Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (Northfield Publishing, 2015) describes five primary ways people receive and express love. It is on the New York Times best-sellers list, and has been since 2007. The first 5 Love Languages ® book was published in 1992. New editions were published in 1995, 2004, 2010, and 2015. Several companion books, such as The Five Love Languages of Teenagers and The Five Love Languages Singles Edition, have since been published. There are also conferences and a website with further resources. What are these five love languages that have been helpful for so many to understand?
According to Chapman, every person can both receive and express love in multiple ways. However, typically there is one primary method that makes a person most easily feel loved. Chapman has identified five of the main ways people feel loved and express their love to others—the five love languages. He explains that understanding one another's love languages helps us to better express love to and receive love from one another. This, of course, has positive effects on our relationships. Those love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
Words of Affirmation are words that affirm other people, and in so doing express love to them. This love language uses spoken and written encouragement, compliments, and appreciation to show the other person how much they are loved. It might be something as simple as saying "I'm proud of you", or it could be something as thought out as a letter describing positive attributes of the other person and the many ways for which you are grateful for him or her. People whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation will feel built up and well-cared for when they hear these kinds of words expressed to them or about them. Paul called the Ephesians to, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). Heeding this call helps ensure that those whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation will feel well-loved.
Quality Time is the act of giving the other person your undivided attention. It means spending time focused on togetherness, not just physical proximity to one another. It includes conversing in sympathetic dialogue, sharing experiences together, and purposely doing something the other person enjoys. Expressing your love with your attention and time is what makes people feel loved who have Quality Time as their primary love language. Perhaps this love language is why God commanded that, "When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken" (Deuteronomy 24:5). A year of time together would certainly help build a strong marriage, although ten minutes of your undivided attention each day can speak volumes to those who receive love best in this way.
For those whose primary love language is Gifts, receiving any gift, no matter how small, will express love to them. A gift is a physical symbol of that person's thought toward their loved one. Handmade gifts or free giveaways brought home to the loved one often carry as much meaning as expensive or more elaborate gifts to those with this primary love language because those objects are visual tokens of your caring attitude toward them. Interestingly, while those whose love language is Quality Time desire your attention and not your mere proximity, those whose love language is Gifts often see your physical presence as a gift. Jesus referenced the act of gift giving as a way in which parents naturally express love to their children and how gift giving reflects one characteristic of God the Father. He said, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).
Acts of Service are deeds that help or serve the other person. Giving another person your planning, time, effort, and energy to serve them can be a powerful expression of love. There are many chores that have to be done in order to run an orderly life. Freely choosing to do one of these helpful deeds with a positive attitude expresses love in a meaningful way to those for whom Acts of Service is their primary love language. Jesus called His followers to serve one another, pointing out that service is one way He expressed His love for the world. He said, "even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
Physical Touch is the fifth love language. For those whose primary love language is touch, they feel most loved when their bodies are handled in caring ways. These ways include simple actions like holding hands, sitting close together, a gentle back rub, or a tight squeeze. Of course, more involved ways of touching are welcome in marriage like intimate massage and sexual love making. For them, to touch their body is to touch their inner being. It means they are seen, noticed, and cared for. Parents in the Bible understood the importance of physical touch when they brought their children to Jesus not just to hear His teaching, but "that he might lay his hands on them and pray" (Matthew 19:13). And of course, Jesus approved by responding, "Let the little children come to me" (Matthew 19:14). Physical touch is perhaps the love language most likely to be misinterpreted in modern culture. So if you are a person who expresses love through touch, it would be wise to ensure that your friends are similarly comfortable with your expressions of love.
Determining the way in which you most easily experience love and the way in which those around you best receive love can strengthen your relationships. As followers of Christ, we are called to use all of these methods to love one another and those around us. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages contains timeless wisdom and practical help to support living out the command to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; see also James 2:8; John 13:34–35).
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