The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is an excellent book to recommend to couples looking to improve their relationship. Dr. Chapman believes how people show love to one another can be divided into five different categories, at least one of which we use to express love and expect/hope to receive it.
The five love languages are:
- ACTS OF SERVICE-the idea is to serve your partner by doing things he/she would like you to do. Examples could be cooking, cleaning, picking up a prescription, etc.
- WORDS OF AFFIRMATION-verbal compliments
- QUALITY TIME-giving your partner undivided attention; spending time with them
- GIFT GIVING-the meaning and effort behind giving a gift to your partner
- PHYSICAL TOUCH- kisses, hugs, holding hands, massage, etc.
In my counseling practice, I often see how little couples appear to understand each other’s primary love language. Part of the problem seems to be a lack of communication between the two in expressing what they value most in receiving love. A husband may put forth great effort in doing acts of service for his wife. Without being asked, he may be diligent in helping in the kitchen, buying groceries, cleaning out his wife’s car, keeping up the yard, etc. However, what his wife might want the most is being verbally affirmed, or spending quality time with her husband. His efforts to serve her are noble, but also, on his terms, not necessarily hers.
In discussing the concept of “love languages” with couples, I often use the example of buying flowers for my mom and, in the past, for my wife. When I bring flowers during visits with mom, she’ll light up and become extremely excited. She’ll express her appreciation again and again, even calling several days later to share how nice the flowers still look. However, giving flowers to my wife has little effect on her. She’d much rather see me take the time to plan out a “date night”. She values time spent together more than my giving her a gift.
Dr. Chapman’s book offers an interactive questionnaire that helps each partner discover their love language and that of their partner. It is critical the couple have an in-depth conversation in reviewing and discussing the results of the completed questionnaires. The husband and wife should bring an attitude of humility, openness and “teachability” to the conversation(s).
Many couples who come for counseling have little to no idea why their partner is so unhappy and/or feeling “unloved”. Invariably, a pattern of emotional withdrawal and detachment becomes evident. There can also be bitterness and resentment that has cumulatively increased over time. Whether the issue is feeling unappreciated, ignored or misunderstood in the relationship, couples can utilize this book to gain valuable insights into better meeting each other’s emotional and practical love needs.