Front cover of book - The 5 love languagesTHE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES: The Secret to Love that Lasts

Gary Chapman

[Northfield Publishing, reprint edition, 208 pages]

A while back, a co-worker told me about the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. Although the book is aimed at couples, she told me it had helped her with her other interpersonal relationships.

I was curious, and eventually picked up the book to learn more. Who wouldn’t want to improve their interactions with people?

I discovered that this book outlines the five main love languages and explains how we each have a particular way of expressing ourselves through these languages.

Learning the love language of your spouse is key to understanding how they receive and express love. However, what I took away from this book is that learning another person’s love language—whether it’s that of your sibling, friend, co-worker or someone else entirely—can help you understand them better and improve your communication with them.

Within the five main love languages, there are also dialects, which are different ways that people express love. When using words of affirmation, for example, a spouse can choose a few different ways of going about it, such as:

  • Using requests instead of demands
  • Providing encouragement
  • Making positive remarks about their partner to others

These three behaviours are all separate dialects within the words of affirmation language.

Here’s a brief summary of all five love languages that Chapman outlines:

Words of affirmation

Words of affirmation are positive words that build people up. As the author explains, affirming words can include anything from making a remark about how nice someone looks to making a list of a person’s admirable traits.

Compliments go a long way towards making people feel validated and encouraged. As Chapman says, “verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”

Quality time

Chapman defines quality time as giving another person your undivided attention, doing something the other person enjoys and having quality conversation with that person. He points out that quality conversation is different from words of affirmation, in that quality conversation indicates that you’re listening to the other person, asking questions and taking an interest in what they’re saying.

Receiving gifts

Another love language is receiving gifts. For some people, gifts are important visual symbols of love. As an example, Chapman uses the example of wedding bands. Some people never take their wedding band off, while others have different attitudes towards wedding rings.

The gift of self is another element of gift-giving, and is described as the gift of presence, of physically being there when another person needs you.

Acts of service

For others, acts of service (cooking a meal, cleaning, taking out the garbage, paying the bills and so on) demonstrate thoughtfulness, consideration and love.

Chapman tells an interesting story of a couple in which both individuals spoke through their acts of service. Unfortunately, they used vastly different dialects and had experienced extremely different upbringings, which led to arguments and misunderstandings. This story illustrates the idea that different actions will mean different things to each individual.

Physical touch

Physical touch is a primary love language for some people, and if they don’t receive it, they feel unloved. Chapman points out that there are many different forms of physical touch, and that something like a hug may mean more to a person in times of crisis than comforting words. For those people, physical touch is their emotional lifeline.

Discovering your own love language

Man writing on piece of paper - The 5 love languagesChapman says that there are a few ways to discover your own primary love language. The same languages we use to express our love towards others can actually be used to hurt or manipulate others as well. For instance, doing things for others in order to receive praise is an example of using the acts of service language for your own good.

According to Chapman, what wounds you most deeply will often give you insight into the type of love language you speak. For instance, if you often seek encouragement or compliments, and feel hurt if you don’t receive them, your primary love language is likely words of affirmation.

If you think about what you ask of other people and what you do to regularly express love to others, you can identify your love language in this way, too.

Another helpful activity Chapman suggests is writing down what you think your primary love language is and listing the other four by their level of importance. He also suggests that you write down the love language(s) of your significant other and spend some time speaking to them about it.

By examining your own actions and those of others, you can more fully understand the love languages of all the important people in your life. Don’t get discouraged if you feel unsure or confused when it comes to pinpointing your own love language, though. Chapman explains that some people are ‘bilingual’ and find more than one love language important.

Expressing love in different languages

In the end, we always have the choice to love. Chapman asserts that each and every day, we can make the choice to speak someone else’s love language.

When an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s even more meaningful, because you do it out of love.

For some people, expressing a certain person’s primary love language may not come naturally. You might not be a touchy-feely person or someone who likes doing chores. However, Chapman reminds the reader that we do many things that don’t come naturally to us—like getting out of bed in the morning. He adds that when an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s even more meaningful, because you do it out of love. It often means the world to the other person, too.

Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages espouses the principles that most of us have been taught about effective communication throughout our lives: listening, understanding and negotiating. The author shows us that love is essential and makes us feel secure. With love, we can do anything!

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Angela Ward is a communications professional and writer with an interest in personal development, mindful living and environmental protection. You can find her on Twitter.

image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Pixabay