If there is a book that made the biggest impact in our marriage, the “Five love languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman was that book. In 1998 the pastor of the church we attended then did a one day conference on the book after his wife gave the book to him. Since 1998 Ola and I must have bought and given out over 100 copies of this book and it is a criteria for CCFI chapter members to know each others love language.
After twenty-five years of being a clinical psychologist, Dr. Gary Chapman put together many concepts, the concept of someone having a love bank or tank and the concept of love as a language. In the book, Dr Chapman said every person have a love bank that gets filled when their spouse do something romantic/nice to them for example when I do what my wife likes her love tank gets filled or I’m making a deposit in her love bank, which will give me a lot of mileage when I miss it or something to withdraw from when I need to.
Dr. Chapman raised the argument of what love really mean, is it a feeling or a choice one makes? Citing the study of Dr. Dorothy Tennov, he concluded that “real” love is not how one really feels but a choice to do something for one’s spouse regardless of one’s feeling.
He went further that all of us are products of our family of origin and our experiences growing up plays a huge part in how we show and want love [I personally believe gene has a little role as well], he identified five different ways we show and want love shown to us and he calls each love pattern a language.
Everyone might display a want for each love language but usually there is a love language that is primary and it is a need (the language that fills the tank/bank the quickest and best) to us and the others are secondary languages.
Dr. Chapman identified the following as the love languages
- Acts of service
- Words of affirmation
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Giving gifts
Acts of service –
These are those who show love and expect it by doing things for their spouse or other people. Doing acts of service comes naturally to them, they’ll volunteer to do anything (in-fact sometimes you have to stop them). An act of service husband would have no problem washing dishes, ironing or doing other domestic chores, his way of showing love to his wife is usually by keeping the house (inside or outside) clean and doing it is not a chore.
Words of affirmation –
These are people who grew up getting a lot of accolade either from their parent or adults and they’ve grown to be dependent on the accolades to feel good. They look for something good in anyone to affirm that person. A word of affirmation wife would have no problem saying nice things to her husband but would have serious problem if he is not reciprocating the gesture.
Physical touch –
This is not to be confused with having sex, it is purely someone who likes to hold and smooch their spouse all the time. When at home the spouse has to be touching them in one form or another, when in public he/she holding hands is a priority.
Quality time –
A quality time husband or wife love their spouse to be with them always, they’ll avoid social functions if their spouse can’t make it – hobbies would be more fun if the husband/wife participates with them, like any language this has different dialects, some love to be indoors (just be in the same house with me), and for some they want their spouse to go for company events and trips with them.
Giving gifts –
people who show love by giving gifts are interesting people, to many of them that I know, it is not the gift that makes them happy (of course everyone likes a great gift once in a while) but the thought behind the gift is huge. The regularity is the giving is also very important, a spouse of this person will do well with small gifts (might not even be something that cost money) most of the time with occasional expensive stuff.
What typically happens in most marriages is that the husband and the wife are speaking the love language they know to each other and are not communicating because they can’t understand each other, before 1998 (when we read the book), Ola spoke “words of affirmation” while I spoke “acts of service” we were loving each other the way we both know how but the other person was not appreciating it because it was a different language, imagine her speaking “Yoruba” and I’m speaking “Igbo” for four years without either of us understanding the language that the other person speaks.
Knowing your wife or husband’s love language help you to focus on what fills his/her love tank faster (getting you the best bank for your money). However, speaking the language is a totally different thing (challenge). Dr. Chapman believes that learning your spouse’s love language is like learning a new language altogether, it is difficult and it takes time.
Like learning a new language, there has to be commitment on all levels (time, emotion, spiritual etc). It is not enough to know one’s spouse love language, speaking the language is one of the best ways to love that spouse (a happy wife and husband is a good thing for that home). As I have written many times, knowing that Ola’s love language is words of affirmation and wanting to love her, I attached affirming her with calling her “Abike” – this has helped me greatly to speak her love language.
Understanding that love is what we choose to do bring a whole new meaning to learning to speak the other person’s love language and a better dimension to intentionally loving one’s spouse. In 1998 when my wife realized that what I like the most is a clean house and things to be in order (clothes on the hanger, shoes in the closet, etc) she brought in “Stanley steamers” (cleaning company) to come clean our condo from top to bottom, they even moved the furniture around creating a set-up that makes the living room look larger and allows more light in from the outside. When I got home from work that day I felt I was in heaven, not having to yell about were shoes are or complain about clothes in the living room, to me that is one of the best birthday gifts I have received from my wife (and she knows that).
Another thing Ola and I have come to appreciate about the love language concept is the fact that the other person’s effort should be appreciated even if they are not speaking your language. My wife clearly understand that complimenting is not a strength for me, but I give it my best ability, so when I miss it, she is not all bent out of shape, rather she compliment my effort in loving her the way that is natural to me which is through service. The same thing happens with me, knowing my wife’s job schedule (which is usually full between rounding in the hospital, the clinic and calls on her beeper) and running around two very active young men – keeping the house clean (which is my love language) is not top on the to do list especially when it is not something natural, so her every efforts in those other areas is appreciated (the problem is I need to say it more – that her effort in other areas are appreciated).
Find out what you spouse love language is and start speaking it, create your own system of speaking your spouse’s love language, it might not be easy starting out but as you commit to it and repeat it, with time it will become part of who you are. Like me, you might need to create an endearing name so as to affirm your spouse, you might need to sometimes get out of your comfort zone to spend time with your wife/husband or even pick up his/her hobby (you might even like it). Remember, love is a choice to do something unconditionally for your spouse.
The five love language concept has taken on a life of its own, there are now books on love languages for children, for teenagers, for singles etc most of which are co-authored by other people with Dr. Chapman.
We have read the five love language for children and also found it interesting, our boys are quality time (older) and physical touch (younger), it has come in handy for reward and discipline (co-author Dr. Campbell argues against using it as a form of discipline).
Recommended reading: Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman