Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love in any language?

Click here to go to the Five Love Languages websiteMost of you might have heard Sandy Patti’s song “Love in any language” where the chorus goes like this:

“Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here”
It’s a great song in terms of lyrics and melody. In terms of marriage and relationships however, the song completely misses the point if we are to believe “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” written by Dr. Gary Chapman.

I bought and read Chapman’s book six or seven years ago. I read it through and then Ela, my former Bible school student, borrowed it. Ela has since then gotten married and given birth to her first child but she has not yet returned the book to me. “Ela, i-soli mo na ang book ko!”

The Five Love Languages

Chapman says that unhappiness in relationships often has a simple root cause: we speak different love languages. He identifies these love languages as (1) Words of Affirmation; (2) Quality Time; (3) Receiving Gifts; (4) Acts of Service; and (5) Physical Touch.

Please take note that I don’t agree with everything that Chapman says in his book. David Powlison’s article titled “Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling best sums up what is right experientially and what is wrong Biblically with Chapman’s concepts.

Basically, Chapman says that if your spouse speaks the Words of Affirmation language and you’re always giving him gifts, he’s not going to feel loved and you’re not going to know why. What speaks love to you may be meaningless to your spouse. During a marriage seminar I attended several years ago at Capitol City Baptist Church in Quezon City, Ptr. Clem Guillermo told the story of a husband and wife on the brink of a break-up. The husband gave his wife lavish gifts in the forms of a mansion, cars, and several round-the-world travels. During one counseling session with Ptr. Clem, the husband in exasperation asked his wife, “Why don’t you think that I Iove you? I have given you so much!” To which the wife answered, “If you really loved me, why don’t you tell me that you love me?”

The tragic thing in Ptr. Clem’s story is that both the husband and wife really loved each other. And yet, their marriage was in trouble. It is obvious that the husband and his wife were speaking love to each other in a language that may be normal for him or her but completely alien to the other. The end result is that the man and the woman were in marital conflict. The troubling thought is that there are marriages that span decades but spouses are not hearing what they are trying to say to each other. As inspirational writer Max Lucado once said, “A man can spend a lifetime with a woman and yet never gaze into her soul.”

In terms of gifts, Dr. Willard Harley Jr. in his book “His Needs, Her Needs” says that gifts to men should be practical while gifts to women should be sentimental. In terms of touch, Dr. Ed Wheat in his classic book “Love Life for every married couple” cites 20 plus things husbands and wives can express love through physical touch.

Chapman’s concept of the Five Love Languages can be summarized as follows:
(1) Love is expressed in many different ways or languages;

(2) People experience love in different ways and understanding this can be helpful to a mate desiring to love his/her spouse effectively;

(3) People express love according to the way they wish to receive it and therefore “we must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love”.

(4) When people do not get what they want, unpleasant emotions, actions, and behaviors are often the response; and

(5) Spouses must consider each other’s preferences and interests.
How can you discover what your love language is? Take the 30-Second Assessment from Chapman's The Five Love Languages website.

Chapman explains his concept of the Five Love Languages in this way:
In the area of linguistics, there are major language groups: Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Greek, German, French, and so on. Most of us grow up learning the language of our parents and siblings, which becomes our primary or native tongue. Later, we may learn additional languages but usually with much more effort. These become our secondary languages. We speak and understand best our native language. We feel most comfortable speaking that language. The more we use a secondary language, the more comfortable we become conversing in it. If we speak only our primary language and encounter someone else who speaks only his or her primary language, which is different from ours, our communication will be limited. We must rely on pointing, grunting, drawing pictures, or acting out our ideas. We can communicate, but it is awkward. Language differences are part and parcel of human culture. If we are to communicate effectively across cultural lines, we must learn the language of those with whom we wish to communicate.

In the area of love, it is similar. Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand how to love each other. My friend on the plane was speaking the language of “Affirming Wors to his third wife when he said, "I told her how beautiful she was. I told her I loved her. I told her how proud I was to be her husband." He was speaking love, and he was sincere, but she did not understand his language. Perhaps she was looking for love in his behavior and didn't see it. Being sincere is not enough. We must be willing to learn our spouse's primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.

My conclusion after twenty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages-five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects. That accounts for the magazine articles titled “10 Ways to Let Your Spouse Know You Love Her,” “20 Ways to Keep Your Man at Home,” or “365 Expressions of Marital Love.” There are not 10, 20, or 365 basic love languages. In my opinion, there are only five. However, there may be numerous dialects. The number of ways to express love within a love language is limited only by one's imagination. The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.

We have long known that in early childhood development each child develops unique emotional patterns. Some children, for example, develop a pattern of low self-esteem whereas others have healthy self-esteem. Some develop emotional patterns of insecurity whereas others grow up feeling secure. Some children grow up feeling loved, wanted, and appreciated, yet others grow up feeling unloved, unwanted, and unappreciated.

The children who feel loved by their parents and peers will develop a primary emotional love language based on their unique psychological makeup and the way their parents and other significant persons expressed love to them. They will speak and understand one primary love language. They may later learn a secondary love language, but they will always feel most comfortable with their primary language. Children who do not feel loved by their parents and peers will also develop a primary love language. However, it will be somewhat distorted in much the same way as some children may learn poor grammar and have an underdeveloped vocabulary. That poor programming does not mean they cannot become good communicators. But it does mean they will have to work at it more diligently than those who had a more positive model. Likewise, children who grow up with an underdeveloped sense of emotional love can also come to feel loved and to communicate love, but they will have to work at it more diligently than those who grew up in a healthy, loving atmosphere.

Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary emotional love language. We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our spouse does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language. Therein lies the fundamental problem, and it is the purpose of this book to offer a solution. That is why I dare to write another book on love. Once we discover the five basic love languages and understand our own primary love language, as well as the primary love language of our spouse, we will then have the needed information to apply the ideas in the books and articles.

Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse's primary love language, I believe that you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the wedding, but in order to keep it alive most of us will have to put forth the effort to learn a secondary love language. We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it. If we want him/her to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in his or her primary love language.
When will we ever learn?

Chapman’s concept of the Five Love Languages is so stunningly simple and effective. Husband and wives (or boyfriends and girlfriends) must find out what their partner’s primary love language is and express love to him or her in that language.

Here in the Philippines, the number of cases of annulment, legal separation and declaration of nullity of marriage has been rising through the years. The Office of the Solicitor General reported that in 2007, there were a total of 7,753 cases filed by persons seeking to terminate their marriage 4,520 cases in 2001; 5,250 in 2002; 6,848 in 2003; 6,335 in 2004; and 7,138 in 2006. I wonder, how many marriages could have been saved if spouses only knew about the importance of speaking each other’s primary love language?

The Five Love Languages and a bag full of dikiam

Back in the 1980’s I had a girlfriend from Marikina. When I found out that she loved the Chinese delicacy “dikiam” (the very salty kind), I made it a point to always buy for her a bag full of dikiam. On our way to her special choir practice in Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, as she ate the dikiam, she would throw the seeds one by one out of the jeepney we were riding on. Anyone who wanted to know where we were going simply had to follow the trail of dikiam seeds littering the whole of Ortigas Avenue! Hey, I may not have yet read Chapman's book back then but I was speaking her primary love language, in the form of a bag full of dikiam!

Other resources by Chapman

Click here to go to Gary Chapman's website Chapman has written a series of books about the Five Love Languages, namely, The Five Love Languages (Men's Edition), Five Love Languages of Teenagers, and Five Love Languages of Children.

As I noted above, I don’t agree with everything that Chapman says in his book. Please take time to read David Powlison’s article titled “Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling. The article best sums up what is right experientially and what is wrong Biblically with Chapman’s concepts.

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