Book Review: The 5 Love Languages. The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman
Over the last year, I’ve had many couples mention that they’ve read The Five Love Languages (Chapman, G; 2015). This prompted me to read it myself, so that I may form my own opinion about whether this book could be helpful to couples who are struggling, or those who want to improve on an already positive relationship.
The books author, a relationship counselor, has an educational background that includes anthropology, religious education, and philosophy. The purpose of the book is to help people show love to their spouses in ways that it will be received. It’s based on the premise that, just as there are different verbal languages throughout the world, there are also different ‘love languages’, and if we’re not speaking the same one as our spouse they are likely not hearing our messages of love, nor are we receiving theirs.
The book distinguishes between the ‘in love’ experience (≤ 2 years) characterized by euphoria that gives a false sense of intimacy, from ‘real love’ that is intentional, and requires the choice to do something for your partner’s benefit. For ‘real love’ to flourish, the author posits that you must be able to communicate, or act, within the primary love language of your partner. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
The Five Love Languages is easy to read, relatively short, and provides examples and exercises that may be useful to readers. The book highlights that the actions we may take to show our love to our partner are not necessarily received as intended, reminding the reader that people experience the world differently. This can be an important concept when trying to understand our partners’ needs and feelings.
Identifying both your own and your partners’ ‘primary love language’, and acting accordingly, may indeed increase the positive interactions in a relationship. Alternately, the book may be helpful in finding multiple ways to show your love to your partner.
At minimum, The Five Love Languages does not propose actions that would likely be harmful to couples, as it encourages readers to explore the needs of their partner. It does lack empirical evidence, however, with very little research to support both the idea that we each have a primary love language (Polk, D & Egbert, N; 2013), and its effectiveness in treating a variety of relationship difficulties. This book may provide practical solutions for some, although, it may not be sufficient to assist with more complex relationship challenges, such as infidelity or communication difficulties.
Chapman, G. (2015). The 5 love languages. The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, Il: Northfield Publishing.
Polk, D. & Egbert, N. (2013). Speaking the language of love: On whether Chapman’s (1992) claims stand up to empirical testing. The Open Communication Journal, 7, 1-11.