The Five Love Languages


It seems I've run into trouble with at least one person who takes exception to my tongue-in-cheek characterization of my wife's dog, Gypsy, as a "stupid" dog.  Setting aside the uncouth nature of "Snortz," as we often call her, Gypsy obviously has some wisdom about her. 

She gets excited about certain things, namely meals.  When I return home from work, it's not that she's necessarily excited to see me (though she is a little bit), it has as much to do with "if he's arriving home, that means it's time for my dinner!" 

Any visitor to our home creates another excitable moment.  It's a fine opportunity to flare her nostrils and launch a loving array of wetness on a visitor's legs.  The Gypsy-savvy guest who wears shorts in the summer knows not to enter the house until she has settled down, but there's always the sneak attack a little later when they're less suspecting.  Her nose is generally set on "spray" rather than "stream," and I suspect that "Aw, mannnnnnnnn," in dog terms, must mean "I love you too, Gypsy."  Endearing.

Which brings us to the UPS guy, yet another excitable occasion.  He visits fairly regularly, due to my wife's crafting business.  Over the past year or more, she recognizes the brown truck and eagerly awaits his arrival at the door, knowing that he'll leave the package at the doorstep, ring the bell, and depart.  She doesn't have a chance for her preferred social graces, but the glass pane, if dogspeak was an option to it, would be saying "I love you too, Gypsy."  Where's the Windex?

Her excitement, though, is less about the UPS guy and more about the large milk bone he leaves on top of the box.  Or, sadly, it used to be.  There's a new UPS guy now, and he doesn't leave a bone.  She hardly musters now when Brown arrives, the memory of many bones replaced by the expectation of nothing.  Again.

Successful marriages take lots of milk bones.  As my peer group enters mid-life, there have been several recent occasions where friends or acquaintances have reassessed their lives to date and decided that a crisis is a logical next step.  They haven't received enough dog bones in recent years, and I suspect they haven't given them out, either.

I'm not one for psychobabble self help books.  A lot of authors make great arching life-changing Five Love Languagesconclusions with a few pithy case stories in hand to support their cases.  That doesn't mean that they're right. 

One book that gained a lot of traction for me, though, was The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.  As I read through it (and it's a fast read or I wouldn't have), my truth detector kept pinging on point after point.

The five languages of love are ways in which we demonstrate and receive love.  Briefly, these are:

1) Gifts

2) Physical Touch

3) Words of Affirmation

4) Acts of Service

5) Quality Time (not co-location time)

The point made is that, of these, we each have one primary love language.  If we value "Acts of Service" most, we tend to give the same.  That's fine, but not if your spouse's primary love language is "Words of Affirmation."  They feel unloved even while their partner is busy sharing their love - but in the wrong form.  I've presented this concept to groups before, and it's amazing how often spouses do not guess each other's primary love language correctly.  A complicating factor is that they may change over time, and none are invalid completely.

Undergirding all of this is the primary concept that love is not a feeling.  It's a decision.  Feeling "in love" lasts about two years, and after that it takes a regular decision to make that special someone continue to feel special, and vice versa.

The stereotypical mid-life crisis may involve all sorts of things outside of relationships, such as glamour toys, plastic surgery, a new career, a new hobby, etc.   But, for people near to me, the real crisis occurs not when they find life wanting in some way, but when they make a decision not to love.  And, that bothers me greatly.


  1. So that is the book you were talking about. I guess I would add that couples may know their other's love language more than they let on. Too much knowledge can be a bad thing, you know.

    Agreeing with your statement that the love feeling lasts about two years, I think some couples are adept at being at peace with each other. It does not mean that one or the other would "take a hike in the Appalachains" but it could explain why they still hang tight despite the disparity in hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc. I am not even sure if that is a bad thing.......

  2. 2nd paragraph before the end...

    "Undergirding all of this is the primary concept that love is not a feeling. It's a decision."

    I've been viewing it like that my whole life...that one statement really explains how high school love is a sign of immaturity. It shows me personally, that viewing love the way I have been, that I myself have matured mentally a great deal. Not to say love is pointless, it is just pointless to deal with it (love) in high school where drama reigns over all.

    I prefer not to get involved at my point, but rather wait until my other peers reach the same climax of mental adulthood and view love as such as you described.

    I have been looking for a statement to justify that for a long time, I'm glad I found it here.

    -Your son ;)

  3. First, I am going to get this book for ED!

    Second, Brian, you are an amazing young man. High school, socially, IS a whole lot of drivel and obtuseness (for the most part) and romantic love rarely has any part in it. It is smart to be patient and focus on your intellectual advancement. Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is power, right? However, do not discount the sophomoric idiots of your class so quickly. High school is where most form bonds that will last a lifetime. Some (not all I assure you) of those idiotic classmates will grow into respectable, intelligent people that you may actually like one day! It just may take a bit longer ;) So take them at face value, tolerate them, and see what they grow up to be. You may be pleasantly surprised…