In his best-selling book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” relationship counselor Dr. Gary Chapman (1992) concluded, after 35 years of marriage counseling, that there are essentially five love emotional love languages in which people communicate love. According to Chapman (1992), no emotional need is more basic than the need for love and affection, and people give and receive love according to the Love Languages. His theory has gained widespread public approval. Chapman’s Five Love Languages (LLs) are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
Chapman’s Five Love Languages
Words of Affirmation means frequent compliments, supportive, encouraging and affectionate messages, where harsh negative words and insults are especially detrimental to the relationship. Quality Time means shared activities with your partner or any time spent together with full and undivided attention. Canceled or postponed dates, distractions, failing to listen attentively can make individuals with this LL feel hurt and disappointed. Receiving gifts is a LL that consists of meaningful or thoughtful gifts that show your partner how much you know them and that you were thinking about them. Acts of Service can be summarized with the saying “actions speak louder than words.” It can be as simple as helping you partner with tasks, chores, or running errands for them. Broken commitments and laziness can make a person with this LL feel unappreciated and unloved.
Lastly, Physical Touch does not necessarily mean sex. Everyday non-sexual touches like cuddling, hand-holding, hugging, kissing are vital to the relationship.
The first part of Chapman’s (1992) thesis is that people tend to have a different preference for a specific LL, that is, most people only have one primary love language. Even though we may feel loved by instances of all five LLs, one of them should resonate with you the most; that is, “speak” to you on a deeper emotional level – although Chapman uses the term “speak,” four of these LLs largely are nonverbal. He claimed that, often, people will instantly know their own LL after hearing it described. In the second part of his thesis, Chapman (1992) added that when partners speak each other’s primary LL, their need for love will be satisfied, resulting in high relational quality; however, when they do not, their metaphorical “love tank” will drain.
“He sends you flowers when what you really want is time to talk… The problem isn’t your love – it’s your love language” (Chapman, 1992, back cover). According to Dr. Chapman (1992), couples often have different LL preferences, and this can be a problem because most people automatically give love the same way they like to receive it regardless of their partner’s LL preference. That is, we tend to speak our own and wonder why they do not respond. The reason for this is that they did not get the message on an emotional level, which leads them to ignore or fail to perceive the behavior as affectionate (Floyd, 2006).
Therefore, Chapman (1992) suggests that the key to high relational quality and durability is to identify your partner’s LL preference and to engage in behaviors that communicate that particular LL in order to make them feel loved as you intended so. Floyd (2006) found that “although affectionate behaviors may carry some inherent positivity, their valence is also determined by the extent to which they are congruent with a recipient’s desires” (p. 86). A common analogy is that people who speak different languages – like English and Chinese, for example – can only successfully communicate if they learn to speak the other person’s language.
Chapman’s (1992) claim about the fundamental need for love and affection is proved to affect one’s well-being (Downs & Javidi, 1990) and affect different types of relationships (e.g., Floyd & Morman, 2003; Schrodt, Ledbetter, & Ohrt, 2007). It also has an important role in relational maintenance (Bell & Healey, 1992) and quality (Floyd & Morman, 1998). Floyd (2006) also claimed that humans need to be shown they are loved, and that is where the LLs play a crucial role. Egbert & Polk (2006) attempted to validate, with some success, Chapman’s Love Language theory by correlating the five LL with relationship maintenance typologies described by Stafford, Dainton, and Haas (2000). Results showed significant relationships between the LL factors and Stafford, Dainton, and Haas’ (2000) relational maintenance typology, suggesting that
Chapman’s LL may reflect behaviors performed to enact intended relational maintenance. An also important point to discuss is that the LL not only apply to couple’s romantic relationships, as it automatically directly related to, but to all relationships with loved ones. That means, parents relationships with their children, children relationships with their parents, relationships between brothers and sisters, grandparents with their grandchildren, a relationship with a friend, a cousin, and so forth. Chapman is not only the author of “The 5 Love Languages” book, but he also wrote “The 5 Love Languages of Children”, “The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers”, “The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition”, “The 5 Love Languages for Men”, “The 5 Love Languages Military Edition.”