to (1) their own preferred language and (2) their partner’s own preferences. Over time many couples learn these languages without enumerating them as we have done here. For others of us it is an important aid to shorten the learning time needed and to help relationships get off to a good start.
When we don’t know each other’s language we begin the process of elimination that can be rather painful at times. For example, Sam loves to get gifts for his birthday more than anything else. His wife, Mary, on the other hand loves to have people do works of service for her. Over the years Sam keeps giving Mary more and more expensive gifts but he never gets the response from her that he was anticipating. At the same time Sam never remembers to pick up his socks off of the bedroom floor, forgets to take out the garbage and never helps with the housework.
Conversely, Mary loves helping Sam with various projects such as painting a room or changing the oil of the car. She always wonders why Sam–who prefers to work alone–always seems short tempered and agitated when she helps. She thinks she is showing him her enduring love by giving him the gift that she appreciates the most; yet, he repays her with ingratitude.
The key for the couple is to understand that they are speaking the wrong languages to each other. Assuming that Sam really wants to please Mary, he would expend more energy in picking up after himself, helping with chores without being asked and join Mary when she engages in housecleaning projects. Sam would benefit with a double benefit. First, he would be giving Mary exactly what says “I love you!” to her and, second, he would save a lot of money by giving more modest gifts.
Conversely, how differently Sam might respond if Mary would listen carefully and take notes when Sam ‘accidentally’ shares with her his desire for a special tool or accessory while walking through the mall. Sam might respond very differently to her acts of love when what he merely mentioned 8 months ago suddenly shows up on the kitchen counter for his birthday, set next to his favorite chocolate cake and surrounded by his closest friends.
Outside of our romantic relationships, imagine how listening for each other’s languages could help in relationships in general. The possibilities are endless.
For more information check out Gary Chapman’s book and surprise your mate as you observe his or her preferences, ask questions that pique their interest and you suddenly start wowing them with unsolicited behaviors that speak directly to their language of love. To help each of you in your marriage there is a workbook that goes with the material as well that can re-set the love meter in your life as you start speaking each other’s language.