April 11, 2007
Book Review: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
This morning, after my daily Scripture reading, I finished up reading Gray Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. It’s a well-known book (it’s on Wal-Mart shelves everywhere) so I won’t belabor the point of it to much here. Suffice it to say that each person has a “love tank” that measures unconsciously how much love you feel from your spouse, and that this tank is filled up in one of five ways (depending on personality, upbringing, and environment), Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Quality Time.
However, for all the talk in the about love languages that I hear from married couples around me, I wonder how many people got their concept secondhand. Chapman qualifies much of what he says, always telling his reader that counseling doesn’t deal in hard facts, and mistakes are made as often as successes. But from what I hear from those around me, they think that the love language and “love tank” concepts are proven (as with a scientific study).
This kind of thing is vary hard to quantify (we are talking about “love” after all, and the concepts of love are as varied as people are) so I think it unlikely that a scientific study could be conducted. Hence, we find Chapman’s reliance on personal testimonies, and success stories. Not such a bad thing as it turns out, since he does a good job of finding telling stories about all kinds of couples, from those in which both spouses are enthusiastic about resurrecting their marriage and love, to ones where both spouses are ready to give up. This, I think, allows the reader to better find him or herself in the book.
I sort of had “aha!” moments when I read the receiving gifts chapter. My parents always expressed heir love by giving me stuff (especially my father) and I have come to see that as my love language. I think my secondary one would probably be Acts of Service, as I find myself most content when the wife has done something I asked her to do, right away.
One other thing I like about this book, because I am a Christian, is the subtle nature of Chapman’s own Christianity. His goal is not to proselytize, but to help people in struggling marriages no matter their beliefs, but it is obvious from his examples and supporting concepts, that Chapman is himself a Christian. However, a non-Christian could read this book, glean the insights, and in no way feel that he/she had been preached to, or given a sermon. Yes, Jesus’ name is mentioned as he talks a great deal about love, and one chapter has a soft altar call in it (its at the end when Chapman is being more personal) but other than that, its a self-help book like any other.
Some might say that this makes the book just another self-help book or watered down Christianity, but I say that it makes a strong argument. It's like one of N.T. Wright's echoes of a voice in Simply Christian. Everyone hungers for love in some form no matter their religious affiliation. Chapman isn’t interested in making you a Christian; he first wants you to be a better person who has a happy marriage. To fill the hunger. If you find that true love is what Jesus says it is, and you come to believe in His love for you, through the process of getting there, than all to the better for you.
I highly recommend this book for anyone in a relationship of any kind. It can be read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, has interesting anecdotes, and will make you happier if you apply the teaching. This book will help you.