Q&A

The 5 Love Languages

How to Keep the Love Tank Full

War Cry: Why did you decide to write The 5 Love Languages?

Dr. Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, sold more than 5 million copies and has been translated into over 36 languages.

Dr. Gary Chapman: I decided to write this book after using the five love languages in my counseling for twenty years. I realized what a tremendous change it made in couples who learned how to speak each other’s language. I thought if I could write a book in the language of the common person, leaving out the psychological jargon, I could help a lot of people.

WC: Why is the concept of five love languages important in marriage?

DGC: By nature we tend to express love in our own language; whatever makes us feel love is what we try to do for the other person. We’re sincere, but if it’s not what makes the other person feel loved then we miss them emotionally. Sincerity is not enough. If we learn how to speak their language then we are going to be successful in loving them as we mean to.

WC: Explain what a “love tank” is.

DGC: There’s a gasoline tank on a car. If it is full you drive a long way. If it’s empty you’re not going anywhere. I use the picture of an emotional love tank. If the love tank is full and the person feels genuinely loved, life will be beautiful. But if the love tank is empty, and a person doesn’t feel loved, the world looks pretty dark. A lot of misbehavior in marriage grows out of an empty love tank.

WC: How can we discover our spouse’s primary love language?

DGC: The easiest way would be to go online to 5lovelanguages.com and take the quiz. It will tell you what is primary, secondary and so forth. Here are three additional ways you can discover your spouse’s love language:

  • Observe their behavior.
    How do they treat other people? They are likely speaking their language to other people. If you hear your spouse always giving other people encouraging words, you can assume that “words of affirmation” is their language. They are doing to others what they wish others would do to them. If they are looking for occasions to give gifts, you can assume “gifts” is their language. Observe their behavior.

  • What do they complain about?
    The complaint reveals the love language. If a wife says to a husband, “We just don’t ever have any time together,” she is telling him, “My language is quality time.” If you return home from an out–of–town trip and your spouse says, “You didn’t bring me anything,” he is telling you that gifts is his language. If a wife says to her husband, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I didn’t initiate it,” she is telling him that physical touch is her language. If he says, “I can’t ever please you,” he is telling you that words of affirmation is his language. We tend to get defensive when our spouse criticizes us, but they are really giving us valuable information. Listen to what’s behind the complaint. It will tell you their love language.

  •  What do they request of you most often?
    If they say periodically, “Can we take a walk after dinner tonight?” they are asking you for quality time. If they say, “Could you give me a back rub?” they are asking you for physical touch. Listen to what they are asking of you because that is a clue.

WC:Does love language adapt to other relationships besides marriage?

DGC: I wrote the original book for couples. I teamed up with Dr. Ross Campbell, a Christian child psychiatrist, and wrote the book The 5 Languages of Children, written for parents, helping them discover the child’s love language and how this relates to the child’s anger, the child’s learning, and to discipline. Later on I wrote the book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, also for parents. With teenagers, the love language doesn’t change but you have to learn some new dialects because what you have been doing they now consider childish. It applies in work relationships. I wrote The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Work Place. We don’t call it love in the workplace but appreciation. It’s the same five languages. In the workplace people need to feel appreciated, but one size does not fit all. You have to learn what makes your colleagues feel appreciated. It applies in all human relationships. Our deepest emotional need is to feel loved.

WC: What is the most frequent question you are asked? What is your answer?

DGC: “Does the love language change over the years or does it remain the same?” My answer is, it remains the same. A child who is very organized will be organized when he is 35 or 40. Having said that, there are certain circumstances or stages of life in which another love language might jump to the front. A mother who has three preschool children whose primary love language is not “acts of service” will find that anything her husband does to help her with those children will speak to her very deeply. It may appear during that time that her language changed to “acts of service.” But when that stage is over it will go back to the original language.

WC: If “falling in love” lasts no more than two years, is it good or bad?

DGC: It just is. It’s not something we choose. Falling in love is a positive experience, a super emotional high. It draws us together, gives a sense of euphoria. Some say it makes us crazy enough to make a lifelong commitment to marry. It is a wonderful experience. But because it lasts an average of two years and we come off the high, it is not the foundation for marriage. That is why we have to communicate. I entered marriage with the idea that these feelings that I was having for her would be there forever. When I came off the high soon after we got married I was disillusioned. I thought I’d lost it. What happened? Our differences emerged and we found ourselves arguing. Before long I didn’t like her and she didn’t like me very much. We have to understand that this is normal. That’s where the love language becomes so helpful to couples. It helps them learn how to keep emotional love alive in the relationship.

WC: How does love being a choice explain arranged marriages?

DGC: In as much as it is a temporary experience anyway, it’s not that important that you have the euphoric experience of falling in love. What is important is that you learn how to love each other. You have the same task before you as the one who had the “in love” experience but lost it. It is not any worse or more difficult. You face the same challenge in learning how to stimulate emotional love in the relationship.

WC: Which language is the most difficult for people to learn?

DGC: There isn’t one particular language for everybody. But the one that tends to be most difficult is your personal number 5. If you rank them in order 1–5 in terms of what is important to you, the one that doesn’t mean that much to you is going to be the hardest one for you to speak. If you find out that your number 5 is number 1 for your spouse, then there will be a learning curve. If you have never given gifts and you find your married to someone and gifts is their language, it will be difficult. You are going to have to work at learning how to select and give gifts. The same thing is true of all of the other languages on your list.

WC: Does Christian faith have any affect on healing marriages?

DGC: A profound effect. Our relationship with God shows us what love is all about in the first place. The Scriptures say we love God because He first loved us. He initiated it. He reached out to us. He sent Christ because He loved us. Christ came to forgive us, allowing us to become children of God. Not only do we get the concept of love from a relationship with God, we get the ability, the power, the motivation to reach out and love others because we have been loved. Christians are representatives of the love of God. We are His hands and feet. The Salvation Army represents that as well as any segment of the Christian church.

WC: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

DGC: Every couple has conflicts, but conflicts in and of themselves won’t destroy a marriage. Unresolved conflicts destroy marriages. If you love each other and you feel secure in that love, you process the conflicts, the difficult places in life much easier. It’s not the answer to everything, but it is one of the foundation stones for creating a healthy marriage.

Dr. Chapman is Senior Associate Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He and his wife, Karolyn, have two adult children and two grandchildren. Visit garychapman.org for more information


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