The Five Love Languages is the biggest seller book when it comes to relationship advice.
And for good reasons: it’s short and to the point and with great relationship wisdom.
- People express love and feel loved in different ways
- For a happy and loving marriage you need to know your partner’s love language
- There are people with two love languages and there are “dialects” within the same language
The 5 Love Languages states that people express and feel loved in 5 different ways. If two people from two different love languages are together they can ruin their relationship by not making their partner feel loved.
To fix the issue you should learn how your partner communicates and receives love and adjust accordingly.
Let’s start then with the 5 Love Languages:
Love Language #1: WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Words of affirmation communicate with words how much you love your partner.
If words of affirmations is your partner’s primary love language, it will mean the world to them when you say how much you love them.
Here’s how you can communicate through words of affirmation:
- Tell them “I love you”
- Make compliments
- Say you love them so much when they do X
People whose primary love language is quality time will be deeply hurt by criticism and hurtful comments.
Love Language #2: QUALITY TIME
People who have quality time as their main love language will value spending time with their partners and getting their full attention.
Quality is the keyword here, which excludes activities such as watching TV together (TV gets your attention) or driving (the road gets much of the attention).
Here’s how to express love in the quality time language:
- Going for a walk just the two of you
- Eating together while having personal conversations
- Doing new experiences together
You will hurt people whose love language is quality time the most when you avoid spending time together. Avoid postponing dates, being distracted and not listening to them.
Love Language #3: RECEIVING GIFTS
If your love language is gifts, you appreciate gifts and concrete symbols of love.
Indeed, that’s what gifts stand for: a symbol of appreciation, a sign you are thinking of them and, of course, a symbol love. No gifts, means no love.
The value of the gift is actually often less important (unless she’s a low quality girl).
I can relate here. I had a girlfriend whose language of love was gifts, and she always came up with super personalize gifts for me. Often of little value but requiring work and thought.
If you never buy gifts and your partner’s love language is gifts, you are hurting them. Especially hurtful is missing gifts for celebrations, birthday and anniversaries.
Changing Attitudes Towards Money
I particularly liked the note Chapman does on people who are money savers and don’t like spending on “meaningless” stuff (I am like that).
Savers feel good about themselves when they save money, so when savers are in a relationship with a partner whose language of love is gifts, it could create problems.
But, the author says, by not purchasing gifts you ARE purchasing for yourself. You are purchasing emotional security and self-worth. You are caring for yourself… And hurting your spouse.
Love Language #4: ACTS OF SERVICE
People whose love language are acts of service appreciate concrete help as a sign of love.
“Let me do that for you” is the keyword here. You use your own time and resources to take a load off their shoulders.
Here are examples of acts of service:
- Preparing the table
- Changing children’s diapers
- Mowing the grass
- Taking the garbage out
Here Chapman introduces the possibilities of “dialects” within the same love language.
For example, you can both speak acts of service as your love language but value different type of services. He might feel his duty is mowing the lawn but she should take care of the children. While she could feel they are both parents and it’s not loving of him not to help with the kids.
Chapman recommends you ask your spouse to come up with a list of tasks she wold appreciate help with.
Refusing to help and broken promises are particularly painful for those who speak acts of service as their love language.
Love Language #5: PHYSICAL TOUCH
Partners whose main love language is physical touch will fell your love when you kiss them, hug them, cuddle, have sex and hold each other after sex.
Even here there are different dialects which are expressed through situational physical touch and which parts of the body one likes most.
Don’t assume but ask or, better, observe.
My Note: also note that men and women touch each other very differently. Read more on 4 ways men touch women wrong.
Lack of touching is of course particularly painful for people whose main love language is physical touch. You might be a guy who’s not into holding hands -I wasn’t-, but if your spouse is, hold that hand while walking.
For children, if his primary love language is touch, he will remember a slap for his whole life.
Real Life Applications
Learn Your Own Love Language
And let your partner know about it.
Find Your Partner’s Love Language
And communicate to him/her using his/her love language.
Not All You Need to Know
The 5 Love Languages is so successful that I’d almost be afraid people think it’s all there is to know.
While it presents great and key insights, I believe equally important for relationships, if not more so, is the work of Dr. Gottman.
Unscientific (But Valid!)
As I listened to the audiobook, I couldn’t help but notice that Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages had little scientific and research backing.
However, I’ve done the research for you.
Research papers to confirm (or disprove) the 5 Love Languages don’t seem to reach a strong conclusion, partially because of the difficulty of measuring the phenomenon.
However, they seem to lend some scientific credibility to the 5 Love Languages
See: construct validation of the 5 languages of love and a validity test of Chapman’s 5 Love Languages.
The 5 Love Languages is a great book. Anyone interested in a successful relationship -and we should all be- will gain reading it.
Below I address some common critics leveled against it.
Is It Sexist / Traditional?
The 5 Love Languages has been heavily criticize over time.
One of the main critics is that Chapman recommends a woman to try to revive her marriage on her own. And since her husband always wants more sex with her, he recommends her to have sex once a week first and then increase it to two times a week.
I really don’t see much point in this critic.
If one wants to give it a try to revive a marriage -or any relationship for that matter-, why not to start from oneself first?
If it doesn’t work, that’s fine, at least you have tried everything.
One the sex question, if one party wants to have more sex, there are only three ways to solve it. 1. have more sex and make him happy; 2. don’t have sex and only make yourself happy; 3. or meet in the middle.
Chapman’s recommendation just seemed a way to meet in the middle. And it was smart in the sense that sex also underpins an emotional connection, and can be an indicator of an improving relationship.
Is It Too Religious?
Chapman is a pastor and there are biblical references in the 5 Love Languages.
But it’s not all based on religion and scriptures like, for example, Boundaries is.
And personally, I didn’t find those references take anything away from the main message.
Is It Un-Scientific?
One of the main criticism against the 5 Love Languages instead is that of having little scientific background.
I am ambivalent about it.
I believe an experienced and good observer can be better than a few researches in drawing valid theories. But those solid theories are better confirmed by research then.
And the scientific research I have dug up on the topic seem to confirm the validity of Chapman’s message.
On a personal level, I am not 100% if the 5 love languages are a do or break in a relationship. I think great couples would either adjust or thrive anyway even in spite of not knowing about the 5 love languages and other relationship skills are more important.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no great value here. Indeed I give it a 5 star.
Respect for Chapman
As a last note, I have major respect for Chapman if what The New York Times says about him is true. Chapman devoted all income from the 5 Love Languages to a charity.
The charity promotes Christian values and one might or might not agree with that. But he’s certainly a man who puts his money where his mouth is.
And that’s not something many do.