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The Five Love Languages: A Review - A Summary and Review of this Great Book, Recommended to Strengthen All Relationships

Updated on January 15, 2013

Reading The 5 Love Languages may be all the help you need in putting your relationship or marriage back on track.

Physical Affection is usually men's number one love language.
Physical Affection is usually men's number one love language. | Source

First comes love...

I still remember the day I sent a short email to my mother with my heart pounding. The truth of what I had written was profound. My hammering heart, shaking hands, and the giddy bubbles I felt exploding in my head confirmed the truth of it. I was in love, and my email said it simply: "I am in love." No "Dear Mom" or "Love, Me" or "How are you? Guess what?" So immediate was my desire to share, to burst, to sing from a rooftop, that I could not even muster the patience to write a simple greeting.

Within one week of meeting this man, I knew I wanted him forever. I felt a physical urge to cover my mouth to stop myself from bursting out, "I love you! Let's get married!" I had just turned 31 and he was 38, almost 39. It was clear we had both been around the block and learned in all our trials and tribulations what we wanted in a partner. Meeting each other made us realize our dreams were, indeed, attainable.

Then comes marriage...

In two months, we were engaged. We decided we'd have children after a year of marriage, opting for what some call the "selfish" year in new couples. To our surprise, I became pregnant a mere two months after our engagement and five months before the wedding. (My mother was making my wedding dress, and I told her the news by saying, "Yeah... a corset wedding dress won't work. We have to go with an umpire waist.") Shortly after our wedding, we moved from the state to another where my husband found a tenure-track position with far more stability than his then-contracts in teaching. Three months after that, our little boy had arrived.

We knew we were in love. We knew we were made for each other. But neither of us yet knew how we communicated, and before we could figure it out, we had married, moved away from our friends, started a new job with new stresses and became parents. Before we could take a breath and realize all we had taken on, we looked at each other wanting, many times, to take off the other's head.

Love had suddenly become very hard, and very far away.

I believe everybody reaches a point in their relationships where they either pause to reflect on what may have changed that leaves them feeling uncomfortable, or they simply walk away without that reflection. I am a reflector, and fortunately, so is my husband. Having a child together further cemented our tempers, forcing us to look at what had happened between us. Yes, having a child is stressful. Moving is stressful. Starting a new job that requires hours of toiling and reviews is also stressful. But love was not supposed to be stressful! Love was love. It was what bound people to a safe place of comfort and ease, peace and soft breezes. What happened?

Quality Time is often a strong love language for women
Quality Time is often a strong love language for women | Source

Then comes research!

My habit, having grown up without a constant parent for guidance (I was raised primarily in foster homes), I turned to books for guidance. Though I had preferred my husband join me, he was working tirelessly and with resolve. The books and comments readers left on Amazon reviews assured me that if only one partner takes steps in the right direction, the one you love would surely follow.

Many people scoff at the prospect of turning to books or even counselors for guidance in what is a passionate and natural emotion. But contrary to all that I had read in novels and all I hoped for in life, love had its own formula that still required thought and inspection. The numbers, cogs, and basic character of the person you fell in love with always remain; but how you approach and receive those fundamentals changes over time. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman, was the second book I turned to -  I wish it were the first, though the first was certainly worth reading (I'll post a separate review later; please check my Hubs periodically, or follow me!)

The 5 Love Languages

Chapman is a certified counselor who, through many sessions with married couples, identified what I would describe as an interesting phenomenon. Many of these couples did not deny loving each other. In fact, both individuals seemed to be saying the same thing, "I do everything I can to let [him/her] know I love [him/her], but they still don't seem to get it! What am I doing wrong?" I've been there, and I know my husband has been there as well. I recognized the patterns Chapman described in my previous relationships - all seemed to fall apart after two years (when Chapman says most in-love feelings dissipate and the work of loving begins).

What's happening, says Chapman, is that despite being in love, these couples have lost the ability to understand and to speak their partner's love language. Just as one person speaks English and another Chinese, one must be willing to speak the others' language and come to common ground before communication can happen. Most couples will give up and shut downbefore they realized that they stopped listening.

The 5 Love Languages are:

1) Words of Affirmation

2) Acts of Service

3) Physical Touch

4) Quality Time

5) Receiving Gifts

Just as each language has its own dialect (think Boston versus Louisiana), so too do Love Languages.

Quality Time doesn't have to be active or expensive. Conversation is free!
Quality Time doesn't have to be active or expensive. Conversation is free! | Source

What I learned

In reading the book, simply written with a plethora of real-couple stories and experiences, was that I had indeed neglected to speak my husband's love language, as well as recognize that he, too, had stopped speaking mine as often as he once did.

When we first met, I realized immediately that my husband would take care of me. Furthermore, this did not scare me or make me feel vulnerable. He took pleasure in helping me, from the smallest tasks (getting me some water) to the larger ones (helping me financially, being with me when my pets died). He rubbed my feet nearly every day and never showed signs of annoyance if I asked him to get me something. After reading Chapman's book, I saw that my love language was Acts of Service. It made me feel loved. (Psychologically, this may be a result of how I was raised. Services rendered out of love rather than by expectation, was rare. But my husband was so clear in his giving, I understood it as love and clung to that).

I also learned that my husband's love language is Quality Time with a dialect of conversation. As a philosophy professor, it was never a secret that my husband loved to talk. With the birth of our son, I found it difficult to listen to his conversation, often lengthy and with terminology I could no longer understand (my lexicon of words went from "hubris" to "ga-ga" and "poopies.") I was ignoring his language, and stopped speaking it.

We had both fallen from our linguistic studies and in doing so, we lost each other.

Sometimes, you do need to do some research

K-I-S-S-I-N-G ... again

The week after finishing the book, I paid careful attention. When my husband began a conversation with me, I made sure to look at him, to listen to his words, to make eye contact. When my son wanted something, I told my son to please wait because I was listening to Daddy. Not only did I find that my husband seemed pleased and happier to be getting the attention I had woefully neglected to give him before, but it made me happy to hear my husband again. In turn, although he had not read the book, he was offering to get me tea, helping me clean the house at the end of a long day, and rubbing my shoulders.

By recognizing our love languages, and by responding to his, without telling him I was doing so, we had found what it was that made love so easy. I have since fallen behind, but once I recognize it, I take note and strive to pay more attention. Soon, I have faith it will once again be a pleasurable habit because not only do I do it to keep us at peace, I do it because I love my husband, and I love what he has to say and that he wants to say it to me. What may at first seem like an attempt to just patch things up is really the climb on an uphill track that once crested, is easy to coast.

If you find that something is off track in your marriage or partnership, I encourage you to read Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages. If you're single, or in a new relationship, I believe it is still a very good resource, because as easy as it is to fall in love, some time may come when you have to remind yourself how you got there.

Best of luck!


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