Book Review: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman


This is a review of The Five Love Languages, as written in 1992 & 1995 by Gary Chapman and released by Northfield Publishing. This book looks to help readers to improve at how they express heartfelt commitment to their relationship partner, and it briefly explores the way these five love languages are also connected to the development of children. This is the second time I read through this book, and over the years I have become very familiar with the work of Gary Chapman and his thoughts on these love languages.

Throughout this book, Author Gary Chapman explores what he calls the five love languages. These five love languages, though they have many dialects, are the five ways in which Chapman has found that couples often express, experience, and demonstrate their love for each other. After twenty years of marriage counseling, it was Chapman’s conclusion that “there are basically five emotional love languages - five ways that people speak and understand emotional love.”[1] Those five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

Though there is no way to scientifically quantify Chapman’s work, nor are the sterile and simplistic stories helpful for most academic readers, the truth is that the framework he offers gives a helpful framework and language to couples and counselors. In fact, the framework he offers has become so un-ignorable, that it has undoubtedly shaped the way many couples and counselors talk about their relationships and address relationships. Even a quick google search of the five love languages shows the way Gary Chapman’s framework (the love languages) has shaped and appears on many coaching, counseling, self-help and psychiatrist websites.

In the The Five Love Languages, we find a framework to invest-in your relationship and steward your relationship when the in-love feeling or purely emotional attachment aspect of a relationship comes to an abrupt end. Chapman points out “At its peak, the “in love” experience is euphoric. We are emotionally obsessed with each other.”[2] However, as most couples know, “the in love experience is fiction, not fact. Dr. Dorothy Tennova, a psychologist, has done long-range studies on the in-love phenomenon. After studying scores of couples, she concluded that the average lifespan of a romantic obsession is two years.”[3] Often, after the in-love phenomenon ends, couples need to find a way of committed discipline and conscious effort to invest in each other.[4] The framework Chapman offers is focused on helping the couples improve the way they express, experience, and demonstrate their love for each other so that their love tank, as Chapman calls it, is full and they feel secure.[5] Chapman believes that “when your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and…feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach [their] highest potential in life.”[6] In this understanding, a relationship is about loving and serving the other, encouraging and empowering them to reach their potential.

There are a few cautions I have with Chapman’s work. The first caution I have is his book is quite simple and the stories are so simplistic that they can just be skipped over. Though, in the book these subjective stories are held up like proof to his work, but I don’t think they have enough details to show true results. This does not distract from the framework he offers in any way. The second caution I have is that he never talks about a couple in generic terms, even when talking generically about relationships, he always uses pronouns (he/she) when talking generically about one partner in the relationship, which can uphold stereotypes that I don’t think are helpful. Again, if you can overlook this it doesn’t undermine the framework. A third caution is that this book doesn’t ever explore the details, just the larger idea. It fails to address in detail how these five love languages transform the day-to-day aspects of a marriage, such as the sexual, verbal, financial, or relationship aspects of a relationship.

Lastly, I think there are three points that he makes unaware that if a reader is not careful with how they incorporate or interpret them, these points could lead to unhealthy ideas in a relationship. First, these five love languages in the stories appear as a fix-it-all, but while learning to live out these five love languages will improve relationships, it is not enough to fix or reverse a broken relationship. There needs to be willingness and healing. Secondly, though I agree that we are stewarding the potential in our partner, we must not understand Chapman in a way that we become only a servant to our partner’s greater good, especially to the point that we kill or lose ourselves in service of an unhealthy partner. I have seen this play out too often in relationships. A person’s potential still has more about the journey they are willing to do themselves. Third, Chapman makes a point that an individual’s identity is shaped by the love they feel from the partner. So while I agree making the choice to love your spouse everyday is an important discipline, we must never let that become our identity or the thing that creates theirs.[7] Chapman reasons that when we feel love we feel significance.[8] Please note, love is empowering, but we are not responsible to be the identity feeder of our spouse. They must know who they are on their own, and they must know their why in life. If our love is the source of their identity, then I would fear that the partner in the relationship is deeply unhealthy. For this reason I disagree with Chapman that our “sense of self-worth is fed by the fact that my spouse loves me.”[9] Again, these are not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say.

If you are looking for a way to help the emotional love in your relationship experience rebirth, or empowerment, or you are a coach/counselor looking for ways to help a couple - I think this book has excellent merit and value. This book helps us realize that emotional love, in a relationship, is encouraged and empowered when we learn what is the “the primary love language of your spouse and choose to speak it.”[10] This book explains what are those primary love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch) and how to speak them to each other. Additionally, at the end of the book, Chapman offers a glimpse on how the love languages work with children, and this may be some of the most important. I believe we should all be growing in embodying, demonstrating, and announcing these five love languages to those we are in relationship with.

Buy on Amazon

Quotes & Highlights


[1] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 15.

[2] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 29.

[3] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 30.

[4] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 33.

[5] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 37.

[6] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 37.

[7] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 132.

[8] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 140.

[9] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 139.

[10] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1995), 145.

Comments

Popular Posts

Book Review: Shattered by Rip Wahlberg

Book Review: Lennon, Dylan, Alice, & Jesus by Greg Laurie and Marshall Terrill

Book Review: How Much Land Does a Man Need by Leo Tolstoy