Last month, I was asked to do a summary review of the book, The 5 Love Languages for one of my youth forums, Motivators International Development Organisation. I really enjoyed the process of reading in between lines to glean precious truths rather than skimming through it like I would have done had I not been saddled that task. I also enjoyed the discussion about the book on my youth forum. Have you read the book? I hope this summary reminds you that have read it and encourages you that haven't read it to pick it up.
Chapter One (What Happens To Love After The Wedding)
The book begins with a question "what happens to love after marriage?" This was a question by a desperate man who had come to Gary lamenting that he had been married 3 times, each lasting 10, 3 and 6 years respectively. Each time he was convinced he was in love before he married but gradually the love deflated until he felt emptiness that eventually led to divorce.
Gary begins his discourse by stating that this is the very question thousands of married and divorced people are asking today. And the same question, thousands of books on marriage and communication attempt to answer. He points out that one thing these books fail to recognize is that people speak different love languages. Like English is different from Chinese, our spouse's primary love language may be as different. "We must be willing to learn our spouse's primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love."
He goes ahead to say that he thinks there are basically five love languages, though there could be different dialects just as in any language of the world. And that children who feel loved by their parents will develop a primary love language based on their unique psychological make up and the way their parents and other significant persons expressed love to them. On the other hand, children who do not feel loved by their parents will also develop a primary love language, but which could be distorted just like a child who learnt poor grammar has underdeveloped vocabulary. This doesn't mean that these children could not be effective communicators of love but they would have to work at it more diligently than others.
He concludes this chapter stating matter-of-factly that once you identify and learn to speak your spouse's love language, you would have found the key to a long-lasting loving marriage.
Chapter Two (Keeping The Love Tank Full)
Gary begins this chapter lamenting the fact that love is the most important word in the English dictionary, and yet the most confusing. He describes different instances where people use the word love and they mean totally different feelings. For example: I love hotdogs, I love my mother. He also lamented the fact that we use the word love to explain all sorts of behavior. A man involved in an adulterous relationship calls it love, while the preacher calls it sin. A parent who indulges all a child's wishes calls it love, while the family therapist calls it irresponsible parenting. He went ahead to state that despite all the confusion surrounding the word love, there's a kind of love that is essential to our emotional health. He calls it our "emotional love tank" which is evident in every child. "When a child feels really loved, he will develop normally but when his love tank is empty he will misbehave... The emotional need for love follows us into adulthood and into marriage... Could it be that deep inside hurting couples, exists an invisible emotional love tank with its gauge on empty?" He summarized this chapter in the following statement: "At the heart of mankind's existence is the desire to be intimate and loved. Marriage is designed to meet that need for intimacy and love."
Chapter Three (Falling In Love)
This chapter defines what real love is as against falling in love. It points out the shortfalls of the "in-love" experience. First is that it will not last forever. Research has it that the average span of romantic obsession is two years. Secondly, "the in-love experience gives us the illusion that our spouse is perfect." Thirdly, the euphoria of the in-love state gives us the illusion that we have an intimate relationship. Also, the in-love experience does not focus on our growth nor the growth and development of the other person. Rather, it gives us the sense that we have arrived. Gary then quotes Dr. Peck on 3 reasons why falling in love is not real love. 1. Falling in love is not an act of the will or a conscious choice. 2. Falling in love is not real love because it is effortless. 3. The one who is in love is not genuinely interested in fostering the personal growth of the other person. If we have any purpose in mind, it is to terminate our own loneliness and perhaps ensure this result through marriage.
Gary concludes this chapter by defining real love stating that it "is emotional in nature but not obsessional. It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It is an act of the will and requires discipline and it recognizes the need for personal growth." He explains that as against the "in-love experience", true love is rational, volitional and intentional. True love "does not require the euphoria of the "in-love" experience. In fact, true love cannot begin until the "in-love" experience has run its course." He further states that "if love is a choice, then they (married couples) have the capacity to love after the "in love" obsession has died and they have have returned to the real world. That kind of love begins with an attitude- a way of thinking. Love is the attitude that says, 'I am married to you and choose to look out for your interests'. Then the one who chooses to love will begin to find appropriate ways to express that decision" which is what the entire book is all about.
This chapter describes one of the love languages: Words of affirmation. Its several dialects include but are not limited to verbal compliments, encouraging words, kind words and humble words. "Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words", Gary says. "Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your spouse's perspective." He frowned against people pressuring their spouse to do something they want, saying that rather they should encourage them to develop an interest they already have. For example, "Only when a person wants to lose weight, can you give her encouragement. Until she has the desire, your words will fall into the category of preaching. We must first learn what is important to our spouse." He went further to state the importance of using kind words, quoting King Solomon, "Soft answer turns away wrath". In conclusion, he teaches the dialect of humble words, saying, "Love makes requests not demands...We cannot get emotional love by way of demand. My spouse might in fact comply with my demands, but it is not an expression of love. It is an act of fear or guilt or some other emotion but not love."
Chapter Five- Love Language 2 (Quality Time)
This chapter describes another love language called quality time. People that speak this language of love love to spend quality time with their spouses. It could mean different things to different people such as being together, having quality conversation or engaging in quality activities together. Gary explains that "a central aspect of quality time is togetherness. Two people sitting in the same room are in close proximity but are not necessarily together. Togetherness calls for focused attention. A husband who is watching sports on television while he talks to his wife is not giving her quality time, because she does not have his full attention". Gary defines quality conversation as "sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. Whereas words of affirmation focus on what we are saying, quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing." Tips to quality conversation include: maintaining eye contact, not listening to spouse and doing something else at the same time, listening for feelings, observing body language and refusing to interrupt. The third dialect is quality activities: "anything in which one or both of you have an interest. The emphasis is not on what you're doing but on why you're doing it. The purpose is to walk away from it feeling 'he cares about me. He was willing to do something with me that I enjoy, and he did it with a positive attitude'". These may include shopping, listening to music, picnicking together, taking long walks or washing the car together. Gary emphasized that if this is the primary love language of our spouse, we need to make time for it. It will involve careful planning. We may have to give up some individual activities or do some things we don't particularly enjoy, but it will be worth it and we will have the pleasure of living with a spouse who feels loved and knowing that we have learnt to speak their primary love language fluently.
Chapter Six- Love Language 3 (Receiving Gifts)
In this Chapter, Gary describes the 4th love language- receiving gifts. "Gifts are visual symbols of love", he says. A gift tells the receiver that you were thinking of him. He emphasized that gifts don't need to be expensive. They could be bought, found (like a rose from the front yard of your house) or made e.g a hand made card. "It doesn't matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him". If your spouse's love language is receiving gifts, Gary suggests that you should, keep a gifts idea notebook. Anytime you hear your spouse say "I really like that", write it down and it will serve as a guide when you get ready to select a gift. Learn to offer the gift of self- your presence in times she needs you the most. Fill your spouse's love tank. Try a parade of gifts.
Chapter Seven- Love Language 4 (Acts of Service)
This chapter talks about another love language: acts of service which Gary defines as doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. These include actions like cooking a meal, washing the dishes, changing diapers, washing the car, getting hairs out of the sink, laying the bed, e.t.c. He tells the story of Mark and Mary who were having troubles because their love tanks were not being filled. Interestingly, they both had the same love language. Mark expected Mary to keep the house clean, have supper ready or at least started when he comes back from work and make the beds everyday. Mary expected him to wash the car, change the baby's diapers, vacuum the house and mow the grass. She expected him to help her around the house like he used to when they were dating. Meanwhile Mark had his marriage model as that of his parents where his mom did all the cooking, washing and ironing, while his dad never vacuumed the house or changed diapers. Gary explained that "even though Mark and Mary had the same primary love language, they weren't getting along because they spoke different dialects. They were doing things for each other but not the most important things. Mark and Mary were criticizing each other and getting nowhere. Once they decided to make requests of each other rather than demands, their marriage began to turn around". He also pointed out that "people tend to criticize their spouse in the area where they have the most emotional need." Mark and Mary's story revealed three important truths. First, that "what we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after". Secondly, "love is a choice and cannot be coerced". Third, our spouses' criticisms about our behavior, provides us with the clearest clue to their primary love language.
Chapter Eight- Love Language 5 (Physical Touch)
Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate love or hate. This chapter describes the 5th love language: physical touch. It could be implicit like sitting close to each other on the couch while watching TV, rubbing your body against him as you pass the kitchen or explicit like back massage, sexual intercourse. Gary tells the story of Pete and Patsy who were struggling in their marriage until they went for counseling and discovered their primary love languages. Pete preferred physical touch while Patsy cared about quality time. Pete had started withdrawing from Patsy because she wouldn't initiate physical touch and didn't respond easily when he did. She probably was carried away with house chores but he felt no more attractive and unloved and so preferred to keep his distance to escape the disappointment. Meanwhile, she read his withdrawal and lack of quality time spent with her as him not loving her. She complained always about him spending more time with the computer. When they discovered their primary love languages, they were able to fill each other's love tanks and became a perfect couple. Gary teaches that once you discover that physical touch is your spouse's primary love language, you should come up with new places and ways to touch your spouse. "Your best instructor is your spouse...Don't insist on touching her in your own way and time. Learn to speak her love dialect."
Chapter Nine (Discovering Your Primary Love Language)
Men usually make the mistake of assuming that physical touch is their primary love language because they desire sexual intercourse so intensely. Gary clarifies that for the male, sexual intimacy is physically based- when the seminal vesicles are full, there is a physical push for release. So if he does not enjoy physical touch in other times and in non sexual ways, then it might not be his primary love language. That doesn't mean that sexual intercourse is unimportant to him- it is extremely important- but sexual intercourse alone will not meet his need to feel loved. On the other hand, for the female, sexual intimacy is rooted in her emotion, not her physiology. If she feels loved and admired and appreciated by her husband, then she has a desire to be physically intimate with him.
To discover your primary love language, ask yourself what makes you feel most loved by your spouse? Or ask what does your spouse do or say or fail to do that hurts you deeply? Another approach is to look back over your marriage and ask yourself, 'What have I most requested of my spouse?' Those requests have probably been interpreted by your spouse as nagging. Another way to discover your primary love language is to examine what you do or say to express love to your spouse. Chances are what you're doing for her is what you wish she would do for you.
Chapter Ten (Love Is A Choice)
In this chapter, Gary teaches that love is a choice. We choose to show love in our spouse's love language for the benefit of our spouse not for our own comfort. To the question, what if your spouse's love language doesn't come naturally to you, he answers, "if an action doesn't come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love. When your spouse's love tank is full, it reflects on the way he treats you and so benefit comes to you also.
Chapter Eleven (Love Makes The Difference)
"Love is not our only emotional need", Gary says. We have other basic emotional needs. The need for security, self-worth, significance. However, when one feels loved, one feels secure, has a good self-worth and feels significant. Gary tells the story of Norm and Jean who appeared on the outside like they had a fabulous marriage because they weren't struggling with what others struggled with: they had their bills paid off, money wasn't an issue for them. But neither of them felt love coming from their spouse. They just went about their daily routines, dying in silence until Jean couldn't take it anymore. She was being provided for. Most days, dinner was already started when she came back from work. Norm vacuumed the house. But all his acts of service meant little to her because they weren't spending quality time together. On the other hand Norm couldn't understand what more she wanted from him after all he did for her. When they learnt each other's primary love language and began to speak it, they brought a revival to their dying marriage. Gary summarizes this chapter in this statement, "Love is not the answer to everything, but it creates a climate of security in which we can seek answers to those things that bother us."
Chapter Twelve (Loving The Unlovely)
Is it possible to love someone who you hate? Bottled up anger turns to hate. This is how a lot of well meaning people feel about their spouses. And this was the case of Ann who had come to Gary for counseling. She was torn between two difficult choices: to live in pain by staying in marriage with her husband whom she had lost all love for or to leave the marriage and defy her religious belief. Gary quoted to her the words of Jesus whom she believed in. I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... Do to others as you will like them to do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even "sinners" love those who love them. Ann took up the challenge to express love to her husband in his primary love language, even though she wasn't feeling love for him. By the end of six months, her husband had responded to her by equally showing her love and her feelings for him had come back. Gary stated, "if you claim to have feelings that you do not have, that is hypocritical... But if you express an act of love that is designed for the other person's benefit or pleasure, it is simply a choice. Ann chose to love the unlovely and she reaped the benefit.
Chapter Thirteen ( Children And Love Languages)
Gary states here that the concept of the five love languages also applies to children. He says, " when children are young, you don't know their primary love language. Therefore pour on all five and you're bound to hit it; but if you observe their behaviour you can learn their primary love language rather early... If your child is often making presents for you, wrapping them up and giving them to you with a special glee in his or her eye, your child's primary love language is probably "Receiving Gifts". If you observe your son or daughter always trying to help a younger brother or sister, it probably means that his or her primary love language is "Acts of Service". If he or she is often telling you how good you look or how good a mother or father you are... it is an indicator that his or her primary love language is probably 'Words of Affirmation'". He concluded the chapter stating that each child is different and what communicates love to one may not communicate love to another. Forcing a child to take a walk with you so that you can spend quality time together will not communicate love if that's not their primary love language. Therefore we must learn to speak our children's love language if we want them to feel loved.
Chapter Fourteen ( A Personal Word)
Gary rounds off this book by leaving a personal word. Below is an excerpt: "What do you think? Having read these pages, walked in and out of the lives of several couples, visited small villages and large cities, sat with me in the counseling office, and talked with people in the restaurants, what do you think? Could these concepts radically alter the emotional climate of your marriage? What would happen if you discovered the primary love language of your spouse and chose to speak it consistently?"
Over the past few weeks, we have learnt several wonderful truths including: the concept of love tank and its relationship to fulfillment in marital relationship; the difference between real love and the "in love" experience and how to recognize which is which; the five love languages which are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We have also learnt how to discover our primary love language. This last chapter contains a questionnaire for guiding you to find yours and your partner's love language. What have you learnt? What is your primary love language? Have you discovered that of your partner? Have you made a commitment to choose to love even when they don't deserve it? Have you begun to practice any of the truths in here? Is there anything you don't agree with? Please leave your comments here.
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Radiant ~ March 2016