Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Review: 5 Love Languages

Here's another book that I didn't pick up intentionally by my own accord. This book was most recently recommended me by a friend when I was frustrated when communicating with my dad. My friend recommended me that I take a gander at 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman to better understand what "love" needs people have on an emotional level. He's not the first one to recommend this book... a university room-mate made the same recommendation and I dismissed it as being some hippie-dippy stuff that is probably a waste of money and time. But, I've become a lot less picky about this sort of thing and hence, more open-minded (but the scientist in me hasn't disappeared and I still go in with a critical eye--and my own preconceived notions about "love").

First, when I went to look for it at the library, I had to wait several months until a copy was available for me. Here's the stats about how popular it is... there are 18 copies in the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system and there are well over 100 holds currently and borrowing a book is generally done in 3 week blocks. I was surprised, but I could wait since it wasn't a read that I was super excited about.

When I finally received the email that it had come in, I was a bit reluctant to go and pick it up. Then, when I got it, I was surprised about how small the book actually is. It's under 200 pages and a chunk of those are the quizzes to help readers assess their own primary "love language". I finished the book in 3 days.

Now, for some explanation... I am getting married this September and before everyone gets images of green meadows, rainbows and bunny rabbits, I'd like to clarify that I'm the furthest from being "lovey dovey". I just want to get this party over with so I can get on with my life. I dove into the book and Mr. Chapman starts going on about married couples and all that marriage counselling stuff; I was really put off. I thought, "ugh, is this going to be bunch of emotionally driven jargon that is going to tell me to talk about my feelings and turn me into a blubbering (I apologize in advance...) lady mess?" Because I really needed that. But, cynicism aside, I found the book insightful and powerful.

Getting past the fluffy marriage stuff and "in-love" thing, I was able to distil the central message of the book: there are 5 primary love languages (with different dialects) and each individual (and perhaps animals?), adult or child, has a basic emotional need to feel loved, wanted and appreciated. These principals are not only applicable for the married couple alone, but for all people. You learn that the information he's presenting is applicable for everyone for all relationships. Chapman also has written variations of what this book talks about... there is even a "men's edition" for those finicky husbands who think that this "hippie-dippy" stuff is below them. I haven't read it so I'm not sure how different it is but I do know that the typical man thinks and perceives things differently. In addition, there are variations of this concept but properly accommodated for the different relationships that exist... like parent-child, single person, employee-employer.

In terms of execution of the book... I love that it's short and concise. It's also simply written with examples of people and at the end of each chapter, an activity for the reader to reflect and think. In addition, there are directions about activities one can try, based on that chapter. It's like a workbook too. You're probably also wondering... how do I assess my own love language? There's two profiles in the back of the book (one for wives and another for husbands) and you can go online to do the profiling test and get sent an email about your results.

While this book is light reading in some regards because I'm coming from the perspective of being someone who doesn't have major relationship issues, I have a different perspective about it. I do like that Chapman actually has a chapter about "what if our relationship is too far gone? Can I love someone whom I hate?" I won't tell you what he says but he really rounds out the book well in terms of starting with "what is this fluttery 'in love' feeling?" to "the 5 love languages and their dialects" to "how do I love someone unlovable?". As I've said before, it's a good opportunity to learn, if nothing else.

There are no claims that you or your other half will be perfectly speaking the other's 'love language' 24/7, once you've read the book... as we know: we all make plenty of mistakes regularly, and love is a choice... but we'll be better prepared to understand that other person on what drives them to do what they do. And perhaps, you might just have an improved relationship in general.

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