When Ken Lindbloom and his wife needed relationship help, they weren’t sure where to turn. “I was totally oblivious” to what she needed, Lindbloom says. “One of the first things our marriage counselor told us to do was read a book about our love languages.”
That book is called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, PhD (Northfield Publishing, 2015). Couples across the globe attest that Chapman’s book—a blockbuster New York Times best seller now available in 50 languages, with 11 million copies sold—teaches a deeper understanding of how to express core needs and avoid common relational barriers. Others say the book rekindled relationships that had drifted apart.
According to Chapman, the most common criticism is the approach is too simple to change lives. But many therapists consider the book their go-to resource when counseling couples on the verge of divorce.
First published in 1992, the book’s fundamental message remains the same. It’s essentially a road map that identifies and describes how a person most wants to be treated for love to last, Lindbloom says. “If you embrace it, the love languages break down your hot buttons and what drives you. You get to know what makes you and your partner happy.”
How to “speak love”
“The 5 Love Languages addresses the basic need all people have, and that’s how to give and receive love,” Chapman, 79, said in an email interview.
The message evolved from his early work as a pastor in Winston, North Carolina, where Chapman counseled couples and often heard a divergence between how one partner expressed love and how the other received love.
For instance, one couple was stuck after decades of marriage because he expressed “I love you” by washing the dishes, while she yearned for long walks together.
One newer development:You can now go online and take the free test to decipher your primary and secondary love languages (go to 5lovelanguages.com).
You—and those you care about—may be surprised by what it takes to fluently speak these five native tongues.
Care in the workplace
Twenty-five years after its original publication, The 5 Love Languages remains wildly popular. And it doesn’t apply only to couples. Mara Shultz employs the love languages in her role as the cofounder of 2fem Marketing and the owner of Ardrel, an architectural-drafting firm.
“One of my employees has a love language of Receiving Gifts, so I know she’d much rather receive an air compressor with a nail gun than a bonus check,” Shultz says. “[But with another staff person], I know I have to make time to sit down, turn my phone to silent and give 100 percent attention to make this person feel confident,” she says. “As a supervisor, boss or manager, if you can learn the love language of your employees—and I’ll say there are four, not five, because physical touch is obviously inappropriate here—you can really boost morale, confidence and productivity.”
On a personal level, Shultz uses the book’s guidance with a partner whose primary language is Physical Touch. “Dan loves snuggling, but it’s not on my top list of things to do,” says Shultz, whose main love language is Acts of Service. “But it’s the way he feels loved, so it’s something that I am going to do.”
Fill ’em up
Feeling loved is like fuel for life, Chapman says. “I believe we all have a love tank, just as a car has a gas tank that needs fuel to operate,” he says. “We need to be shown love by having our love tank filled. When we do, life is beautiful, and we can manage the tough times.”
And although learning love languages is a good starting point for reconciliation, Chapman cautions that it’s not the same as therapy. “I do believe couples who are in desperate situations should seek professional counseling,” he says. “But [the book’s message] is applicable for anyone at any stage of life. Taking time to learn and apply the love language of your partner is one of the most important steps you can take toward establishing a long, healthy love relationship.”