16/03/2009

The Five Love Languages (by Gary Chapman)

Gary Chapman is a Christian pastor in the USA who holds marriage seminars, and has now written more than twenty books.

'The five love languages' (subtitled 'How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate) has become a classic. In it, he explains clearly the theories he has been teaching about, which are claimed to revolutionise many tired or unhappy marriages.

The theory is that there are, broadly, five 'love languages'. But each person is only fluent in one or two of them. So if a husband and wife are speaking different ones, each can feel that he or she is sincerely expressing love, without receiving any in return.

The five 'languages' are: Words of appreciation, physical touch, acts of service, giving gifts, and quality time. All, of course, can - and should - be used in any relationship from time to time. During dating or courtship, and even the honeymoon period, most couples do probably use them all.

But if a husband is most fluent in - for instance - gift-giving, and the wife is most fluent in quality time, each can start to feel that the other no longer cares. Perhaps the husband works hard to earn money to buy his wife expensive gifts, often spending time and ingenuity finding what he believes will be most appropriate. But she would much rather they spend some time together, and finds the gifts at best a distraction, at worst a manipulation, which she might see as an excuse for not spending time with her.

There are many such anecdotes in this book: stories of couples whom Dr Chapman visited, or who spoke to him after one of his seminars. Many people found his theories revolutionary; as they learned to speak each other's love languages, they found their marriage rejuvenated.

Perhaps it sounds simplistic and obvious. And indeed, the theory as such wasn't new to me - I had previously read Judson Swihart's 'How do you say I love you?' which covers similar ground. Nor am I naive enough to believe that this book could solve every problem which people experience in their marriages.

Nevertheless, I found the writing excellent, the stories inspiring, and the examples given to be very helpful and sometimes thought-provoking. I'd recommend this to any married couple, or anyone considering marriage.

It's never too early - or too late - to start learning another 'love language', and there's always the possibility that bored or unhappy marriages might be revived with just a few simple changes in communication.

There are several other books in the series covering the same theory, but with emphasis on love languages for children, teenagers, singles, and so on.

Very highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 16th March 2009

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