I recently read a book that has really changed my outlook on love and marriage: The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. This short book has taught me so much and has the potential to really improve upon my marriage for both my husband and myself. This book should be required reading for anyone in a long-term relationship. It has so much valuable information, and is peppered with stories that illustrate the concepts of the book.
Falling In Love Versus Real Love
The book has a great discussion of the differences of falling-in-love versus intentionally loving someone. The in-love experience lasts an average of two years, and is just the beginning of the lifelong, intentional love that will be required in a successful marriage. The book describes that,
'the falling in love experience is not real love for three reasons. First, falling in love is not an act of the will or a conscious choice... Second, falling in love is not real love because it is effortless... Third, one who is "in love" is not genuinely interested in fostering the personal growth of the other person.'Real love differs from being in-love in that it is a conscious choice. This is the heart of marriage, and the part that will last throughout the decades.
Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct... true love cannot begin until the "in-love" experience has run its course.The Love Tank
'The need to feel loved by one's spouse is at the heart of marital desires... Could it be that deep inside hurting couples exists an invisible "emotional love tank" with its gauge on empty? Could the misbehavior, withdrawal, harsh words, and critical spirit occur because of that empty tank? If we could find a way to fill it, could the marriage be reborn?... Could that tank be the key that makes marriages work?The love tank can only be filled by using our primary love languages. And when we don't know each other's language, we can easily have our love tank become empty and consequently feel unloved. Once the love tanks are on empty, it is so easy to fall into the idea that,
"Our love is gone. Our relationship is dead. We used to feel close, but not now."Five Love Languages
As indicated by its title, the main focus of the book is learning about the five love languages. These languages are the key to understanding our own needs in our relationships, as well as the needs of our spouses. I was amazed to learn that I had no idea of the specific things I need to feel loved by my husband, and I had no idea of what specific things he needs either. This book really sheds light on how both people can feel like they are doing everything they can, yet both be dissatisfied in the relationship: they are speaking different languages!
The five love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation, such as encouraging words and praise
- Quality Time, such as doing things together and quality conversation
- Receiving Gifts, such as presents but also including the gift of self
- Acts of Service, such as helping out around the house and lovingly prepared meals
- Physical Touch, such as massages and cuddling (and this is different from the biological need for sex that men feel, although sex would be especially important to a man whose primary love language is Physical Touch)
Loving the Unlovely
The book also has a chapter for those who may have reluctant spouses that aren't willing to work on changing their marriages. The stories in this chapter are really inspiring and show just how much difference the five love languages can make, even when things look very bleak.
My husband and I read the book together, one chapter at a time, and discussed each chapter before moving on to the next one. When I read the chapter about Quality Time, I had so many lightbulbs turn on in my head. Finally, I understood what I need to feel loved, and have so missed since we have had kids: having shared activities together and being able to have quality conversations with my husband. It is amazing to me that I had no idea how to express these needs and couldn't even have put them into words.
My husband's love language is Acts of Service, and this is the language that would probably be last on my list. I was shocked when he told me that he shows love by doing things like washing dishes and taking out the trash. I certainly appreciate those things, but never would have associated that they were his way of showing me love! And I also had no idea of the value my husband places on the acts of service I do, like cooking, cleaning, and making time for him to pursue his hobbies.
Now that we know each other's love languages, we can both make more of an effort to intentionally use them. We are now able to talk about our needs in a constructive way, and this is really amazing. It seems impossible that we could have been together for so long and just now learned the keys to making each other feel loved.
Love Languages and Children
The book ends with a chapter about love languages and children. It has been enlightening to think about my eldest daughter's love languages, and to realize that she may not have her emotional needs met if we're not using her primary love language. My son is too young to really show his primary language yet, but I look forward to discovering it.
Have you read "The Five Love Languages"? Did you find it to be valuable, and sis it improve your understanding of your spouse's needs?